Shopping Cart
Your Cart is Empty
There was an error with PayPalClick here to try again
CelebrateThank you for your business!You should be receiving an order confirmation from Paypal shortly.Exit Shopping Cart

California School Fiscal Services

Providing comprehensive business office and consulting services to K-12 traditional schools and charters



Gary Hart, author of California's charter school law, reflects on its impact

Posted on August 15, 2018 at 3:05 PM

What does the “father” of California’s quarter-century old charter school law think of it now? EdSource recently caught up with former State Sen. Gary Hart, a Democrat who represented Santa Barbara in the Assembly and Senate for 20 years before retiring in 1994. In 1992, as chairman of the Senate Education Committee, he authored the nation’s second charter school law. Sue Burr, a consultant to the committee at the time and currently a member of the State Board of Education, played a major role in drafting it. EdSource writer John Fensterwald asked Hart in an interview and in writing what he was trying to do then and how, in hindsight, he might write a different law today. The answers have been edited for length and clarity.

The original law capped the number of charter schools statewide at 100, with no more than 10 in any one district and 20 in Los Angeles Unified. In 1998, the Legislature raised the limit to 250 charter schools plus an additional 100 more each year after that.

EDSOURCE: Is it as you envisioned, that we would have more than 1,200 charter schools in California?

HART: No. It’s always hard to predict how legislation is going to play out. Although it was very contentious, I didn’t view it as something that was going to be earth-shaking or have the magnitude that it has.

The original law called for up to 100 charter schools. That was changed a number of years later. When the law first passed, we had no idea as to whether there would be any charters. It was like you give a party and you don’t know if anyone will come or not. It was kind of slow in the beginning. The accelerated growth has been just extraordinary, and it’s not something that not only myself, but I don’t think anybody else could have predicted or even imagined.

EDSOURCE: So what do you attribute that growth to? Are the charter schools from what you can tell doing collectively or individually what you would have hoped?

HART: It’s really hard to generalize because charters vary so much. Generally speaking, I’m supportive. With any legislation of this magnitude, there are always going to be issues and concerns. I do think there has been such a focus on how many new charters, it’s focusing on quantity and I had hoped initially there would be a lot more focus on quality, a more careful review of charters.

EDSOURCE: One of the questions originally was whether charters should be seen as a way to innovate and set examples for other district schools to learn from or to give parents a choice in high-poverty neighborhoods where they are dissatisfied with their schools. Those are really two different focuses.

HART: I think it was both. First and foremost was innovation and reform, giving an opportunity for people to do things differently and not be constrained by all of the rules and regulations from the district, from collective bargaining.

I heard over and over again from school folks, “Stop passing all these laws. We’re spending all of our time being compliance officers and bureaucrats and we’re not able to do our jobs as educators.” I thought that there was some truth to that and so passing this law really gave an opportunity for educators to be educators and not be as concerned about rules and regulations.

After the law was passed, there wasn’t much that came forward either from teachers or administrators or school board members who had complained bitterly about state laws. Instead of going out and doing it, a lot of people resisted. That’s not to say they were wrong because going through the whole process can be quite time-consuming and there’s a lot of blood on the floor sometimes for establishing these things.

This other aspect was also important — the people who felt that the existing schools, particularly in low-income areas, were not serving their needs; their school districts were too large or dysfunctional. They needed to have something that would be their own.

One of the concerns was, “This charter law will be for sophisticated parents who have a lot of time on their hands.” It was somewhat of a surprise to see that places like LA Unified and Oakland and other large urban school districts were where the charters were taking off. I think there was a dissatisfaction on the part of parents, but also because the business community and the foundation community got behind these efforts and provided resources. I never anticipated that charter management organizations would have such an important role.

EDSOURCE: The financial impact on a district was not part of the law. Was it brought up at the time?


HART: I don’t think so. The law didn’t have large-scale financial ramifications. We were talking about 100 charters statewide.

The bill was a major effort to try to defeat the voucher proposal that was going to be on the ballot and we saw it as an alternative to vouchers that would not go down that path of providing the large taxpayer subsidies to private schools and violating the church-state separation right. (Editor’s note: Prop. 174, which would have given parents a tuition subsidy to a private or parochial school equal to half of per-student funding at public schools eventually did make the November 1993 general election ballot; voters defeated it 70 to 30 percent.)

