Mia Bonta bill attacks charter school construction funding

Fifteen thousand college students, almost one-third of all kids in Oakland public faculties, attend constitution faculties. Whereas all kids deserve secure and equitable training services, a invoice launched by Oakland’s assemblymember would make it more difficult for public constitution faculties to buy and enhance their faculties.

Assemblymember Mia Bonta’s laws, AB 1604, makes it dearer, and probably prohibitive, for constitution faculties to finance new services or enhancements to present ones. The invoice focuses on development bond financing and the way constitution services are turned over if a college closes. However, at its coronary heart, it’s a labor-backed invoice that makes serving kids, particularly in communities similar to East Oakland, tougher.

Beneath the present state-run system, constitution faculties borrow cash via the bond market. Bonds for constitution faculties are issued at a better fee of curiosity than a college district is afforded as a result of the smaller measurement of charters presents larger bond threat to buyers. AB 1604 would additional enhance that threat, forcing charters to borrow at even increased charges and spend extra money on curiosity as a substitute of on packages and employees.

The impetus for this invoice was supposedly an audit of the Constitution College Facility Grant Program performed final yr. Nevertheless, the state audit report famous the optimistic impact of the present bond program and that the packages are “typically attaining their objective of accelerating constitution faculties’ entry to facility funding” and didn’t discover any improper use of this system.

This invoice would hamstring many constitution faculties’ potential to offer secure and equitable services serving our highest-needs households and communities. For instance, Lodestar, our campus within the Sobrante Park neighborhood, serves a pupil inhabitants that’s 95% low-income and 45% English-language learners, with over 13% qualifying for special-education companies. Our households select our faculties due to our concentrate on instructing and studying, Ok-12 neighborhood college mannequin, and emphasis on school and profession readiness.

Constitution faculties are run by non-elected, non-profit boards which can be separate from the political dysfunction that stops Oakland from assembly the fundamental public security wants of its kids and households.

AB 1604 has a poison tablet, a “first proper of refusal” that may permit college districts to purchase out a facility within the occasion of constitution college closure. This provision is extremely problematic given the political local weather of the Oakland Unified College District board. It’s not inconceivable that the present board — dominated by labor-backed trustees — would vote towards reauthorizing a constitution college and open the door to take over a bond-financed facility.

Bonta goals to resolve an issue that doesn’t exist. Statewide, solely 4 constitution faculties utilizing bonds have closed. Her invoice is co-sponsored by the California College Workers Affiliation. Constitution leaders serving a big proportion of kids within the assemblymember’s district had been by no means consulted earlier than this laws was written.

Throughout two current conferences with Bonta and her employees, attended by Oakland constitution college leaders, she was requested to drag her invoice till an fairness and monetary evaluation could possibly be achieved to determine how deeply the invoice would influence low-income, Black and Brown communities. Bonta and her employees declined.

AB 1604 would have a damaging and disproportionate influence on Black and Brown communities all through California. Moreover, this invoice would solely additional the fairness gaps in our post-pandemic world in addition to deliberately politicize and ostracize households that select public constitution faculties for his or her kids. A political assault on constitution faculties and their services shouldn’t be allowed to change into legislation.

Wealthy Harrison is CEO of Lighthouse Group Public Faculties, devoted to serving a Ok-12 pupil inhabitants that has been traditionally underserved by the standard college system in Oakland.