OPINION (CBM) – Charter schools are a win for Black families and Assemblyman Patrick O’Donnell (D -Long Beach) and the teachers union are trying to take them away from us. 

AB 1505 (O’Donnell), legislation sponsored by the California Teachers Association (CTA), would be a first step in closing high-performing charter schools and trapping disadvantaged students in failing schools. It is expected to be heard in the Senate Education Committee on July 10.

As the attacks on charter schools continue in the Legislature, many are wondering, where precisely the Governor stands on this issue.

Traditional public schools have dramatically underserved Black kids. Black students are the lowest performing subgroup other than students with special needs. Eighty percent of Black kids in California can’t do math at grade level. Sixty eight percent can’t read or write at grade level. These numbers are ugly and tragic, and since 7 out of 8 Black children in California attend district-run public schools, traditional public schools must own their underachievement.

The failure of Black students in California public schools is undeniable. It is educational malpractice, and the state should be sued for what it has done to Black children. And now, O’Donnell and the teachers union are trying to take away options from Black families to pursue something better for our children through free and public charter schools, while the Governor says little to nothing. That’s not right. It adds insult to injury.

District-run schools are prepping our boys and girls for prison. Black students are three times more likely to be suspended for the same offenses committed by White students in our state’s public schools.  As a result, concerned educators – notably African Americans – have created charter schools within the public school system to prepare our children for college.

There are only ten public schools in California with majority African-American student enrollments that rank in the top half of all student performance on standardized tests statewide. Eight of those are charter schools. 

O’Donnell, a former CTA activist, wants to take away protections in current law that allow a charter school petitioner to appeal to the county and the state when a school district denies them.  Due process rights should be protected for educators who want to open charter schools to fix a broken system.

As Black people, we know intimately what it’s like to be discriminated against and marginalized. It’s not fair to take away appeal rights from charter school educators who want to open schools for our children in areas where the system has failed them.

Charter school operators need to be protected just like we protect students and teachers in district-run schools by giving them due process. The teachers’ unions would never allow due process rights to be taken away from teachers, and yet they want to take them from charter schools. That’s hypocritical.

It is obvious school districts don’t want to approve charter schools because they want to keep the money our kids generate to balance their budgets, even though the kids are failing. Educators are starting charter schools to fix a broken system need to be able to appeal all the way to the State Board of Education. The puts in place a system of checks and balances that safeguards against  local authorities who may want to keep public school money to themselves rather than allowing our taxpayer dollars to follow our children to the public school we choose for them as their parents, including charter schools.

Nearly 50,000 Black children are enrolled in the state’s charter schools because their parents signed them up and they see very clearly that charter schools are being scapegoated for a problem they didn’t create. Why would you take charter schools away from parents and children across the state of California, impacting 660,000 students because of fiscal mismanagement of school districts in LA and Oakland? Why should our kids pay the price in lost opportunities because the Legislature and Governor are playing to the politics of the moment?

It is not a satisfactory answer to us that the CTA contributed to the Governor’s campaign and therefore he is forced to act on their extreme views about charter schools. We understand that elections have consequences, but they should not be suffered by the Black community that also helped Governor Newsom get elected.

Remember, when you attack charter schools, you also attack all the parents who have chosen a charter school for their child for a good reason.

In truth, it looks like “the moment” for the CTA-backed assault on charter schools is passing with Assemblyman Kevin McCarty’s charter school cap bill, AB 1506, and Senator Maria Elena Durazo’s charter school moratorium measure, SB 756, failing in the Legislature where the Democrats hold a supermajority.

It’s time for the Governor to speak up and end this nonsense. It’s time he showed that he supports black families in our right to choose the best way to educate our children.

It’s not progressive to take away educational opportunities from black families that have been failed by the public schools. Our president, Barack Obama, supported charter schools because he got it. So shouldn’t Governor Newsom?

By the Rev. Tecoy Porter | Special to California Black Media

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