January 21, 2014
Happy New Year! 2014 promises to be another year of remarkable growth and expanded impact for California's charter schools. I have been busy attempting to deliver on my New Year's Resolution to visit even more of California's outstanding charter schools. In just the past couple of weeks I have had the honor of visiting Yu Ming Charter School, an awesome dual-immersion Mandarin-English program in Oakland, City Charter School and Global Education Academy, two terrific charter schools serving different neighborhoods in Los Angeles, and Desert Trails Charter School, a great new school started under a recent Parent Trigger campaign in Adelanto. I come away from each of these visits energized to see again how our movement is creating greatly improved learning options in communities across California.
As ever, we enter the New Year both greatly optimistic about the incredible opportunities that lie before our movement and greatly sobered by the unconscionable levels of resistance that many charter schools continue to face.
Among our top reasons for optimism, of course, is the fact that Governor Brown's recently announced budget is generating great new momentum for California's charter schools. Not only would the Governor's proposed budget help all public schools in the state by providing an additional $9.7 billion in ongoing and one-time funding increases, it would also generate particular benefit for California's charter schools by fully eliminating funding deferrals and accelerating the implementation of LCFF, which produces greater funding equity for charter schools over time. In addition, the LCFF completely remakes the way that startup charter schools are funded, meaning that the 106 charter schools that opened this year, and the hundreds of schools poised to open in the next few years, will have fundamentally improved economics during those critical first years of operation. We commend Governor Brown for bringing forward a proposed budget that protects the interests of all public schools while securing fairer funding for students attending charter schools.
We also see 2014 to be a year of great opportunity regarding the facilities challenges that charter schools face. First, of course, we want to recognize the California School Finance Authority (CFSA) for having done very effective work since assuming responsibility for the administration of the Charter Schools Facilities Grant Program (also known as the SB740 facilities program). We appreciate greatly how the CSFA has disbursed program funding to charter schools far earlier than has happened previously and we look forward to working with the CSFA and others to make the additional changes that we need to expand eligibility for the program and make adjustments allowing SB740 funds to be used for debt service. We are steadfast in our commitment to our Prop. 39 lawsuit and remain hopeful about the possibility that the California Supreme Court will hear the case, confirming once and for all that charter schools should be provided facilities that are truly "reasonably equivalent" to those that are provided to traditional public schools students consistent with California laws.
We are also excited that in 2014 we have received considerable federal funding to help complete the most extensive survey of charter school facilities in California. The survey will provide critically needed information about the importance of creating greater facilities equity for California's charter schools, and we encourage all schools to participate.
A third reason for optimism this year is the sense of momentum that is building behind proposals to expand blended learning in California's charter schools, and indeed across all public schools. For many years we have been encouraged to see how a strong cadre of blended learning charter schools has emerged in California that is finding great new ways to integrate the best of traditional classroom-based instruction with technology-assisted learning opportunities. At the same time, we have been concerned that the regulatory environment surrounding such schools was hampering their effectiveness and stifling further innovation. This is why CCSA put together a Blended Learning Workgroup last spring which helped us formulate policy recommendations for how to expand blended learning in both charter schools and traditional district schools. We then shared those ideas with the Brown Administration and are heartened to see that many of those ideas have been incorporated into the Governor's proposed budget. We look forward to working with the Governor to help support these proposals through the legislative process so that blended learning schools may pick up even greater momentum in the years to come.
With these encouraging developments emerging in funding equity, facilities solutions and blended learning, are we saying that we see nothing but blue skies for California's charter schools in the year ahead? Far from it. As ever, we see charter schools encountering great resistance and threat coming from protectors of the status quo in communities across the state. From the ridiculous denials of quality charter petitions happening at the local level to a slew of bad policy ideas being surfaced at the state level, a wide array of needless challenges continue to be thrown at our movement, and we will have to be as on top of our advocacy game as ever in order to keep our movement on stride. So please stay tuned to our weekly Capitol Update for more information and please respond to our calls to action when moments of advocacy importance arise. Stay on top of all of our legislative updates on CCSA's At The Capitol page. And please plan to help advance our legislative efforts by participating in our annual Advocacy Day, to be held on May 7 in Sacramento. Register today!
Finally, as we head into the new year, I cannot help but mention the level of anticipation we are all feeling regarding the 21st Annual California Charter Schools Conference, to be held March 3-6, in San Jose at the San Jose Convention Center. This year's conference promises to be a particularly engaging event with over 160 breakout sessions, a programming strand focused on Building Political Power, more than 200 exhibitors, many networking events, and keynote speakers Reed Hastings, founder and CEO, Netflix and Viola Davis, award-winning actress and charter school supporter. This is a conference you don't want to miss!
The year ahead is sure to be memorable, challenging and uplifting, as we remain focused on achieving great advocacy strides on behalf of all the students attending California's charter schools.
President and CEO
California Charter Schools Association