Capitol Alert AM Newsletter

Civil rights groups split on charter school bills + Robot competition + Padilla on The Hill

Good morning, alerters! #Houseoforigin deadline is no joke, huh?

Both chambers meet at 10 a.m. for a floor session.


Christina Laster, education chairwoman for the NAACP’s Southwest Riverside branch, paid a price when she decided to break ranks with the civil rights organization over its stance on charter schools.

Laster said she submitted a resolution on behalf of her branch that rescinded opposition to three controversial charter proposals — Assembly Bills 1505 and 1506 and Senate Bill 756 — because she evaluated data, visited schools and came to the conclusion that the charter model was serving African American students.

“What I found was a very dismal, urgent picture of what is happening in the district-run schools,” Laster, who is also the president of the Inland Empire Parent Union, said. “It became a matter of urgency to get this information out.”

SB 756 places a five-year moratorium on charter schools in California. AB 1505 gives school districts more power to reject charter applications and AB 1506 imposes a cap on the schools.

The three bills are what California Hawaii NAACP President Alice A. Huffman said will bring adjustment and accountability to charter schools in the state. Despite a fraction in membership opinion, Huffman maintains that analyses show charter schools harm African American students and that if the bills pass, “we’ll be better off.”

“We take these positions to heart,” Huffman said. “At the state level speak for our branches. We don’t always make everybody happy, but it’s a democratic process and once we’ve spoken, we’ve spoken. They have no authority to do what they’re doing.”

An Assembly Education Committee hearing in early April drew hundreds of charter school backers who, like Laster, said the alternative model offers a choice for parents who feel that public schools are failing their children.

Laster found additional allies on Monday, when a group of representatives from the Urban League and the National Action Network wrote a letter to Gov. Gavin Newsom, asking for a meeting to discuss concerns over the legislative package.

“It is not fair to African American families to take away public charter schools and force them back into failing district-run schools in order to balance school budgets,” they wrote. “Upon review of this package of bills, we have determined, these measures represent a direct attack on the ability of African American parents to choose the best education possible for their children.”

Laster said that after she submitted the resolution as part of a yearly process, she’s faced a deluge of criticism and backlash from the organization’s leadership, including a suspension notice for noncompliance.

“I thought my job was to help black children, needy children, disadvantaged children, and parents that come to me daily and seek help,” Laster said, continuing that her branch’s resolution was denied. “I did what I felt was not just a civil rights thing but was morally and ethically right.”


A group of state lawmakers and members of Newsom’s senior staff will join Lenny Mendonca, the governor’s chief economic and business advisor, to celebrate the four California high school teams that won divisions in an international robotics competition.

The 2019 FIRST Robotics Competition saw nearly 3,000 teams with 94,000 participants battle it out to design, manufacture, build and program a robot within six weeks that can perform specific tasks related to the competition’s theme, Destination: Deep Space.

Mendonca will learn how to operate the robots from the champions during the celebration, scheduled for 9 a.m. on the South Steps of the Capitol.


California Secretary of State Alex Padilla is scheduled to be in D.C. this morning on behalf of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Educational Fund for a Census 2020 briefing.

Padilla will be at the National Press Club from 8 to 9:30 a.m. PST and is expected to touch on a new report that relays findings and recommendations to Congress and the U.S. Census Bureau.

The National Latino Commission on Census 2020 held hearings in Cleveland, Los Angeles, New York City, Orlando and San Antonio to gather testimony from panelists and experts for the report, which offers “crucial information” to ensure all Latinos are included in next year’s national count.


The Sacramento Bee’s new Capitol bureau intern arrived on Tuesday! We’re excited to welcome Kyung Mi Lee for the summer.

“I’m a rising junior at Yale College studying English, originally from Honolulu, Hawaii,” Lee says. “I write and edit for the Yale Daily News Magazine, working with my peers on long form journalism published every other month, and for These Fifty States, an online periodical of student voices from around the U.S. I’ll be working at The Bee Capitol bureau this summer, which aligns well with my past interests in government and politics. I’ve been an intern both at the U.S. Senate and in my hometown of Honolulu at the state legislature, both of which, I feel, have perhaps been leading me to this position at The Bee. So I’m incredibly excited for what the summer will bring!”

Feel free to drop her a note — — give her a follow and say hello in the Capitol halls!

For your radar — Three more. Add Senate Bill 54, Senate Constitutional Amendment 5 and Assembly Bill 1080 to California Chamber of Commerce’s “job killer” list.

AB 1080 and SB 54 require CalRecycle to regulate single-use packaging and plastic to achieve a 75 percent reduction in these products.

SCA 5 lowers the vote threshold to 55 percent for school and community colleges to increase a parcel tax.


May 22 — Assemblyman Brian Maienschein, D-San Diego


*A rat and an aardvark, from the looks of it. For those that don’t share Alabama’s concerns, you can watch the episode here.

Best of The Bee:

Hannah Wiley joined The Bee as a legislative reporter in 2019. She produces the morning newsletter for Capitol Alert and previously reported on immigration, education and criminal justice. She’s a Chicago-area native and a graduate of Saint Louis University and Northwestern.