California Governor Vetoes Bill to Restrict Charter Schools

Published December 1, 2016

California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) vetoed a bill that would have increased restrictions on charter schools in the state.

Assembly Bill 709 would have required charter schools to be subject to state open meetings, public records, and conflict-of-interest laws. Brown rejected the bill on September 30, writing in his veto message, “In 2014, I vetoed AB 913, a virtually identical bill. My reasons then were: ‘Starting a charter school requires the strong commitment of dedicated individuals willing to serve on a governing board. While I support transparency, this bill goes further than simply addressing issues of potential conflicts of interest and goes too far in prescribing how these boards must operate.’ That’s still my view.”

The California Teachers Association (CTA), the state’s largest teachers union, “pushed hard” for AB 709, reported.

“The California School Boards Association, the Association of California School Administrators, and other school management groups supported the bill, but CTA made it a high-profile campaign as part of its escalating opposition to charter schools,” reported

CTA President Eric Heins said in a statement, “It is unfortunate that given all the reports showing fraud, waste, mismanagement, and unequal access to students, Gov. Brown would veto such important legislation that simply required the same standards of accountability and transparency that apply to all neighborhood public schools.”

‘Major Barriers’

Jed Wallace, president and CEO of the California Charter Schools Association (CCSA), says Brown’s veto shows the governor has supporters in the California State Legislature who view charters favorably.

“Despite powerful political headwinds in the legislature, California’s charter sector demonstrated once again that support for charter schools in the legislature continues to grow,” Wallace said. “Together, with reinforcement from thousands of charter parents, alumni, teachers, and school leaders, we defeated a suite of bills that would have imposed major barriers to success on the charter sector and jeopardized the extraordinary gains our schools are realizing, particularly among students of color and students in poverty.”

Wallace says CCSA opposed AB 709 because the bill’s “rigid approach could have led to the effective dismantling of hundreds of nonprofit charter schools.”

“Nearly all charter schools in California already comply with the Brown Act, the Public Records Act, and the Political Reform Act,” Wallace said. “We have no objections to a sensible application of these three open-records laws. In fact, we sponsored legislation two years ago that would have subjected charter schools to these three laws, with some modifications, but the bill died following an aggressive opposition effort by California Teachers Association. We are interested in creating a regulatory environment for charter schools that has the levels of accountability and transparency that our member schools and the broader public desire.”

‘There is a Certain Irony Here’

Larry Sand, president of the California Teachers Empowerment Network, says the teachers union is the only truly unaccountable organization in the education system.

“There is a certain irony here,” Sand said. “Charters must prove themselves to their customers, parents, and to a charter authorizing board, and [they] must renew their charter typically every five years. CTA, which cosponsored AB 709, never has to do this. The union, which was voted in and won the right to bargain collectively in 1975, has never had to recertify. A new teacher is forced to pay money to CTA or to a smaller state union, whether they want to or not. Hence the union whining about charter accountability is laughable. They don’t have to be accountable to their members; they have had a captive audience for over 40 years and counting.” 

Elizabeth BeShears ([email protected]) writes from Trussville, Alabama.