In 2019, the legislature passed, and Governor signed, four bills which significantly updated California’s charter school laws. These bills resulted from demands from district and charter parents, educators, administrators, and school board members as communities throughout California faced the significant impacts of unregulated charter school growth, as well as increasing concerns that charter schools do not serve all students.
Shortly after the last of these bills were signed in the Fall, the Lincoln Unified School District (LUSD) in North Stockton received a petition for a new charter school petition from the state-wide charter school chain Aspire Public Schools. It was no secret that Aspire was trying to sneak in the door before the new laws took effect this year. If approved, the new charter school would have drawn critical financial resources away from LUSD leading to potential school closures, layoffs, or cuts to programs like music, sports, or arts – yet the school district would not be allowed to consider that fiscal and community impact until AB 1505 takes effect in July 2020 .
Still, the Lincoln Unified Teachers Association (LUTA) quickly came together and successfully organized to get the District to reject the charter school with their people-power of educators, parents and students united, along with a solid analysis of the petition that showed it was not the best fit for Lincoln Unified students.
At the public hearing, LUTA turned out educators and parents in full force. They also had three former Aspire teachers, who now work for Lincoln Unified, talk about the bad experience they had working at Aspire, and how large their class sizes were. The District used this testimony as part of the rationale to deny the charter. Educators also circulated an online petition to get the community on board.
Before the Board’s vote on the petition, watchdog group In the Public Interest (ITPI) conducted a comprehensive analysis of the petition, discovering that Aspire had largely copied a petition and signatures they submitted last year to Stockton Unified – something that is illegal under the charter school law. In addition, ITPI’s analysis found that the petition was not in compliance with three of the four new charter school laws!
“Between LUTA’s strong organizing and ITPI’s strong analysis, the LUSD Board voted unanimously to reject the petition, which was the best decision for Lincoln Unified students,” said Tiffany Fuhrmeister, third grade teacher at Mable Barron elementary and LUTA President.
LUTA is waiting to hear whether Aspire will appeal to the County Board of Education, and has a plan to win if they do!