There was strong teacher opposition to the charter legislation from both AFT (American Federation of Teachers) and CTA (California Teachers Association) even though ironically, I got the idea from Al Shanker (the late president of the American Federation of Teachers) who had written about it. I was a great fan and Shanker had come out and testified on a number of occasions to legislation that we were considering.


“Charter fights in places like L.A. Unified have become almost religious wars, where large amounts of money are spent, and having an appeals process that is less political makes sense to me.”

The focal point of the unions was largely to ensure that collective bargaining laws would not be tampered with in the charter law. That issue was very contentious and I refused to budge. My position was that there needed to be a choice for teachers whether to form a union at a charter school.

Legislative ‘jiu-jitsu’

EDSOURCE: How did you ever get it passed?

HART: It wasn’t easy. The unions were strongly opposed and many other education groups — ACSA (Association of California School Administrators) and CSBA (California School Boards Association) — were neutral perhaps because they didn’t want to antagonize CTA. It was pretty lonely out there. We engaged in some legislative jiu-jitsu and pulled the bill out of conference committee and passed it quickly off the Senate floor with no debate and sent it to Gov. Wilson, who signed it into law. If we had followed traditional procedures and the unions had had time to work the bill, it likely would not have passed.

EDSOURCE: Did it become apparent that there would be resistance and that some folks in many districts at the time didn’t like competition? You knew that, right, because you set up an appeals process?

HART: We did, and it wasn’t that we had a cynical view towards school districts, but there was a potential conflict of interest that made, I thought, an appeals process a good idea. School boards and school administrators might oppose any charter because it might mean less district control, less revenue and more competition. So having an appeals process made sense and I thought county boards, who were also elected and had a sense of local issues, were the right bodies to hear appeals. Six years later the charter law was amended to provide another appeal to the State Board of Education. I understand now the state board spends up to half its time hearing charter appeals, which I’m not sure is a good use of state board time given all the other policy matters on their plate.

EDSOURCE: Would you eliminate that ultimate appeals process because it’s not a good use of (state board) time, or do you think someone else ought to be the ultimate authority or should you just keep it at the county level and whatever happens there happens?

HART: I still believe a charter appeals process is a good idea but charters are now becoming a campaign issue with some county boards of education so I’m not sure they are the right venue for appeals. Charter fights in places like L.A. Unified have become almost religious wars, where large amounts of money are spent, and having an appeals process that is less political makes sense to me. Perhaps the State Board of Education could appoint an expert panel to review and have the final say on charter appeals. I favor making the process less political and handled by more neutral people.

Financial impact on districts

EDSOURCE: Some districts are very frank about the financial impact of charter schools. “Look, we can’t afford it. We’re making cuts and you’re asking us to start new charter schools adding to the financial problems we have.” If you were to redo the law, would you hold a district harmless for the financial impact or compensate it for the impact of a charter?

HART: Some districts face loss of revenue due to charter growth, and many districts face unsustainable long-term employee health care costs and all districts face escalating pension contributions. A review of state financing seems in order. We have had funding adjustments to mitigate for declining enrollment. Perhaps something like that ought to be considered for districts with many charter schools. But a strict “hold harmless” for districts losing students to charters doesn’t make sense, as it would reward districts for not being competitive and it might also provide an incentive for districts to push out “undesirable” students. Trying to accommodate various factors that are affecting the financing of a district gets very complicated. There are unintended consequences you have to be careful about.

Districts have many financial challenges and it seems to me that charters are not the primary or even significant part of the financial problems districts face in the long term — those problems are going to remain with or without charter schools.

EDSOURCE: Looking back, seeing what people are saying now are some of the challenges to the law, what changes might you make?

HART: We now have more than 1,000 charter schools in California and we know little about their successes and failures. Some work has been done comparing charter to traditional public schools on student achievement but, given the great variety of charter schools, I’m not sure about the value of that body of research.

I would be interested in research on topics like school size — charters tend to be smaller. School mission — charters tend to have a specific rather than a comprehensive mission. Accountability — it’s easier to dismiss staff in charter schools. And school governance — charter board members are not elected by the general public and do not have to raise money to run for office. There’s a lot to explore with 25-plus years of experience and data.

I think we’re hungry for highlighting and replicating what is working well, whether it’s in a charter school or in a traditional school. We don’t do a good job of that.

Categories: Charter Schools

Post a Comment


Oops, you forgot something.


The words you entered did not match the given text. Please try again.


