Interested in Unionizing at Your Charter School?
If you are a charter school educator that is interested in unionizing at your charter school, please contact us at CharterEducators@cta.org. We will connect you with other union charter educators and work with you to develop the best plan to make positive improvements at your school.
The History and Future of Charter Schools in California
Charter school educators throughout California are unionizing with CTA at an unprecedented rate. In fact, in just the last few years, educators have unionized at the following schools so they can better advocate for their students and profession:
• Impact Academy in Hayward, CA
• Envision Academy in Oakland, CA
• City Arts and Tech in San Francisco, CA
• IQ Academy in Los Angeles, CA
• MAAC Community Charter School in Chula Vista, CA
• Alameda Community Learning Center in Alameda, CA
• Island Union Elementary School in Lemoore, CA
• American Indian Public Charter Schools in Oakland, CA
• East Bay Innovation Academy in Oakland, CA and
• Luis Valdez Leadership Academy in San Jose, CA
• Roberto Cruz Leadership Academy in San Jose, CA
• River Valley Charter School in Lakeside, CA
• California Virtual Academies
Charter school educators love teaching and many strongly believe in their schools’ potential. At the same time, there is increasing concern that recent trends in the charter school industry are limiting educator input into important decisions while contributing to high teacher turnover. Together, these trends threaten school stability and student success.
In recent years, many small schools have grown into larger charter management organizations with multiple campuses. For many educators this has meant that decisions that were once made at the local school level are now made at the charter network HQ and are frequently too far removed from the classrooms. As a result, many teachers don’t feel like they have a real voice in important policies that impact their students and their profession.
Additionally, many dedicated charter school educators are concerned their work is becoming less sustainable. Workload is so heavy that work/life balance is elusive. This is compounded by high cost of living and low pay. California is very expensive. Part of making the profession sustainable for charter educators means being able to afford to live in the communities in which they teach. Consequently, high turnover and burn-out are becoming real problems at many charter schools.
To address these trends, charter educators are unionizing to advocate for a stronger voice in important decisions, to support initiatives that lower teacher turnover and to build the stable school communities their students deserve.
The original intent of charter schools in California was to improve student learning while encouraging the use of different and innovative teaching methods and creating new professional opportunities for educators. It was important that charter schools were developed at the local site level and with the full participation of all “stakeholders,” including educators, school board members, parents, guardians and other members of the community. These “laboratories of innovation” were meant to try new pedagogical approaches on a small scale. Methodologies that worked could then be imported to traditional districts as part of our collective efforts to provide quality education to all California students.
Unfortunately, as charter schools expanded in California many departed from this original vision. Increasingly, charter schools are operated by large charter management organizations (CMOs). This means important decisions are frequently made without sufficient oversight and far from the school communities they are meant to serve.
Now there is a movement to change this and return to the original vision.
This is being led by charter educators throughout the state who are unionizing to have a stronger voice in decisions that impact their students and profession. It is also being driven by educators, community members, and students who are working to ensure that charter schools are transparent, accountable and serve our communities.
California Teachers Association educators continuously work with parents and students to push for common sense oversight of California’s charter schools. This includes ensuring that all schools operate in a transparent manner, appropriately use public resources, have no barriers to enrollment for our kids, and don’t harm our neighborhood schools.
See below for highlights of our victories and learn how you can get involved.
Broken Charter School Laws: FIXED & UPDATED!
In 2019, the Legislature enacted the most substantial changes to California’s charter school laws since passage of the original California Charter Schools Act in 1992. These changes resulted from increased 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.
Four new laws, signed into law by Governor Newsom in 2019, brought these historic changes, including:
Senate Bill 126 (Effective January 1, 2020)
Signed in March, this law requires charter schools and charter school management organizations (CMOs) to follow the same open meetings, public records, and ethics laws as public school districts. It also establishes meeting requirements for CMOs with multiple schools, and requires that board meetings be recorded and posted on charter school websites.
Senate Bill 75- The 2019 Education, Omnibus Trailer Bill, (Effective Immediately)
Signed by the Governor in July, this law clarifies that discouraging enrollment of or pushing out high-needs students is illegal. The bill also requires charter schools to hold public hearings on their Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP) and to communicate with families in their home language, among other things.
Assembly Bill 1505, (Effective July 1, 2020, unless otherwise noted)
Signed by the Governor in October, AB 1505 allows school districts to consider the fiscal and community impact of new or expanding charter schools on their local community; allows districts in fiscal distress to deny new charter schools; moves control of authorizing to a more local level; aligns renewals with state standards; gives authorizers more tools when a school is not serving all students or has significant fiscal or governance issues; requires charter school educators to hold the same credentials as district educators (new teachers in 2020-21, currently employed teachers in 2025-26 ); and establishes a 2-year moratorium on new nonclassroom-based schools (effective January 1, 2020), among other changes.
Assembly Bill 1507, (Effective January 1, 2020)
Signed in October, this law eliminates the ability to locate charter schools outside the authorizing school district or county. It includes provisions for renewals of existing charter schools that are currently located outside their authorizing district or county, requiring them to either apply to the district where they are physically located or have that district’s permission to continue to physically locate there.
These four new laws represent a significant overhaul of existing laws, and it is important that they are implemented correctly from the start.
