Service Workers Close to Winning Vote in Charter Process
Hillel Aron | August 28, 2013
A bill that would allow cafeteria workers, custodians and teacher aides to vote when a public school wants to become a charter is one vote (State Assembly) and one signature (Gov. Brown) away from becoming law. Both are expected, and it could happen within days.
Currently, only teachers get to vote for conversion. But the change in the law is winning support not only from the California Charter Schools Association (CCSA), but also, according to a press release, the California Federation of Teachers (CFT).
It’s not everyday that those two line up on the same side of things.
AB917, which has been approved by both houses of the legislature and needs one last “concurrence” vote by the Assembly, would require charters to have a majority of all school employees – not just teachers — approve conversion.
“School workers bring a different perspective to the charter school process,” said Hilda Guzman, a Health Care Advocate at The Accelerated School, in a press release sent out by SEIU local 99. “We understand that students need quality services outside the classroom to support their success in the classroom. As an employee, I have knowledge about school operations that a parent or a teacher would not have.”
According to the CCSA, of the 1,063 charter schools in California, about 200 were formed through conversion. As an example, Locke High School, an underperforming school in south Los Angeles, was turned over to Green Dot in 2007 via the signature gathering process.
So why would CFT support it? Perhaps the the union believes AB917 would slow down the charter conversion process because so many more signatures would be required.
Indeed, Eric Premack, the Executive Director for the California Charter Schools Development Center, a non-profit that provides advocacy, training and leadership development for California charter schools, said he thinks the bill will make it “significantly more difficult” for schools to convert to charters.
“I think that classified employee labor groups will use it to block charters,” said Premack.
A spokesman for CFT called the bill “inclusive, involving all school employees, both certificated and classified as potential signatories on a charter petition at the school site where they work.” As a result, the email said, the workers “deserve to have their voices heard when their workplace is being considered for charter status.”
The CCSA said in a press release that the bill “creates a more substantive role for classified employees without adding any new burden on the charter school petitioners.”
The larger teachers union, California Teachers Association, is neutral on the bill.