Newsletter: Election and legislation updates

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Bargaining Team Elections Update!

We are excited to announce election results from our first round of bargaining team elections! As always, we are aiming to maximize participation, so please reach out to your site organizer if you have not yet held an election on your campus.

Election Results:

Summit Rainier:

Elected: Isela Mosqueira, Spanish

Tam Middle School:

Elected: Matthew Ploch, Expeditions

Denali Middle School:

Elected: Sara Ragey, English

Denali High School:

Elected: Andrew Stevenson, Science

K2 Middle School:

Elected: Haley Ralph (Holt), History

K2 High School:

Elected: Brendan Boland, English

Expeditions:

Elected: Liz DeOrnellas, Journalism

Upcoming elections:

April 11: Summit Prep

TBD: Shasta, Tahoma, Tam High School

For more information, contact:

Shasta: Sarah Day Dayon

Tahoma: Morris Shieh

Tam High School: Angela Wentworth

Everest: Enrique Chante Coon

Elected bargaining team members will attend bargaining meetings with Summit Public Schools representatives once the contract negotiation process begins.

We are also looking for volunteers to join each site’s Contract Action Team. Members of that team will help the bargaining team representative by collecting input as needed throughout the bargaining process and will work to make sure all teachers at that site are fully informed as bargaining progresses. Please reach out to your site organizers if you’re interested in that role!

What happens after elections?

Once members of the bargaining team are elected, their first job will be to generate what is called a “Sunshine Proposal.” This is a requirement under the law that our union shares at a Summit Board meeting all of the topics we plan on negotiating. The Sunshine Proposal will be created by our bargaining team based on the results of the bargaining survey and the comments from the bargaining input meetings.  

Charter School Legislation Update

Summit administration have recently put out information concerning a few bills about charter schools that were introduced this year and has characterized these bills as “anti-charter” and as a threat to the very existence of charter schools.

We want to be clear that these bills do not present that type of threat to our schools. In order for our teachers to be fully informed on these issues, we are providing some more detailed information on these bills to facilitate your own research about whether or not you personally support this legislation.  We understand there can be policy differences about the best way to create the schools our students deserve.  If you have specific questions or suggestions about these pieces of legislation, let us know and we will do our best to get answers.

History of the Charter Schools Act (CSA)

When the California Charter Schools Act (CSA) was passed in 1992, charters were envisioned as small, community-controlled educational experiments designed to create alternative models of education for traditionally underserved students. The creation of charter schools was predicated on greater freedom to innovate in exchange for greater accountability.  The number of charters that could open in California was capped at 100 schools statewide.

By the late 1990s, the cap was essentially lifted, leading to a significant expansion of charter schools (there are now over 1,300 in California) and the creation of new management structures (Charter Management Organizations, or CMOs) that the CSA never contemplated. After over 25 years, people with diverse views on charters agree that it is time to update our outdated charter law to reflect these changes on the ground (even if they disagree on what those updates should be).

Legislation has been introduced this year to update the CSA. While many of the details are still in flux and there will be changes as the bills make their way through the Senate and Assembly, below are the basic concepts for the major bills moving in Sacramento. It should be noted that much of this legislation does not apply to charter renewals.

AB 1505 has multiple parts; its basic intent is to return charter school authorization and oversight to the communities where the charter schools are located. This bill:

    • Limits the appeals process to county boards of education.  Currently, charters that are rejected by a local district can be approved by a county board of education or the State Board of Education. This has allowed charters which had significant problems with academics and finances to be approved by entities that were farther away and less able to do effective oversight. Importantly, there will still be opportunities for appeal to county boards if a district did not follow the law in rejecting a charter.

 

  • Allows for renewals for less than five years. Under the current law, charter authorizers only have two options: renew a charter for five years or shut it down. This does not give authorizers much flexibility. Changing the renewal time periods would allow authorizers the option to let charters that are struggling have a few more years to improve, rather than just shutting the charter down. The bill also mandates that charter identified for technical assistance must be renewed for less than five years. Finally, this section of the bill mandates that authorizers look at the financial operations of a school when it is up for renewal.
  • Implements technical assistance program for charters. This bill outlines a procedure for technical assistance for charters that are not adequately serving all student groups (for example, bringing in outside experts, reviewing data, developing improvement plans).
  • Updates academic criteria for charter renewal. The current CSA contains academic criteria for renewal that are outdated — we don’t use API rankings anymore, so this has created confusion during the renewal process. The bill would ask the Superintendent of Public Instruction to develop recommendations for updated academic criteria for charter renewal; these recommendations will then go back to the legislature for approval.
  • Changes charter revocation process. The current CSA states that academic achievement is the most important factor in deciding whether or not to revoke a charter. This means that charters with significant financial mismanagement have been able to stay open due to high test scores. This bill would eliminate that part of the law and eliminate appeals for charter revocation (currently, it is extremely rare for revocations to be overturned on appeal).

 

AB 1506 creates a currently unspecified cap on the total number of charter schools in California. The details of this bill are still being worked out, but the cap would likely be the same or higher than the current number of charters operating in California.

AB 1507 would prevent charter schools from locating outside the district that authorized them.  This bill only impacts independent study and online charter schools that have “resource centers” in multiple districts and counties. A recent series of scandals in which small school districts were authorizing large charter schools located outside of their districts in order to boost their own budgets (and sometimes provide significant personal financial benefits for district officials) shows that this is a loophole in need of closure.

AB 1508 permits chartering authorities to consider the economic, facilities and academic impacts of a new charter petition on neighborhood public schools. Under the current law, there are a very limited number of reasons that a new charter petition can be rejected, and none of those reasons include how the charter will impact existing schools or how the charter will bring new, innovative programs or methods of instruction to the district. Specifically this bill:

 

  • Adds requirements to new charter petitions. The bill would require that new charter petitions explain why their program cannot be implemented by the local school district.  

 

  • Adds new reasons to deny new charter petitions. The bill would allow districts to deny new charter petitions if opening the school would have a negative fiscal, academic, or facilities impact on existing neighborhood schools.

Our Union’s Process for Endorsing Legislation

All of these bills are supported by our statewide union, the California Teachers Association. The legislative positions and priorities of CTA are decided by a democratically elected State Council made up of hundreds of educator representatives from every part of the state. CTA’s support of these bills is the product of many hours of democratic deliberation and debate driven by teachers like us. As we move closer to being recognized as the official union at Summit, we are excited to be able to bring our unique perspectives as Summit teachers into the conversation.  

We will keep people updated as these bills go through the legislature. These are complicated issues that deserve thoughtful discussion, not soundbites.  In the meantime, again, if you have specific questions or suggestions about these pieces of legislation please reach out!

And a word from our legislators:

State Senator Nancy Skinner wrote this letter of support for our unionization efforts.

Sen Skinner letter

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