It may become more difficult to open a California charter school that is a new conversion. This week the California Assembly Education Committee will hear AB 917 by Assemblyman Bradford. AB 917 would add the signatures of classified employees to the signatures that are needed to convert an existing public school into a charter school. The bill is being sponsored by SEIU and supported by the California Charter Schools Association (CCSA). It is unclear what has led the CCSA to support this measure but they are actively behind it.
Adding classified employees will make it more difficult to convert a school into a charter. In some cases like in Los Angeles, it could add up to 60 new signatures that will need to be gathered during the petition process. For other parts of the state the new requirement may not be that onerous but it would depend on how many classified employees actually work at the school site. For the sponsor it is a manner of including classified employees in the decision making process at individual schools but for charter school supporters it means that they would have to work to organize both the teachers union and the classified union employees.
The bill also raises a serious policy issue: should classified employees be involved in the conversion process at all? When the charter school statute was drafted it was meant as a tool for teachers and parents at and around a particular school. Clearly, AB 917 expands the law to include individuals that the original statute did not intend to cover.
Luckily for charter school advocates this measure is similar to AB 86 from 2011 and AB 2363 that was run a year prior to that. AB 2363 failed in the Senate Education Committee and the Governor vetoed AB 86. If the California Governor keeps his same position he will veto AB 917 once it reaches his desk.
To view any of the bills listed above go to http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billSearchClient.xhtml and put in the bill number.

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