California: Charter School Lobby Insists that “Public Charter Schools” Are Businesses, Not Public Schools


"The recent defeat of legislation that would make charter schools accountable and transparent, AB 1478, established definitively that charter schools are private businesses, not public schools.

All public schools must comply with the Brown Act, the California Public Records Act (PRA), or the Political Reform Act of 1974, which make their spending and operations transparent to the public. The charter lobby insists that there are merely bureaucratic burdens and that charters must be free to operate without any public transparency, as private businesses do.

Carl Petersen writes about this issue here."

As recipients of public funding, one would expect that organizations running charter schools would be subjected to the same open government regulations that other government entities, including elected school boards, must follow. While it is not always convenient to conform to the Brown Act, the California Public Records Act (PRA), or the Political Reform Act of 1974, these provisions of California law help ensure transparency to the taxpayers.  Unfortunately, under the state Education Code, the charter industry is currently exempt from following these requirements, leaving parents of students in these schools blind to their operations…open government laws help to protect students and ensure that public funds are spent correctly. However, the California Charter School Association (CCSA) considers them to be part of a “bureaucracy” from which families need to be “protected” as if having access to information harms students and their parents.

The charter industry doesn’t want to be bothered complying with state laws that public schools must comply with.

If California State AB 1478 had passed, parents and students in Los Angeles and across the state would have had the same protections enshrined into the education code that are found in the LAUSD’s District Required Language. This bill expressly stated that charter schools and entities managing charter schools are subject to the Ralph M. Brown Act, the California Public Records Act, and the Political Reform Act of 1974. Unfortunately, the CCSA was able to use its vast lobbying power and campaign donations in Sacramento to ensure that the business interests involved in running charter schools can receive public funds without any public oversight. AB 1478 failed by what the CCSA called “a historic margin”.  You can thank those who voted “no” and those who lacked the courage to take a stand (and whose abstention counted as a “no”) for impending charter school scandals that will not see the light of day until children have been harmed:

What the charter industry proved beyond a shadow of a doubt is that charter schools are private businesses. They insist on the rights and privileges of private businesses. They are not public schools.