SACRAMENTO — Legislation that cleared the state Assembly on Friday could make it harder to create charter schools in California by requiring supporters to seek consent of lower-level unionized school employees.
Under AB917, at least 50 percent of teachers and support staff, such as cafeteria workers or custodians, would need to back any effort to convert a public school to a charter or start a new one.
The bill’s author, Assemblyman Steven Bradford, D-Gardena, said it would allow “employees who play a vital role in the education of our kids, whether they’re in the classroom or not, to have a voice in whether we convert or create a new charter school.”
The proposal is sponsored by the Services Employees International Union and is supported by the California Charter School Association.
“We simply acknowledge that when you’re trying to change the entire culture of a school, that doesn’t just include the teachers or the parents,” said Myrna Castrejon, senior vice president of government affairs for the charter school association.
But opponents, including some Assembly Republicans and the Sacramento-based Charter School Development Agency, say provisions in the bill are confusing and would create roadblocks to forming charter schools.
“With this new signature requirement, it will drive down the number of charter schools that are created in a given year and it will further prevent parents from pursuing education options,” said Assemblywoman Kristin Olsen, R-Modesto.
The Assembly approved AB917 Friday on a 52-24 vote, sending it to Gov. Jerry Brown.
Brown vetoed a similar bill in 2011. In his veto message, the Democratic governor wrote that while support staff plays a vital role in school operations, “this bill would unnecessarily complicate an already difficult charter school petition process.”