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.

 

Join IEB in Supporting Oakland Teachers

Deadline: today through February 5 – Fresh off the exciting win for teachers in Los Angeles, Oakland is facing the possibility of a teacher strike of its own.

Teachers in the Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) have worked without a contract for about a year and a half, while dealing with numerous issues such as school closures, sales of land for charter schools, increasing class sizes, and reductions in student support services.

For these reasons, the Oakland Education Association (OEA), the teachers’ union for OUSD, is voting on whether to authorize a district-wide strike in February. Indivisible East Bay stands with these teachers and their colleagues in their struggle for a contract that provides for good pay for themselves and good schools for Oakland’s children. To that end, IEB has signed onto a letter of support to the Oakland City Council, urging them to support a resolution in support of OEA in their demands of the OUSD school board. And we urge you to support OEA too.

If you live in Oakland – whether or not you have children in the Oakland Public Schools – join teachers, families and community members at the rally on Tuesday February 5 to call on your city councilmember to support the resolution in support of OEA. Gather for the rally at 5 PM at Frank Ogawa Plaza, and head into the council meeting at 5:30 PM. Also, please call your councilmember – see the graphic above for contact info for the members of the City Council and a sample message. And if teachers go on strike, you can join them on the picket line, whether or not you’re an Oakland resident.

We’ll publish updated articles as developments occur, so check back. If there is a strike we will also provide information about related activities like Solidarity Schools, which will serve as alternatives so students can still learn during school hours without crossing picket lines.

Don’t Let DeVos Gut Title IX

Deadline for public comments: January 28, 2019 – 

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has proposed regulations that would modify the implementation of Title IX, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in federally funded education programs. Well, let’s call it what it is – Betsy DeVos has proposed a scheme to destroy an important part of Title IX. We have a chance to say NO.

The proposed regs, which have the outrageously misleading title “Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Sex in Education Programs or Activities Receiving Federal Financial Assistance” would gut Obama-era Title IX guidance for how schools address sexual violence. Among other changes, DeVos’s proposed regulations would specify how institutions covered by Title IX must respond to sexual harassment incidents, and would also revise the availability of remedies for violations. Hint: all the changes remove protections for women …

You have until Monday January 28 to protest the proposed changes by submitting a public comment. Go to this link and click the “COMMENT NOW” button in the upper right. If that doesn’t work, go to www.regulations.gov and click on “Nondiscrimination on the Basis of Sex…” under “What’s Trending” and follow the instructions to submit a comment. Be sure to reference Docket ID No. Docket ID ED-2018-OCR-0064. See below for suggested language and alternative methods to submit comments.

What to write:

Here are some suggested comments (personalize the language because copied & pasted comments or overly similar comments may be grouped together and not counted separately). Several of these are adapted from the Equal Rights Advocates’ excellent comment guide. Submit your comments by the end of day January 28:

My name is _____ and I am [fill in relevant identifying info, if appropriate – such as teacher, student, advocate, sexual assault survivor, etc.] I am writing in reference to Docket ID ED-2018-OCR-0064.

I oppose the proposed regulations for the following reasons:

  • General:
    • They would allow schools to refuse to investigate online sexual harassment.
    • They provide for dramatically reduced liability for schools, allowing them to turn a blind eye to sexual assault or harassment and shielding them from responsibility if they ignore or cover up sexual misconduct.
    • They would drastically reduce the number of school employees responsible for addressing or reporting sexual harassment.
    • They would encourage schools to reinstate an antiquated mediation process rather than investigating.
    • They would narrow the definition of sexual harassment, requiring schools to investigate only the most “serious forms of harassment and assault,” and only act when the sexual violence or harassment completely denies a student access to education, forcing students to endure repeated and escalating levels of abuse without being able to ask their schools for help.
  • Duty to Report:
    • I am concerned about how the proposed regulations narrow which school employees are required to act on reports of sexual harassment and misconduct in higher education settings (§§ 106.44(a), 106.30), as well as the regulations’ requirement of schools to dismiss reports of sexual violence that happen between students off campus (§§ 106.30, 106.45(b)(3)).
    • These rules would not balance the scales of justice between student complainants and student respondents, but would rather result in students’ reports and complaints being dismissed or ignored, which will very likely decrease reporting overall.
  • Burden of Proof:
    • Proposed regulation 106.45(b)(4)(i) requires schools to apply the higher standard of evidence to Title IX cases – Clear and Convincing Evidence. Application of this standard of evidence is inequitable and impractical, and contradicts decades of legal practice.
    •  The Department fails to consider and address the grave consequences to the victim of sexual assault when compared to other crimes. It is unfair for the Department to apply a higher standard of evidence based on its conclusion that the consequences to the respondent are “grave” without consideration of the grave consequences to the victim, whom the provisions of Title IX were designed to protect.
    • Application of this higher standard is impractical and seems intentionally designed to reduce the overall number of findings of sexual assault.
  • Deadline for comment period:
    • Please extend the comment period for these regulations for a minimum of 60 days beyond the currently scheduled public comment deadline. The proposed 60-day comment period is insufficient to receive meaningful public participation in the rulemaking process.
    • Please schedule public hearings at schools and colleges campuses throughout the country to encourage additional input from students, teachers, administrators, and advocates.