Use our new rapid response hotline for questions or to report new charter school petitions or requests to expand in your district:
- phone: 650-525-4362
- email: email@example.com
Additional Resources for Changes to California’s Charter Laws
- Overview of the new laws (one-pager) [pdf]
- Guide to the 2019 Changes to California’s Charter School Law [pdf]
- Renewals Fact Sheet [pdf]
- Parent Rights and Access Fact Sheet [pdf]
- New Petitions Fact Sheet [pdf]
- Considering Community and Fiscal Impact Fact Sheet [pdf]
- Equity Issues Fact Sheet [pdf]
- Charter Educator Credentialing Fact Sheet [pdf]
- Appeals Fact Sheet [pdf]
Relive the Moments that Led to This Victory for Public Education!
- Governor’s Charter Task Force Recommendations Echo Need for Accountability & Local Control in Legislation Currently Being Considered by California Lawmakers, CTA
- California Students’ Historic Win After 27 Years: AB 1505 and AB 1507 Become Law, CTA
- CTA’s statement from the day SB 126 was signed into law
- Oakland Unified School District Parent Clarissa Dothard advocating for investment in public education for students in Oakland.
- Parent Hilda Rodriguez Guzman speaking about her experience sending her son to a charter school that did not meet his special needs.
- Julian Vasquez Heilig, Education Chair of the CA NAACP speaking about the organization’s support of legislation to fix the charter school laws in California.
- Watch a video of bill author Assemblymember Smith speaking about why she authored AB 1507.
CTA’s Policy on Charter Schools
Charter schools are established to increase learning opportunities for all students with special emphasis on expanded learning experiences for academically challenged pupils. Charter schools should provide students, parents and CTA members with educational opportunities in a public-school setting. All charter school employees should be organized to ensure both quality education for students and professional rights for school employees.
Accountability And Transparency
CTA believes that charter schools must comply with all state required accountability and testing requirements. Additionally, charter schools must comply with laws promoting transparency and accountability to parents and the public in the operation of public schools and expenditure of public funds.
Equity And Student Access
All children in California should be entitled to equal access to all public education opportunities, including charter schools. Any practices that serve to weed out certain children or families – whether intentional or unintentional – are not acceptable and must be eliminated. CTA opposes charging tuition or any things of value as a requirement for attendance at the charter school. Parental involvement and voluntary service should be encouraged, but must not be a condition of enrollment. No charter school should discriminate against a student because of race, language, color, national origin, religion, gender/gender identification, sexual orientation, disability, marital status, economic status, educational need, academic performance, or any other form of preferential selection. CTA believes that charter schools must comply with the laws and procedures governing school districts relating to the suspension and expulsion of pupils.
School districts develop priorities and plans with input from all stakeholders including parents, students, teachers, and community members. Because of the significant investment in time and resources reviewing proposed charter school petitions prior to accepting or rejecting a petition, the local school board is best equipped to make decisions regarding education programs and needs within its jurisdiction. CTA believes that the granting of charters must only be through school districts with democratically elected school boards for schools within the boundaries of the school district, and that appeals to the school district’s denial of a petition must be only for due process reasons. CTA opposes practices of certain county offices of education and the State Board of Education in summarily overruling rigorous evaluations of charter petitions by local school boards, because it undermines local control.
Charter Management Organizations
The primary function of charter schools is to establish locally-driven pedagogical innovation that supports California’s system of public education, and does not replace or undermine it. Establishment of a charter school moratorium is needed to provide time to reconsider whether our current regulatory framework for charter schools is working toward this value. Increasingly, charter schools are operated by large charter management organizations (CMO), without sufficient oversight and far from the school communities they are meant to serve. The structure of a CMO is intended to replicate a model of schools rather than establish locally-driven innovation; they are intended to compete with, rather than support, neighborhood public schools.
The Impact Of Charter School Growth
Unchecked expansion of charter schools draws fiscal and intellectual resources from neighborhood public schools and is preventing all of our district students from receiving the supports they deserve. By permitting authorizers to consider whether the charter school serves the interest of the entire school community, and does not undermine existing services, programs, or academic offerings, we ensure public school systems work together. Establishment of a meaningful charter school cap would allow local school districts to control the educational opportunities and supports within their communities to best meet the needs of their students. Networks of California’s charter schools are prioritizing growth opportunities over educational opportunities for all students. Neighborhood public school students are bearing the cost for the unchecked expansion of privately-managed charter schools, and authorizers must be able to consider the financial impact that a new charter school will have on students already enrolled in district schools.
CTA believes that the funding of charter school facilities shall not negatively impact the education program of the school district in which the charter school is located. Billions of dollars are spent annually in tax dollars or taxpayer subsidized funding for California’s charter schools to lease, build, or buy school buildings. CTA opposes using public funding on schools built in neighborhoods that have no need for additional classroom space, and which offer no improvement over the quality of education already available in nearby public schools. Additionally, CTA believes that charter schools must operate facilities consistent with the Field Act or other similar public safety standards as applied to buildings of public access similar to public schools. Educational employees are entitled to work in safe, sanitary and healthy environments. Public school buildings must meet modern earthquake standards and have adequate light, heat/ air conditioning, and ventilation.
Eliminating Profit Motives In Public Education
CTA opposes using public funds to purchase private property in the charter school environment. CTA believes that the approval of and operation of charter schools must be free of conflicts of interest and profiteering. Charter school board members and their immediate families must not benefit financially from their schools. Public schools’ conflict of interest laws and disclosure regulations should apply to charter schools that receive public funds.