IEB’s May meeting with Assemblymembers Bonta & Wicks

By Ted Lam

Editors’ note: for each bill discussed we include its number (starting with AB for “Assembly bill,” SB for “Senate bill,” or “ACA” for “Assembly Constitutional Amendment”), its official name, and, where we know, its current status as of this writing, May 28. The legislative deadline to pass bills through their house of origin is May 31, so by that date most of the bills will have either “passed” to the other house, or have failed for the year. Currently, most of them are still under debate, so no status is included – but we include a link so you can check the status after May 31.

On May 10, 2019, Indivisible CA: StateStrong Director Jiggy Athilingam and about a dozen Indivisible East Bay members met with East Bay Assemblymembers Buffy Wicks and Rob Bonta in Oakland. We wanted to thank them for their progressive work in Sacramento, and we had questions on several of our legislative priorities. Read our pre-meeting memorandum here.  

Because Bonta was running late we opened by asking Wicks whether she was familiar with IEB, and were glad to hear that she is (she even added “I love you guys”). In response to our question about why the legislature didn’t override Governor Brown’s vetoes of progressive bills last session, she suggested we ask Bonta, since she only got to Sacramento in January 2019. She pointed out, though, that there are different types of Democrats in the legislature and that Governor Newsom is also different than Governor Brown.

We covered several criminal justice reform bills going through committees, specifically AB 392 (Peace Officers: deadly force; status). Wicks said that she strongly supports AB 392 and the other criminal justice reform bills. She commented that “392 is the progressive bill of the year. You have a good author in [Assemblymember] Weber.” Wicks recommended that other Indivisible chapters contact their state representatives, especially in the Inland Empire. We thanked her for supporting AB 277 (Parole: reintegration credits; status), noting why the cash bail system is wrong.

Assemblymember Bonta joined us, and we discussed the fact that SB 10 (Mental health services: peer support specialist certification; status: passed assembly, 5/21) stalled last year due to its risk assessment tool. Bonta noted that there are a lot of entrenched interests who don’t want to see change, and mentioned that although the bill didn’t make it out of the Assembly, they were able to put it on the ballot in 2020. Bonta said that he’s working with the Santa Clara Justice Group to fix the risk assessment tool, and he believes it will pass.

We asked Bonta about the following bills: AB 1332 (Sanctuary State Contracting and Investment Act; status), AB 4 (Medi-Cal: eligibility for all undocumented immigrants; status), AB 1276 (Green New Deal; status), and AB 1185 (Officer oversight: Sheriff oversight board; status). For AB 1332, Bonta said the Assembly plans to propose amendments to eliminate some unintended consequences. On AB 4, he said it will move, and added that Governor Newsom wants it to pass. We mentioned that Indivisibles throughout California are very excited about AB 1276, which Bonta sponsored, and we asked him to tell us how we can help. For AB 1185, Bonta speculated that the Sheriffs’ Association probably opposes this bill. He agreed the state’s sheriff system is outdated. Bonta offered that when Kamala Harris was CA Attorney General, she wasn’t eligible to run for sheriff due to the eligibility requirements, and suggested the legislature change that. Bonta was careful to say AB 1185 may not pass if the Sheriffs’ Association lobbies hard against it, and mentioned that the private prisons bill going through now will probably pass.

Bonta noted that California needs so many things: criminal justice reform, housing, and more. He mentioned that this was his seventh year, fourth term, and his most optimistic year. He considers Governor Newsom bold and progressive, and said that Newsom gave the legislature a budget that it could have written. Bonta let us know that when Indivisible pushes, it makes a difference! We are being heard. He also suggested that we reward the legislators who are doing the right things, and as for the others, said we should share our stories.

We discussed the issue of poverty, and Wicks pointed out her three food bills that are now in the Appropriations Committee, including one that is targeted to foster children. She believes that if the bills get out of Appropriations, they’ll be fine. She also mentioned the problem that some parents don’t even realize they qualify for Healthy Start. In response to our question about a child credit, Wicks wasn’t aware of anything in the works, and Bonta suggested that they could do more research on it. Wicks said she appreciates that Indivisible groups are pushing legislators to support progressive bills.

One member of our group, a Teamster who’s on the Labor Council, expressed appreciation for AB 1505 (Charter schools: petitions; status: passed assembly, 5/22), Bonta called 1505 – the bill he introduced which puts limits on charter schools – the “jewel of the package” of bills to limit charter schools, mentioning that it gives school districts more authority and takes into account financial impacts. Bonta said that he’s pretty optimistic about its chances, and noted that State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond is interested in and involved with the charter issue, particularly with his Blue Ribbon Commission. When we asked about helping the Oakland Unified School District, Bonta raised several challenges and suggested that a coalition could work on the issue.