For more information, read the Equal Rights Advocates’ article. Also, this letter from the National Women’s Law Center, joined by more than 100 groups and 200 individuals, points out that the proposed changes are extensive and far-reaching and would drastically alter students’ rights and affect almost every aspect of schools’ obligations to respond to sexual harassment against students, and requests that the Department of Education extend the brief comment period.

Graphic © Equal Rights Advocates

 

 

Turn the Blue Wave into the Green New Deal

By Anne Spevack

The Blue Wave created the new Blue House, ready to begin its legislative session in January 2019 – and a top priority of some incoming members of the Blue House is the multifaceted environmental/economic “Green New Deal.” Like the Blue Wave, this new plan needs all of our voices in order to succeed: We need to let our legislators know it’s a priority, and we need to tell them to tell others. There will be continuing action on this front, and we’ll keep you updated with ways to support specific Green New Deal policies as they develop. For now, you can take action by telling your Members of Congress you want them to publicly support the Green New Deal; asking them to push House leadership to make the Green New Deal a priority in the new congressional session; and asking them to follow the lead of Barbara Lee and others who support the formation of a Select Committee focused on its development and implementation (or, if Barbara Lee is your Member of Congress, thanking her!).

Keep reading for background about the Green New Deal; you’ll find information on how to contact your Members of Congress, and what to tell them, at the end of this article.

What is the Green New Deal?

The Green New Deal is a blanket term for a growing set of plans and policies that aim both to transform the economy and fight climate change – in fact, to transform the economy through fighting climate change. The primary environmental goal would be to rapidly eliminate carbon and other greenhouse gas emissions, while the economic goal would be to reduce unemployment, poverty and inequality through government-sponsored and subsidized jobs.  Though the specific actions and policies are still being defined, initial proposals mobilize the economy by creating jobs, training, and education through investments in climate-resilient infrastructure (like sea walls, smart grids, and mass transit systems) and expansion of renewable energy production. The Green New Deal rejects traditional assumptions that anything that is good for the environment is bad for the economy, instead recognizing that green industries already employ lots of workers of a variety of skill levels, and that we have only scratched the surface of that potential.

While the term “Green New Deal” dates back to the mid-2000s and was used by President Obama to frame some of his platform supporting renewable energy and infrastructure projects, the current push to make a Green New Deal is spearheaded by some of the new progressive representatives recently elected to the House, such as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, as well as the youth-led Sunrise Movement. Taking a progressive mandate from the Blue Wave and understanding the urgency of climate change, these representatives-elect are already working with Democratic and progressive members of Congress to set up the House for action on climate change in the next session.

How do we get a Green New Deal?

Ultimately, the Green New Deal will be made up of individual policies, rules, and funding sources supporting sustainable industries and green jobs, but proponents are currently pushing for a comprehensive plan to guide and coordinate these actions. A proposal by Ocasio-Cortez states that the Green New Deal plan would be a “detailed national, industrial, economic mobilization plan … for the transition of the United States economy to become carbon neutral and to significantly draw down and capture greenhouse gases from the atmosphere and oceans to promote economic and environmental justice and equality.”

Ocasio-Cortez and the new class of progressives in the House, with help from the Sunrise Movement, support the creation of a new Select Committee on a Green New Deal, which would be tasked with developing a Plan for a Green New Deal by 2020 and would serve as a focal point for related efforts. A Select Committee, unlike permanent or standing committees, is temporary and investigates a particular issue outside the realm of or at the intersection of the existing permanent Congressional committees. Although the Select Committee proposal has gained the most traction, some incumbent Members of Congress argue that maintaining the existing committee structure would allow Democrats to focus on building power and pressure in existing committees that already have the most power over purse strings and authorization.

Whatever the particular structure, Indivisible East Bay-ers know that climate change is one of the most pressing issues of our time and demands immediate and focused action. The current proposal commits the House to make a plan for action on climate change, our economy, and environmental justice by 2020. Support among legislators is growing; our own Representative Barbara Lee recently publicly supported this proposal and we trust her experience to know that this is a viable and effective path moving forward.

