California Needs a Moratorium on Charter Schools

As a lifelong advocate for children and as a policy maker with experience at all levels of our state government, I know that every decision we make as a state must have a focus on the future of California, and that starts with children. They are counting on us. When children are our focus, our decisions — whether in education, housing, health care, the environment, or other key areas of public policy — are ethical, constructive, and positive.

This is why I am calling for a moratorium on new charter schools in California. Too many charters are escaping the rigorous financial oversight, auditing and reporting rules that are required of traditional public schools. They are also not open to all children — cherry picking the best and brightest students and even illegally turning away special education children. In some districts this exclusivity, combined with aggressive expansion, is leaving vulnerable children in traditional public schools with inadequate resources. These children and California taxpayers are paying the price.

While I have always been vigorously opposed to vouchers, I do believe that there is a place for public charter schools led by credentialed educators seeking to educate ALL children, and there are public charter schools that are doing this right now. The best charters accept all students, have dedicated teachers and strong instructional leaders as principals, open board meetings and minutes as well as transparent financial reporting overseen by state accredited auditors.

Unfortunately, over the past twenty years, the charter school movement has been co-opted by multi-million dollar industries. Out-of-state corporate entities, often hiding as “non-profit,” are taking millions of dollars from our local schools. This harms our students and our communities. For-profits, including out-of-state for-profits, are too often calling the shots and reaping handsome benefits.

Some charter advocates have been championing unbridled charter growth at the expense of rigorous oversight and providing a quality education for every child in California. If we are going to fulfill the promise of America, we must work toward a system where every child has an opportunity to reach his or her full potential.

After listening to teachers, parents, principals, students, researchers and community members across the state, it is clear to me that in order to do this, we must place a moratorium on new charter schools until we clean up the oversight issues. This will give us the opportunity to put the bad actors out of business and re-center ALL public schools around the needs of ALL of our children. Charter schools that have been playing by the rules and ethically seeking to educate their students in a democratic public school environment have nothing to fear.

As this debate moves forward, I pledge that I will not accept campaign contributions from state or national charter entities because first and foremost, the children must be our primary focus. We have some charter schools gaming the system and failing to follow audit procedures that ensure our tax dollars are going to support the education of all students.

Let’s build a California where every child has access to a high quality education and leaves school ready to become the engaged citizen our state needs. This historic commitment is what made our great state the land of opportunity, a beacon to our nation, and the sixth largest economy in the world.

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Delaine Eastin served California as Union City City Councilwoman, Assemblywoman in the California State Legislature, and State Superintendent of Public Instruction. She is a candidate for Governor. DelaineEastin.com

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