After Wicks left for an appointment, we discussed elections and voting rights with Bonta, including AB 49 (CA Voter Protection Act 2019; status: passed assembly, 5/9) and AB 177 (Election Day Holiday; status), and we stressed the need for risk-limiting audits, the mechanism that allows hacking of elections to be detected. We emphasized that these bills are best seen as not as individual changes but collectively as part of a solid electoral foundation. Because the biggest suppressor of votes is a lack of time and resources, bills that make it easier to vote make it much more likely that people actually will vote. Although Bonta was not familiar with these bills he was open to supporting them, and seemed supportive of the idea of making them work to strengthen each other.

Circling back to criminal justice reform issues, we asked Bonta what he thought the chances are for ACA 6 (constitutional amendment part of Free the Vote Act, along with its legislative part, AB 646) and AB 392 (Peace officers: deadly force; status: passed committee, under debate). He noted that passage of ACA 6 would be an important step forward by amending the California Constitution to allow those on parole to vote. He pointed out that those who vote have a greater connection to the community; and he believes people don’t understand that the bill would reduce recidivism. We agreed that everyone needs to work to promote the benefits of this change to the state Constitution. Bonta mentioned that Assembly members in moderate districts who need to balance supporting law enforcement with more progressive actions might push back harder on other bills, but would in turn highlight the reduction in recidivism benefits in order to throw their support to ACA 6. We talked generally about expunging certain criminal records, which Bonta said in the future may be done in conjunction with vehicle registration. He also noted that the primary reason expungement wasn’t happening was because parolees weren’t told it was their right and that they have the option to request it.

Our meeting was very productive. Are you interested in working with Indivisible East Bay’s Members of Congress teams, or in helping us work on and track California state legislation? Let us know by email or join any of our MoC teams on Slack. For an invitation to join Slack, email: info@IndivisibleEB.org

Ted Lam is retired from the USCG and currently works as a civil engineer. Ted is a member of the Indivisible East Bay Governance Committee and is co-lead of the Indivisible CA-11 team.

Charter law reform: Get Buffy and Becky on Board

By Emily Filloy

Deadline:  Immediate and ongoing –

Four charter law reform bills currently are moving through the California legislature: AB 1505, 1506, 1507, and SB 756 would stop rampant charter school proliferation that comes at the expense of public schools and local control. All are supported by East Bay representatives Assemblymember Rob Bonta and State Senator Nancy Skinner. But our newly elected Assemblymembers, Rebecca Bauer-Kahan (AD-16) and Buffy WIcks (AD-15) are still on the fence. Wicks ran as a strong supporter of public schools, but the charter school issue was a point of contention during the election, and she hasn’t committed to common-sense reforms that will at least give our democratically governed public schools a fighting chance against the billionaire-backed privatizers. We need to push Rebecca and Buffy off the fence!

Two actions are needed:

  1. If your Assemblymember is Buffy Wicks or Rebecca Bauer-Kahan, contact her to urge her to support the charter reform package. Read on for more info on the bills, a call script, and contact info.
  2. Sign and circulate the CharterLawReform.com petition. This petition demands four fundamental changes to state charter law that would go a long way to leveling the playing field. The beauty of this petition is that when you enter your address, it automatically sends your state reps a notice that you support their efforts to reform the Charter School Act.

We previously asked for your support for this package of bills. Things have evolved—read on for the latest:

AB 1505—Our Dream Bill: AB 1505 and 1508 were combined to create one bill that would enact the most needed reforms. AB 1505 now allows districts to deny a charter petition if the new charter school would have a negative fiscal, academic, or facilities impact on the district. It also eliminates charter operators’ ability to appeal to the county and then the State Board of Education if a district says no. These two reforms recognize the adverse impact charters have in heavily targeted cities and also return local control to our school districts. The bill has passed out of the Assembly Education Committee and is now in the Appropriations Committee, where we expect a decision on May 16. If it passes out of Appropriations, 1505 will go to the Assembly for a floor vote. It will be highly contested.

AB 1506 would impose a cap at the number of charters operating statewide—1,323 right now—and a new charter could only open if one closes. The bill also establishes a cap in each individual district. The bill has passed out of the Assembly Education Committee and is now in the Appropriations Committee, where we expect a decision on May 16. If it passes out of Appropriations, 1506 will go to the Assembly for a floor vote. It will be highly contested.

AB 1507 would end the ability of a district to authorize a charter school and then place it in another district. The bill has passed out of the Assembly Education Committee.