Reply yeezy 500
1:46 PM on February 26, 2021 
I happen to be writing to let you know of the outstanding encounter my cousin's girl had using your webblog. She came to find some details, with the inclusion of how it is like to have a marvelous helping spirit to make the others quite simply grasp a variety of complicated subject matter. You actually did more than her desires. I appreciate you for coming up with such powerful, dependable, explanatory not to mention fun tips on that topic to Janet.
yeezy 500
Reply longchamp
1:45 PM on February 26, 2021 
My spouse and i got very fortunate Raymond could deal with his inquiry out of the ideas he got from your web page. It's not at all simplistic to simply continually be making a gift of guides which often the rest may have been trying to sell. Therefore we do know we have got the website owner to appreciate for this. These illustrations you have made, the straightforward website navigation, the relationships you can make it possible to engender - it is most exceptional, and it's really letting our son and us feel that the theme is entertaining, and that is unbelievably mandatory. Thank you for the whole thing!
Reply supreme
1:42 PM on February 26, 2021 
I am only writing to make you understand of the exceptional encounter my cousin's princess undergone viewing the blog. She came to understand some details, which include what it's like to possess a very effective coaching character to get certain people without problems gain knowledge of selected tricky subject areas. You truly did more than her expected results. Thanks for offering the precious, healthy, informative and as well as fun guidance on this topic to Evelyn.
Reply yeezy boost 350
1:41 PM on February 26, 2021 
I simply had to appreciate you once again. I'm not certain the things I could possibly have carried out in the absence of these methods discussed by you relating to such a field. Certainly was the scary crisis in my position, nevertheless considering your skilled fashion you dealt with that made me to weep over contentment. I am happy for your work and even believe you really know what a great job your are accomplishing teaching men and women via your web blog. Most probably you haven't met all of us.
yeezy boost 350
Reply supreme clothing
8:16 PM on February 25, 2021 
I actually wanted to develop a brief word in order to express gratitude to you for those superb guides you are sharing on this site. My extensive internet investigation has at the end of the day been recognized with wonderful information to share with my companions. I would claim that many of us website visitors are undoubtedly lucky to dwell in a remarkable network with many lovely people with valuable suggestions. I feel rather happy to have encountered your entire webpage and look forward to really more brilliant moments reading here. Thanks once more for all the details.
supreme clothing
Reply kyrie 6
7:44 PM on February 25, 2021 
I precisely had to appreciate you all over again. I am not sure what I would've sorted out in the absence of the actual opinions shared by you on my question. This was a real daunting crisis in my circumstances, however , viewing the specialised fashion you dealt with that made me to weep for happiness. Extremely happier for the assistance as well as sincerely hope you realize what an amazing job you're getting into instructing men and women via your webblog. I'm certain you haven't got to know any of us.
kyrie 6
Reply hermes
2:08 PM on February 25, 2021 
Needed to create you a very small remark in order to thank you as before about the fantastic ideas you have featured on this site. This has been quite pretty open-handed of you to provide unreservedly exactly what many individuals would've offered for sale as an e-book in order to make some profit for their own end, precisely given that you might have done it if you desired. The basics in addition served to be the good way to be sure that other individuals have a similar dreams just like my own to know the truth many more on the subject of this condition. I am sure there are lots of more pleasurable situations in the future for people who read carefully your blog post.
Reply retro jordans
2:07 PM on February 25, 2021 
My wife and i have been joyous that Emmanuel could finish off his investigation by way of the ideas he had out of the web site. It's not at all simplistic to simply continually be freely giving solutions which people could have been selling. And we all remember we need the blog owner to be grateful to for this. Most of the illustrations you've made, the straightforward blog navigation, the friendships you will give support to promote - it's mostly remarkable, and it's really helping our son and our family understand that article is satisfying, and that's highly fundamental. Many thanks for the whole thing!
retro jordans
Reply jordan shoes
2:07 PM on February 25, 2021 
I must express my love for your generosity giving support to those people that really need guidance on the area. Your special dedication to getting the solution all over had been extraordinarily informative and have constantly encouraged associates just like me to attain their aims. Your own valuable information can mean a whole lot to me and substantially more to my office workers. Thanks a ton; from all of us.
jordan shoes
Reply curry
2:05 PM on February 25, 2021 
I am commenting to make you know what a brilliant encounter my friend's child undergone viewing your web site. She picked up many issues, which included how it is like to possess an awesome helping character to let many others completely thoroughly grasp chosen problematic subject matter. You actually surpassed our desires. Thanks for presenting the helpful, dependable, explanatory and in addition unique tips on your topic to Mary.
