Capitol Alert

Newsom, teachers union and charters strike deal to give districts more power over new schools

Gov. Gavin Newsom on Wednesday announced a deal among education advocates at the Capitol on a bill to give school districts more power to reject charter school applications.

Newsom’s office says the agreement reached on Assembly Bill 1505 will make it easier to close low-performing charter schools. The California Charter Schools Association, which dropped its opposition to the bill, said it will protect high-performing charter schools and gives them an avenue to appeal rejections.

The agreement among the charter advocates, the state’s biggest teachers union, the governor’s office and key lawmakers represents a breakthrough on one of the most contentious issues at the Capitol.

“This agreement focuses on the needs of our students,” Newsom said in a joint statement with legislative leaders and California schools chief Tony Thurmond. “It increases accountability for all charter schools, allows high-quality charter schools to thrive, and ensures that the fiscal and community impacts of charter schools on school districts are carefully considered.”

The agreement lets districts consider the financial effect a proposed charter school, as well as whether the academic programs offered by the charter would duplicate programs already offered within the district.

Starting next year, the agreement would require that all charter school teachers pass background checks, according to the governor’s office. New teachers will have to hold teaching credentials, while existing teachers will have five years to earn credentials.

It would also place a two-year moratorium on new virtual charter schools, according to the governor’s office.

About 10 percent of California students attend charter schools, which are publicly funded but privately run, according to data from the California Department of Education.

“Far too many of our most vulnerable students have been underserved by our current public school system, which is exactly why we’ve engaged in thoughtful conversations and shown a willingness to compromise on this important legislation,” California Charter Schools Association President Myrna Castrejón said in a statement on the deal.

Teachers unions in California argue charter schools drain resources from traditional public schools and have been pushing legislation at the Capitol to crack down on them, including AB 1505.

The California Teachers Association, which is sponsoring the bill, was the top lobbying spender at the Capitol in the first half of the year. It spent $4.3 million from January through June, about as much as the union spent during the entire two-year legislative session from 2017-2018.

“After months of honest and difficult conversations, we have made significant progress on behalf of our students,” CTA and other unions who have supported the bill said in a joint statement. “We look forward to working with lawmakers in the next two weeks to ensure AB 1505 is sent to the governor’s office for his signature.”