SB 756 would establish a 5-year moratorium on all new charters statewide unless the reforms in the three bills above are enacted before 2020. The bill has passed out of the Senate Education Committee.

What You Can Do:

1. If your Assemblymember is Buffy Wicks or Rebecca Bauer-Kahan, please tell her to support AB 1505, 1506, 1507, and SB 756.

What to Say:

My name is___________.  My zip code is_________. I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. I’m urging Assemblymember _____  to support AB 1505, 1506, 1507, and SB 756. This package of bills is essential to holding charter schools accountable to local communities and ensuring that charter proliferation won’t destabilize another school district. Can I count on Assemblymember _____ to support these bills?

  • Buffy Wicks: 510-286-1400; email
  • Rebecca Bauer-Kahan: 925-328-1515; email

2. Sign and circulate the CharterLawReform.com petition.

 

Emily Filloy is a retired OUSD teacher whose grown children are graduates of Oakland Unified School District. She and other educators started Educators for Democratic Schools to fight for the survival of public education.

Sign on! Petition and bills to reform charter school laws

By Emily Filloy

Deadline: Now and ongoing –

Are you sick and tired of billionaires backing charter schools, while public schools scramble to pay teachers a living wage?

The proliferation of charter schools and the disastrous effect they have on our public schools was brought to the public’s attention in the recent Los Angeles and Oakland teachers strikes. In the Oakland Unified School District alone, charters cost the district $57 million a year—plenty to give the teachers the raise they need. Now that former Governor Jerry Brown is no longer blocking the road to any charter law reform, legislators have proposed a package of reform bills that would give Oakland, LA, and other heavily charter-impacted districts some much-needed relief.

We need you to do two things:

  • First, contact your Assemblymember and State Senator in support of these four bills: AB 1505, 1506, 1507, and 1508. Read on for more info, a call script and contact info.
  • Second, sign the CharterLawReform.com petition. This petition demands five fundamental changes to state charter law that would go a long way to leveling the playing field. Once the playing field gets leveled, the billionaires creep back under the rocks they crawled out from. When you sign, this petition will automatically send your state reps a notice that you want them to reform the Charter School Act.

Background:

Throughout Jerry Brown’s tenure as governor, he refused to sign almost all charter reform legislation, even bills requiring charter schools to follow the Brown Act and other sunshine and anti-conflict of interest legislation. Now, Governor Newsom has already signed SB 126, dealing with oversight of charter schools! We know that if we can get reform bills passed, Newsom will sign them; but to do that, we need to keep pressure on the legislature. The charter industry is rich and powerful – spending billions to elect pro-charter legislators and school boards and to fight reform legislation. We citizens need to let our reps know that selling out our public schools to privatizers is not okay.

Right now, this package of four bills would reform laws that currently favor charter schools over public schools throughout California:

  • AB 1505 would make the decision of a local school board to deny a charter petition final. Currently, if a local school board denies a charter petition, the operator may appeal first to the county and then to the state. Like bad parenting—if mom says no, try dad.
  • AB 1506 would impose a cap on the number of new charters, allowing a new charter to open only if an existing one closes.
  • AB 1507 would end the ability of a district to authorize a charter school and then place it in another district. Yes, that happens.
  • AB 1508, introduced by East Bay Assemblymember Rob Bonta and coauthored by Senator Nancy Skinner, expresses the intent to allow school districts to take into account the fiscal, academic, and facilities impacts of a proposed charter on the district schools where it is to be located. This means that a school board can say, “No, we can’t afford yet another charter school.” Combined with AB 1505, which eliminates appeals, this would allow local school districts to once again have control over the number and location of its schools.

What you can do:

 Sign the petition: CharterLawReform.com

 Contact your state representative in support of AB 1505, 1506, 1507, and 1508.

Contact the members of the Assembly Education Committee, where these bills will be heard:

Spread the word!

What to say:

For your local representatives:

My name is___________. My zip code is_________. I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. I’m urging Assemblymember/Senator __________ to support AB 1505, 1506, 1507, and 1508.  This package of bills will begin to hold charter schools accountable to local communities and ensure that charter proliferation won’t destabilize another school district. Can I count on Assemblymember/Senator ________ to support these bills?

For members of the Education Committee:

My name is ________. I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. I’m urging you, as a member of the Education Committee, to support AB 1505, 1506, 1507, and 1508. This package of bills will begin to hold charter schools accountable to local communities and ensure that charter proliferation won’t destabilize another school district. Can I count on Assemblymember/Senator ________ to support these bills?

 

Emily Filloy is a retired OUSD teacher whose grown children are graduates of Oakland Unified School District. She and other educators started Educators for Democratic Schools to fight for the survival of public education.