OPINION – There has been a lot of attention recently, and rightly so, to Assembly Bill 392 which seeks to change the use of deadly force by California law enforcement officers — thus hoping to stop the police shootings of unarmed Black and brown people.
While that bill is critical to the Black community, there are also some unrelated bills that are going through the California Assembly that, if passed, could potentially have a devastating impact on California’s African American community for generations to come.
With support from legislators such as Assemblymember Kevin McCarty (D-Sacramento), Rob Bonta (D-Oakland), Patrick O’Donnell (D-Long Beach), Ash Kalra (D-San Jose) and Christy Smith (D-Santa Clarita) AB 1505, 1506 and 1507 will kill public charter schools and limit options for Black families seeking a better education for their children.
Assembly Bill 1506, which is authored by Sacramento’s Kevin McCarty, is a cynical scheme to cap the growth of public charter schools in California by literally putting a limit on the number of charter schools in the state.
McCarty says his rationale for authoring the bill is to try and limit the financial impact charter schools have on California’s public schools.
It has been well documented that many of California’s public school districts such as Los Angeles, Oakland and Sacramento are going through crippling financial problems. However, to try and place the blame of poorly managed school districts on public charter schools is misleading and wrong.
It is well established that California’s public school system is failing Black children. Look no further than Sac City schools where only 13 percent of Black students met standards in Math on state assessments. Black children in neighboring Natomas and Twin Rivers did little better with only 15 percent meeting state standards in Math. Black students in these Sacramento school districts do worse than Black students statewide where 20 percent meet state standards in Math.
The schools in McCarty’s district that are beating the odds for Black kids are tuition-free public charter schools — the very schools McCarty is seeking to cap.
Let’s put this in perspective. There are only 10 public schools in California with a majority Black student population that perform in the top half of state student achievement in both English Language
Arts and Math. Eight of those schools are public charter schools. Remarkably, a third of the best schools for Black kids in the state are right here in Sacramento: Fortune School, Oak Park Prep and PS7.
All three schools are in McCarty’s district. McCarty should be trying to replicate these schools, not curb their growth.
For example, Fortune School is a regional charter school initiative to close the African American achievement gap by preparing kids for college starting in Kindergarten. Fortune is led by local African American educators and 44 percent of the teachers are Black, much higher than in any school district in the County.
Laudably, Fortune’s network of charter schools is authorized by the Sacramento County Board of Education. In 2011, the County Board made a finding of fact that there is a severe and persistent African American achievement gap in all 13 of Sacramento County’s school districts.
This means there is no school district where a Black family can go in the county and not face the Black achievement gap for their children — a disturbing fact of life for Black families.
At Fortune School, 57 percent of Black kids met state standards in Math last year, exceeding the performance of all kids in the state (50 percent) and Sacramento County (47 percent) — regardless of race.
It’s concerning that McCarty, a member of the California Legislative Black Caucus, would seek to limit options within the public school system in a way that would negatively impact Black families, not just in Sacramento but statewide.
A group of local Black clergy, educators and civil rights leaders met with Kevin McCarty last week to try and understand his motivation. We were alarmed by McCarty’s singular focus on the financial impact charter schools have on the state, with hardly a mention of how closing such schools would improve the educational condition of students stuck in low-performing schools.
Current law protects Black families from a school district that would deny a public charter school based on the money, ignoring the charter school’s educational value to children. We must defend those protections.
Trapping Black kids in the school districts that have failed them for the money is wrong. School districts should not try to balance their budgets on the backs of Black children.