What you can do:

Ask your Member of Congress to publicly support the Green New Deal and encourage House leadership to form the Select Committee. Please call to thank Representative Lee for publicly supporting the Green New Deal. Representatives DeSaulnier and Swalwell have indicated support; please ask them to publicly support the proposal. Ask all of them to pressure House leadership to ensure the Green New Deal is priority in the new congressional session.

What to say:

If you are represented by Rep. Lee:

My name is ____, my zip code is _____, and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. Thank you for supporting the Green New Deal. The United States needs to take immediate action on climate change, and I know it can be done in a way that supports our economy and our workers. Please continue your commitment to sustainability and use your influence to ensure the Green New Deal is a priority in the new Congress.

Rep. Barbara Lee (email): (510) 763-0370 DC: (202) 225-2661; 1301 Clay Street #1000N, Oakland CA 94612

If you are represented by Rep. Swalwell or DeSaulnier:

My name is ____, my zip code is _____, and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. The United States needs to take immediate action on climate change, and I know it can be done in a way that supports our economy and our workers. I ask you to publicly support the Green New Deal, which is the only concrete proposal to ensure action on climate change. Please continue your commitment to sustainability and use your influence to ensure the Green New Deal is a priority in the new Congress.

Rep. Mark DeSaulnier (email): (510) 620-1000 DC: (202) 225-2095; 440 Civic Center Plaza, 2nd Floor, Richmond, CA 94804

Rep. Eric Swalwell (email): (510) 370-3322 DC: (202) 225-5065; 3615 Castro Valley Blvd., Castro Valley CA 94546

Anne Spevack is an expert on transportation and infrastructure issues with a passion for the environment, and is rapidly becoming an expert in the Green New Deal.

Stop the House Reverse Robin Hood Budget

The House Budget Committee just passed a 10-year budget containing over $300 billion in cuts to crucial social services. Why do we need these cuts? To help pay for the staggering $1.5 trillion deficit created by the GOP tax scam giveaway to the wealthiest 1% and corporate donors!

Compare and contrast:

  • The military budget, which consumes 60% of all discretionary spending, is earmarked for only $1 billion in cuts, less than 1% of the total proposed cuts.  
  • The budget for education, which is only 1/10 the size of the entire defense budget, is proposed to be cut by $20 billion – 7% of the total cuts.
  • Critical social services (from both mandatory and discretionary spending categories) like Medicare, Social Security, Unemployment Insurance and other important social services, will be cut by $150 billion.

Most concerning of all, this budget includes reconciliation instructions to repeal any part of – or all of – of the Affordable Care Act via an expedited process and 51 votes in the Senate. This was the same maneuver the GOP used in their first attempt to repeal the ACA last year, and which they used successfully to ram the #TaxScam through.

We know that our Members of Congress support human services, but we need to tell them that defeating this budget is a priority. We need them to do everything they can to make sure that no California Democrats agree to support this horrible budget proposal, and to work with any House Republicans they can to prevent Paul Ryan from gaining the support he needs to bring this dreadful budget to the floor for a vote. 

Please call your Members of Congress now, and KEEP calling each day. If we wait until Ryan has the votes he needs before we act, it will be too late!

What to say:

My name is _____, my zip code is ____, and I am a member of Indivisible East Bay. I want Representative _______ to do everything possible to oppose the horrible GOP budget. I’m outraged that the budget cuts over $300 billion from social services in order to pay for the $1.5 trillion deficit that’s going to be created by the GOP tax scam giveaway to the wealthy 1% and corporate donors. I hope that Representative _____ will work to make sure that every California Democrat and any possible Republicans votes NO on these terrible priorities.

  • Rep. Mark DeSaulnier: (510) 620-1000 DC: (202) 225-2095
  • Rep. Barbara Lee: (510) 763-0370 DC: (202) 225-2661
  • Rep. Eric Swalwell: (510) 370-3322 DC: (202) 225-5065

Tell the governor: Sign AB 10, put menstrual products in schools

AB 10, which would provide period products to low-income schools, is on Governor Brown’s desk, with rumors that he may reject it. Please speak up!

Providing period products in schools may not sound like a big deal to you, but it can make the difference between girls being successful students or not. A single box of tampons can cost $7. Girls who can’t afford menstrual products may improvise with toilet paper, paper towels, or socks – or they may choose to miss school. When New York City ran a pilot program that provided free menstrual products, attendance rose 2.4%.

Please call (916) 445-2841 and say: “My name is __. I live in __. I want Governor Brown to approve AB10. Lack of access to menstrual products can keep students from attending school or can distract girls from their studies. AB10 will reduce one of the most shameful impacts of deep poverty among school age girls.”

Read this fact sheet for more about AB 10 and the need for free period products in schools. (And while you’re there, take a look at the enormous list of supporters, and the one opponent … and ask yourself why?)