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Senate bill at the center of heated LAUSD debate was tabled by its author

Mike Szymanski | April 18, 2017

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State Senator Tony Mendoza (seated center) with parents. Irlanda Gonzalez is just to the right of the senator seated at the table. (Photo courtesy of Richard Garcia)

The state Senate bill that was at the heart of Tuesday’s heated school board debate and which some charter advocates consider dangerous to the future of charter schools was pulled for discussion Monday by its author for two years.

Pro-charter parents who met with State Sen. Tony Mendoza last Friday said they believed they helped sway him to delay the implementation of SB 808.

“I think this will kill charter schools and I think that when they saw how it will hurt the Hispanic community in his district, then it had an impact on him,” said Irlanda Gonzalez, who has a son in a charter middle school. “I wanted to press on him that we want choices for all our children, now and the future, and there is a group of parents out here who are willing to fight to keep our choices.”

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About 100 parents came to the morning meeting. (Photo courtesy of Richard Garcia)

Gonzalez was one of the 14 parents at Mendoza’s office, and she was one of a dozen speakers Tuesday morning protesting a resolution asking the school board to support SB 808 and two other teacher union-backed bills targeting charter schools. The LA Unified board voted Tuesday afternoon, 4-3, to support the resolution.

Representatives and parents of City Charter, Academia Semillas, Santa Monica Boulevard Community Charter, and others spoke to the school board just before they went into their morning closed session.

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(Courtesy of Richard Garcia)

Mendoza, who is a former elementary school teacher in East Los Angeles, had decided about a week ago that he would open up his bill for a long discussion and series of hearings in Sacramento before it would be voted on, and he plans to continue hearing from all sides over the issue.

SB 808 will be discussed in committee on April 26, but a vote isn’t expected. Said Mendoza spokesman Timothy Kirkconnell, “Senator Mendoza is not against charter schools and wants students to get the best possible education, so he will continue to work on the bill.”

UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl said union representatives plan to be involved in the two-year discussion over SB 808 and urged the school board to take a stand supporting greater control by local school districts. The bill would prevent an appeal to the county or state boards of education.

Caputo-Pearl pointed out that Ref Rodriguez, a board member who co-founded charter schools, expressed concerns many times about being second-guessed by county and state boards after LA Unified rejected a charter application.

“Fundamentally, you should be the first and last authorizers of charter schools,” said Caputo-Pearl, maintaining that some recent high-profile news stories such as the Celerity federal investigation would not have happened if the law was applied. “We have faith in democratically elected school boards.”

Caputo-Pearl said that UTLA will be meeting in four legislative offices on May 12 to demonstrate their concerns for the bills, including with Ben Allen of Redondo Beach, who is the Senate Education Committee chair.

Steven Baratte, a communications manager for the California Charter Schools Association, said his group is advocating for another bill, SB 806, that would allow for transparency and “much needed financial flexibility for charter schools.” He said CCSA supports charter schools being subject to the Brown Act, Public Records Act, and Political Reform Act, but Government Code 1090 is unworkable. He said, “Charter schools have far fewer financial tools than district schools and often rely on board members for loans or other financial support to keep the doors open. Also, Government Code 1090 subjects charter school board members to criminal penalties.”


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