Monday, December 21, 2009


by Steven Harmon | Contra Costa Times

excerpted from Governor's ties to charter schools driving Race to Top goals?

12/14/2009 -- "It's fair to say that Gov. Schwarzenegger has been the most important champion California has ever had for charter schools," said Jed Wallace, president and CEO of the California Charter Schools Association. "He understands and is focused on making sure nothing comes forward that would compromise charter schools."

Under Schwarzenegger, the number of charter schools operating in California has more than doubled — from 382 in 2003-04 to the current total of 809. Though the state is nowhere near its maximum of 1,350 charter schools, he wants to lift the cap — a provision in both the Senate and Assembly [Race to the Top compliance ] bills.

Schwarzenegger has packed the nine-member State Board of Education with five leaders of the charter school movement, including board President Ted Mitchell, who is president and CEO of the NewSchools Venture fund, a national San Francisco-based firm that provides startup money for charter schools.

Other state board members with ties to the charter school movement are

  • Yvonne Chan, a principal of the Vaughn Next Century Learning Center, which focuses on "conversion" charter schools;
  • Jonathan Williams, founder and co-director of the Accelerated School;
  • Jorge Lopez, executive director of the Oakland Charter Academy; and
  • Rae Belisle, president and CEO of EdVoice, a school reform lobbying group with strong ties to the charter school movement. Belisle defended the constitutionality of charter schools while serving as chief counsel to the State Board of Education.

EdVoice board members have rewarded Schwarzenegger, contributing at least $1 million to his various campaign committees.

Eli Broad, a co-founder of EdVoice and billionaire Los Angeles developer who has run a Superintendent Academy, which trains CEOs how to run schools, has contributed $430,000 to Schwarzenegger.

Don Fisher, the late Gap founder and a co-founder of EdVoice, and his family have donated $245,000 to Schwarzenegger, and Netflix founder Reed Hastings, also a co-founder of EdVoice, gave $251,491 in stock to the Proposition 1A-1E campaign pushed by Schwarzenegger this year.

Many of the same donors are beginning to bring Romero, the Los Angeles senator who is pushing Schwarzenegger-backed Race to the Top legislation, into their orbit. Romero, who is running for state superintendent of public instruction, has received at least $72,000 from various members of the EdVoice board, including $13,000 from Broad's wife, Edyth, and $6,500 from Hastings.

The Fisher family, deeply involved in school reform causes, has contributed $45,500 to her campaign.

EdVoice is likely to dig deep into their political treasury to finance Romero's campaign through unlimited independent expenditures against state Sen. Tom Torlakson, D-Antioch, who will likely have the backing of public school teacher unions.

"We haven't determined to what degree we'll support her," said Bill Lucia, EdVoice's policy director and Chief Operating Officer, "but Gloria Romero is clearly the strongest candidate for education reform and promising parental choice and not continuing to be apologetic for persistent failure."

●●smf's 2¢:

  • There are about 9,898 public schools in California and 809 charter schools,
  • the enrollment of a typical charter school is smaller than the enrollment of a typical traditional public school,
  • A preponderance of charters are secondary schools: middle and high schools,

…yet 5 of 9 state school board seats are controlled by the charter school community.

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