Reply kyrie 7 shoes
2:05 PM on February 25, 2021 
I in addition to my guys came checking out the great procedures located on the blog and then all of a sudden I had an awful suspicion I had not thanked the site owner for those tips. Most of the women are already so glad to see all of them and have now undoubtedly been enjoying them. I appreciate you for truly being so helpful as well as for picking out these kinds of smart information most people are really desperate to be aware of. My personal sincere regret for not expressing gratitude to you earlier.
kyrie 7 shoes
Reply jordan shoes
7:02 AM on February 25, 2021 
I definitely wanted to write a simple note so as to appreciate you for these wonderful pointers you are showing here. My prolonged internet search has finally been recognized with really good details to talk about with my contacts. I would tell you that we website visitors actually are rather lucky to live in a remarkable website with many special individuals with very beneficial suggestions. I feel very blessed to have encountered your entire weblog and look forward to tons of more fun moments reading here. Thanks once again for all the details.
jordan shoes
Reply yeezy 700
7:49 PM on February 24, 2021 
Thanks so much for giving everyone an extraordinarily marvellous chance to read from this website. It's always so pleasurable and also full of a great time for me and my office colleagues to search your blog really three times in a week to see the new items you have. And definitely, I'm so usually fascinated considering the special creative ideas you give. Selected 4 areas in this post are easily the very best I've had.
yeezy 700
Reply kyrie irving shoes
7:49 PM on February 24, 2021 
I precisely wanted to thank you very much all over again. I'm not certain what I would've created without the entire recommendations shown by you on that subject matter. It had become an absolute alarming situation in my position, but taking note of a specialized style you dealt with the issue made me to cry with fulfillment. I'm just happier for this help and thus hope that you recognize what an amazing job that you're providing teaching people with the aid of your website. I know that you haven't come across any of us.
kyrie irving shoes
Reply golden goose shoes
7:49 PM on February 24, 2021 
Thank you so much for giving everyone such a marvellous possiblity to read critical reviews from this site. It is always very great and stuffed with amusement for me and my office friends to search your blog really thrice per week to see the newest tips you have got. Not to mention, I'm just at all times fascinated concerning the remarkable things you serve. Some 4 ideas in this article are undeniably the simplest we've had.
golden goose shoes
Reply air jordan
7:49 PM on February 24, 2021 
Thank you for all your valuable hard work on this site. My mum enjoys conducting investigations and it's easy to see why. My spouse and i notice all of the powerful manner you offer good tips and hints through your web site and in addition foster participation from some other people on this concept then my girl is without question learning a lot. Take advantage of the remaining portion of the new year. You're conducting a glorious job.
air jordan
Reply stone island outlet
7:48 PM on February 24, 2021 
I'm also writing to make you know what a incredible experience my cousin's girl went through reading through your web site. She learned some things, most notably how it is like to possess a great giving heart to make many more without problems fully understand specified very confusing matters. You actually exceeded our expected results. Thank you for rendering these precious, trustworthy, edifying and fun guidance on this topic to Jane.
stone island outlet
Reply air jordan
7:48 PM on February 24, 2021 
I needed to create you this tiny observation so as to give thanks yet again for your gorgeous opinions you have contributed on this page. It has been extremely open-handed with you to deliver easily precisely what most of us could have sold as an ebook to get some dough for themselves, chiefly considering the fact that you might well have done it if you ever desired. These good tips in addition served to be a fantastic way to be certain that most people have a similar passion just as my personal own to learn more and more with respect to this condition. I believe there are some more pleasant times up front for those who discover your blog.
air jordan
Reply yeezy boost
2:32 PM on February 24, 2021 
I not to mention my buddies have been examining the great advice found on your web blog then before long got an awful feeling I had not expressed respect to the web blog owner for those techniques. Most of the people are actually as a result happy to learn all of them and already have absolutely been taking advantage of these things. Thanks for indeed being really thoughtful and for pick out variety of remarkable subject areas millions of individuals are really desirous to discover. My very own sincere apologies for not expressing gratitude to earlier.
yeezy boost
Reply yeezy shoes
2:31 PM on February 24, 2021 
I simply wanted to develop a brief message so as to thank you for those lovely tips you are sharing at this site. My extended internet research has now been compensated with really good information to write about with my close friends. I 'd point out that we visitors actually are rather blessed to exist in a decent site with very many outstanding people with good methods. I feel truly grateful to have seen your weblog and look forward to many more awesome moments reading here. Thank you again for everything.
yeezy shoes