by Gloria Romero
Even while Gov. Jerry Brown and the California Teachers Association barnstormed the state, urging voters to raise taxes with Proposition 30 to support public education and predicting doomsday if the measure fails, a fascinating report from the California Charter Schools Association was released on the growth of charter schools in the Golden State.
Data from the report clearly reveal that change has come to California’s public education system.
Charter schools are public schools. They are publicly funded but operate with greater independence, autonomy and flexibility from the burdensome state Education Code which micromanages even the minutia of education practices. Charter schools are typically nonunion, although they can be unionized if teachers vote for a union.
Charter schools were first established in the nation two decades ago, with California becoming the second state to authorize them. Hailed as opportunities for innovation and reform, charter schools began to grow.
Even beyond becoming recognized as “petri dishes for educational reform,” the underlying philosophy of parental choice in public education began to take root. In a system where ZIP code is the sole criteria of school assignment, charters began to become a sort of “promised land” for high-poverty, minority families whose children were too often assigned to chronically under performing schools.
One-hundred nine new charters opened in California just this academic year, bringing the number of charter schools to 1,065, the most in the nation. Still, there are still 70,000 pupils on waiting lists.