home Features California Teachers Unions v.s. Billion Dollar Corporations

California Teachers Unions v.s. Billion Dollar Corporations

Brandon Yu | byu19@dtechhs.org | June 14, 2018
Photo by Evan Tung

If you search ‘charter schools’ on Google, the results aren’t pretty. “A dozen problems with charter schools”, “Ten reasons why charter schools harm kids”, and “Charter schools do bad stuff because they can” are just three titles of many others. With our country’s appointment of Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, a strong advocate of charter schools, there has been much controversy surrounding the issue of whether charter schools are doing harm to America’s children, rather than helping them. In the state of California, the California Teachers Association (CTA), the union supporting public school teachers in the state, has been strong opponents of so-called “corporate-run charter schools” and has recently been running radio advertisements with claims of how billionaires and corporations “have their own narrow agenda to divert money out of our public schools and into their corporate charter schools.”

Since the CTA first began their Kids Not Profits campaign on August 31, 2016, they have criticized “corporate-run charter schools” even saying, “out of state billionaires are investing millions into politicians who will protect corporate-run charter schools that lack accountability.”

A spokesperson from the CTA state headquarters, who declined to give his name, said that “the CTA is totally for charter schools” and that “[they] want every kid to get a great education, and there are some places where charter schools are the best way for that to happen.” When asked about why the CTA launched the Kids Not Profits campaign, the spokesperson responded, “The problem that we have is when the money that is supposed to be going into the school ends up in the corporations’ coffers or in the CEO’s salary. It was supposed to be quite clear that you come together, innovate, and try different things, but now, you’re seeing a lot of people moving and treating schools like a business.” The CTA has long been an outspoken opponent of charter schools because “they lack accountability”, and their campaign has even gone as far stating that “privatized charter schools use taxpayer funds to pay CEOs of corporations.” While all charter schools get public funding from the state, by their design, a charter school is a public institution and can’t be privatized. This is because California requires periodic inspections with the intention of ensuring that the school is complying with the concerning statutes.

Meanwhile, the California Charter Schools Association (CCSA) has been “[advancing] the charter school movement through state and local advocacy, leadership on accountability, and resources for member schools.” When asked about the recent radio advertisements that were being run, Richard Garcia, a CCSA press contact, said, “We’re aware of it, and it’s really nothing new. The CTA has a lot of flaws in their advertisements. When they say that they are privatizing schools, they are wrong because charter schools are inherently designed by state legislature to be public schools.” To counter the CTA’s claim that charter schools lack accountability, Garcia cited the standards, provided by the California Department of Education, under sections 47605 and 47612.5, that “everything that students learn will be tested on to make sure that [they] are meeting those standards.”

While the CTA and CCSA both had strong opinions on charter schools in California’s public education system, Ken Montgomery, executive director of Design Tech High School, decided to take a more neutral stance, saying, “I’m not pro-charter or anti-charter. I don’t really consider d.tech to be a part of the charter school movement.” Rather than saying d.tech was a charter school, he stated that “it was just that chartering was the way that everybody agreed we’d be able to do what we wanted to do.”

As charter schools start to enter the national spotlight from the controversy surrounding Betsy Devos and the Trump administration, it will be interesting to see how people’s opinions will change. According to greatschools.org and HuffPost, charter schools are “really small experimental schools with crazy classes in things like underwater basket weaving” and “just a way for corporations to make money off the government.” However, these are false statements that make broad generalizations about charter schools, as there have only been isolated incidents that involve false reporting. Additionally, charter schools offer different classes, such as d.tech’s Design Lab class, but none offer classes like underwater basket weaving. Charter schools may get a bad reputation, but one thing is clear: d.tech is here to stay, and with its dedicated faculty and innovative students, our school will continue to grow and thrive at its new home.

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