Charters Under Attack – California’s Teachers Unions Go On The Offensive

ULTA protestFor years, teachers’ unions have tried to kill charter schools — but only on odd-numbered days. On even-numbered days, they tried to organize them. Things lately have become very odd, at least in California; the unions are in full-assault mode.

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United Teachers of Los Angeles president Alex Caputo-Pearl has long groused about how charter schools don’t play by the rules. Teachers’ union talking points effortlessly roll off his tongue — billionaires this, accountability that. But on May 4, despite pleas by charter school parents, UTLA, in concert with the Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools — a union front group — planned a major protest outside schools where charters share a campus with traditional public schools. “We will stand with Los Angeles parents, educators, students, administrators, and community members for fully funded public schools and call on corporate charter schools to pay their fair share to the district,” AROS said in a statement. Of course, charters are public schools, not “corporate.” And charters are the ones that aren’t fully funded, which is why they frequently have to share facilities. But UTLA and AROS don’t bother with those minor details. The rally mostly fizzled, so school kids were thankfully spared the sight and sound of angry protesters marching and chanting.

UTLA wasn’t finished. In what it thought would be a coup de grâce, the union released the results of a “study” it commissioned, which, among other things, asserted that the Los Angeles Unified School District “lost more than $591 million dollars to unmitigated charter school growth this year alone.” The school district countered by pointing out that it actually makes money due to the existence of charter schools. Undaunted, Caputo-Pearl was at it again in August. “With our contract expiring in June 2017, the likely attack on our health benefits in the fall of 2017, the race for governor heating up in 2018, and the unequivocal need for state legislation that addresses inadequate funding and increased regulation of charters, with all of these things, the next year-and-a-half must be founded upon building our capacity to strike, and our capacity to create a state crisis, in early 2018,” he told the annual UTLA leadership conference in July. “There simply may be no other way to protect our health benefits and to shock the system into investing in the civic institution of public education.”

In late August, just weeks after Caputo-Pearl’s tantrum, UTLA hit the streets with a media campaign. Empowered by a massive dues increase, the union began spreading its venom via billboards, bus benches, and the media. The timing was particularly bad, as the just-released 2016 state standardized-test results showed that charters outperformed traditional public schools in both English and math. Los Angeles, where one in six students is enrolled in a charter, saw 46 percent of its independent charter-school students meeting or exceeding the standard on the English Language Arts test, versus 37 percent for students in traditional public schools. On the math test, the difference was smaller: 30 percent versus 26 percent. Despite the unions’ perpetual “cherry-picking” mantra, 82 percent of charter students qualify as low-income compared with 80 percent for traditional schools. Charters also match up closely in areas of ethnicity, English-language learners, and disabled students.

The California Teachers Association jumped into the act on August 31 by unleashing “Kids Not Profits,” an “awareness” campaign calling for more “accountability and transparency of California charter schools and exposing the coordinated agenda by a group of billionaires to divert money from California’s neighborhood public schools to privately managed charter schools. These same billionaires are spending record amounts of money to influence local legislative and school board elections across the state.” In a press release announcing the launch of the campaign, the union quotes from its new radio ad, which claims to lay out the “billionaires’ coordinated agenda”:

  1. Divert money out of California’s neighborhood public schools to fund privately run charter schools, without accountability or transparency to parents and taxpayers.
  2. Cherry-pick the students who get to attend charter schools—weeding out and turning down students with special needs.
  3. Spend millions trying to influence local legislative and school board elections across California.

While Numbers One and Two are outright lies, there is some truth to Number Three. CTA has become fat and happy. It is by far California’s biggest political spender. It drives the union elite crazy that philanthropists are pouring unprecedented amounts of money into edu-politics in an attempt to balance the playing field. The union is finally facing some stiff competition in Sacramento, as well as in some local school board races.

Second only to its obsession with billionaires is the union’s incessant harping about accountability. “It’s time to hold charter schools and their private operators accountable to some of the same standards as traditional public schools,” CTA president Eric Heins says. This is laughable. Charter schools operate in accordance with all state and federal laws. They must meet rigorous academic goals, engage in ethical business practices, and be proactive in their efforts to stay open. If a school doesn’t successfully educate its students according to its charter, parents will pull their kids out and send them elsewhere. After a specified period—usually five years—the school’s charter is revoked. A failing traditional public school, by contrast, rarely closes. Union-mandated “permanence” laws ensure that tenured teachers, no matter how incompetent they may be, almost never lose their jobs.

