Charting a dangerous course

Director of Public Relations for Innovative Education Management, a nonprofit organization that manages charter schools in California

Senate Bill 740 is a direct attack against choice in public education. Choice is the foundation upon which true reform in public education lies. The will of the people demands real and tangible public education reform. Leading educational experts support choice as our best hope to meet the diverse learning styles and needs of today’s public school students.

SB740 (Senator Jack O’Connell, D-San Luis Obispo), however, ignores the will of the people and leading educational experts. It is a bill written to support personal political agendas, power maneuvering and special interests. Originally a pesticide bill, SB740 was hastily amended in the eleventh hour to attack non-classroom charter schools alone. Non-classroom charter schools provide a more individualized approach to learning, offering students a wide variety of learning programs from which to choose. These 90-plus California charter schools are currently serving 40,000 students and successfully growing more than 15 percent per year!

SB740 proponents claim that their bill is intended to “clean up non-classroom type programs” and “ensure that public education funds are being used appropriately.” First, if true, shouldn’t all “non-classroom” programs, not just charter schools, be included? Second, there are many reported abuses of public funds in the conventional public school system also. If this bill’s real purpose is to ensure appropriate use of public funds in education, why single out non-classroom charter schools alone?

Promoters of SB740 advertised that this bill would provide start-up funding for low-income classroom-based charter schools, derived from the funding reductions collected from non-classroom charter schools. A good cause? Certainly. However, behind the scenes, SB740 proponents gloatingly admitted that this funding was already provided for in the general fund. So why claim that funding for new classroom charters had to come from non-classroom charters?

SB740 is a deceptive “divide and conquer” strategy imposed by those seeking to undermine and destroy their “enemies.” This rob-Peter-to-pay-Paul approach was conceived by those who have, by their own admission, always been opposed to a “non-classroom” learning approach, and who were simply lying in wait for the opportunity for their next attack.

SB740’s true purpose is to pit charter school against charter school to try to weaken and destroy the charter school movement and resolve, one that is providing real choice and progress in public education. The public should not tolerate political maneuverings such as SB740, which place personal agendas above the will of the people.