The new year is here—and so too is a new era for nonprofit charter public schools in California. AB 1507 took effect on January 1 while AB 1505 does so on July 1.Both bills were at the center of a long and tough legislative fight in 2019. While we initially strongly opposed AB 1505 and AB 1507, CharterNation stepped up, fended off the most devastating aspects in the bills, and secured vital protections for years to come for high-quality charter public schools. Because of those efforts, we moved towards a position of neutrality on each of the bills.
As legislators reconvene in Sacramento this week, our hope is that the focus in 2020 will be on pursuing solutions that bring greater equity and quality to an education system that desperately needs both. As the latest round of CAASPP data shows, far too many students from historically underserved communities are not receiving an education that prepares them for future success. Statewide, only 40 percent of Latinx students are proficient in reading and only 28 percent in math. Meanwhile, for Black students, the data is even worse: only 33 percent are proficient in reading. Just 20 percent in math.
For decades now, quality charter schools, with their innovative approach, have proven to be a lifeline for these students and are closing the achievement gap at a higher rate. But if we are going to ensure our education system lives up to its promise for all students, public education advocates, charter and traditional alike, must work together in support of a bold and unifying agenda that puts kids first and brings about bigger and faster change.
To help us get closer to that goal, our President and CEO Myrna Castrejón has already put forward what the most important priority in education policy should be in 2020: transparency. As she wrote in the Sacramento Bee last month:
“In 2020, the most important priority to advance K-12 education is not a single policy or funding mechanism, but a value: transparency. Our vast education system is simply not delivering on the promise of high-quality education for all California Youth, and is particularly challenged to close stubborn equity gaps among our struggling students.”
She added: “We must muster the will to use the trove of education data collected by the state to inform how policy decisions are made so the system, along with the public, can learn from its successes and mistakes.”
None of this will be easy. Strong divisions over how to improve our state’s public schools remain. But a better future for our students is on the line. In 2020, we owe it to them to reject the divisive politics of “us” vs. “them.” Instead, we must opt for rallying behind bold solutions that bring us closer to an education system that meets students’ needs and sets them up for college and career success.
Photo credit: Green Dot Schools