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By Dawn Cova

Vallejo Education Association (VEA) secured a victory for their students and neighborhood public schools.

When Caliber, an independent charter school operator, submitted a petition in late November to expand their charter to siphon off another 600 students from the Vallejo City Unified School District (VCUSD), members of VEA mobilized to defend and support students in district schools.

“Approving another charter that would have taken more resources away from our students would have been unconscionable. We are
thrilled the VCUSD board acknowledged we need to invest in our local schools, not drain them of resources.”

—Kevin Steele, Vallejo Education Association president

Within a few days, working with the local California School Employees Association chapter and allies at the Central Labor Council, VEA got hundreds of signatures on a petition calling on the VCUSD Governing Board to support Vallejo students and reject the charter expansion.

Had the proposed charter school been approved, the total loss to VCUSD students, programs and services would have been $1.3 million to $1.6 million in the first year and up to $17 million to $22 million cumulatively in five years.

VEA members educated parents and the community about what the loss of funding for neighborhood schools means: Kids lose teachers, services and valuable programs. Loss of funding can also mean eventual school closures that are harmful and disruptive to students.

VEA member Leanne Duden told the board, “My current TK and kindergarten students depend on safe and supportive schools. I am concerned that by the time my kiddos get to high school, our district schools will have been decimated because the proliferation of charters has taken so much from them.” Thanks to AB 1505, legislation authored by Assembly Member Patrick O’Donnell (D-Long Beach) in 2019 and supported by CTA, VCUSD had the authority to deny the charter. The law ensures school districts that are experiencing fiscal distress because they have a negative interim certification or are under state receivership (having a state loan) can deny the charter petition because they are not positioned to absorb the fiscal impact of the proposed charter school.

The VCUSD Governing Board voted 5-0 on Dec. 15 to deny the charter expansion.

Kevin Steele, an elementary teacher and VEA president, celebrated the victory. “Approving another charter that would have taken more resources away from our students would have been unconscionable. We are thrilled the VCUSD board acknowledged we need to invest in our local schools, not drain them of resources.”

Now VEA members are gearing up to take the fight for their students and neighborhood schools to the Solano County level, where the charter operator has sought to appeal the district’s denial.

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