Ten percent of the children in California attend privately-managed charter schools. But that small number of students has the most powerful and richest lobby in the state, funded by billionaires.
The overwhelming majority of charters are non-union, which appeals to the Walton family, the richest family in America, with a net worth of $130 billion or more, produced by their non-union Walmart stores. It appeals to billionaire Eli Broad, who never saw a charter he didn’t like. It appeals to billionaire NETFLIX founder Reed Hastings, who wants to eliminate the nation’s school boards.
The charter lobby gives large sums to individual candidates, both Democrats and Republicans. Their major adversary, the California Teachers Association, spends most of its lobbying money on issues, not individual candidates. When there is more funding, both charter schools and public schools benefit.
The charter lobby uses its influence to increase its power and its numbers. It wants more: more money, more schools, more students. It wants less accountability, less regulation, less transparency, and less oversight.
In the past, the charter lobby relied on Republicans to sponsor its bills. Because of its spending, it now has Democrats on board too.
“Though the union gave nearly $29.5 million in political contributions in 2015 and 2016, most of it supported measures on the November 2016 ballot, and only $4.3 million of that went toward candidates and other committees. Conversely, the charter association spent more than $17 million in those years to help finance the campaigns of 137 local and state candidates, plus an additional $340,000 on various local and state measures.
“The teachers union instead focused most of its financial fire power on ballot initiatives, having spent roughly $21 million in 2015 and 2016 to support Proposition 55 – the successful measure that sustained past increases on income taxes to raise funds for schools – and an additional $1.7 million in 2016 on Proposition 58, which largely overrode restrictions on bilingual education in public schools.
“The charter school association committed just $4,678 to Proposition 55’s passing in 2016, state records indicate. Charter schools are also major beneficiaries of the revenues generated by Prop. 55’s passage…
“And while in past years the association partnered with Republicans to craft legislation, this year’s slate of sponsored bills was drafted entirely by Democrats. “That’s a big change for us,” Rand Martin, a lobbyist for the charter school association, told the March conference.”
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