The CTA and other unions can’t deal with the fact that non-unionized charters typically do a better job of educating poor and minority students than do traditional public schools. So they lie and create distractions in order to preserve their dominion. But all the yammering about charters “siphoning money from public schools,” grousing about billionaires “pushing their profit-driven agenda,” and bogus cries for “accountability” simply expose the unions as monopolists who can’t abide competition. But that’s just what children, their parents, and taxpayers deserve—less union meddling and more competition and choice.


  1. Unions have no business in Government. State Federal or county.

  2. This post is about “corporate” charter schools, and not small local individual charters that are run well and serve their community will. The local 5 star example is Hart Ransom and they do a fantastic job.


    ADA = “butts in seats”
    LCAP = CA Local Control Accountability Plan
    LCFF = CA Local Control Funding Formula (tied to the LCAP with handcuffs).
    CC = Common Core
    David Duncan = Chief architect of Common Core.
    T-squared = State super of public instruction Tom Torlakson
    Broad Foundation = Kaufman and Broad homebuilder Broad’s public education arm
    Gates = Bill Gates.
    Arne Duncan = Former Secretary of Ed under Obama

    CTA = California Teachers Association (union)
    SBE = State Board of Education
    Moonbeam = CA Governor Brown.

    First of all charter schools are public schools and are subject to the same regulations as public schools and receive tax dollars based on ADA. In the sphere of corporate charters they are stealing tax dollars that would otherwise go to public schools. I will expand on that later, but it is important to know. Charter schools do not necessarily have an elected board they answer to and when they do it may very well be appointed and managed from a distant location. More about this later.

    Charter schools are subject to the same common core statewide end of year assessments aka SBAC / CAASP.

    My opinion of why the CTA endorsed and jumped on the CC bandwagon was that there was the promise of lots of new money. Money means teacher raises, more teachers means more union dues. More dues mean the CTA has more power in Sacramento. The Democratic Party wholly owns Sacramento and they are in the union’s back pocket. Traditionally meaning before CC charter schools could more or less be unionized fairly easily which meant that the CTA was not necessarily opposed to them. What they did not count on and are now paying a very heavy price for was that Arne Duncan, Gates, & David Coleman were going to use charter schools to undermine public education. Gates, Duncan, and Coleman are perfectly content to use computers, unqualified teachers, and anyone they can rapid train to use a computer to teach our children. “A HUGE miscalculation on their part”.

    Moonbeam has ties to the charter industry going back to his days as the Mayor of Oakland and will lean in their favor more often than not. Add in that as this point he will be termed out of office and only really cares about his choo choo, water tunnels, and his legacy. He is not nor will he act in the voter’s best interest.
    The SBE has members who are beholden and have ties to the charter industry as well. If a locally elected board does not bend in the direction they want do to pay for play politics, they will step in.

    The recent example of this is in Mount Diablo where the local board, the county board, and the citizens did not approve the Rocketeer charter and wanted nothing to do with it. The SBE and T-squared stepped in and forced the Rocketeer charter into Mount Diablo be damned what the local’s wanted. Rocketeer’s board is at best a virtual board and the closest meetings are in San Jose. It is nowhere nearby and that allows them to pretty much do anything they want without having to answer questions.

    On to LA, the nightmare that it is. The Broad’s are notoriously pro charter because there is a business side to that with the ADA money they can steal from the largest school district in CA. If the Broad’s are involved, then so is Gates and his billions.

    Mix in the mismanagement of the billion dollar IPAD scandal by LA board, the teacher jail scandal by the LA board, the lawsuit pending to use test scores to evaluate teacher’s in LA that the union won LA is a nightmare.

    LAUSD is far too big to be managed as a single district and should have been broken up into many more manageable districts that represent the completely different demographics there. Think about it this way they have Beverly Hills and South Compton.

    The fact that it needs to be broken up makes LA a prime target for the corporate charter’s, Broad, Gates, Moonbeam, T-squared and the SBE to do their damage. If they can flip LA, they can take out any other city in CA.

    The CTA now knows this and has their backs to the wall because yes they have their dues to buy Sacramento off with, but so does the Gates Foundation, Broad ‘s have their money, the SBE president is out of Stanford where Gates buys what he wants.

    Not we have all the players aligned and fighting over who gets the LCFF / LCAP money. That was the original plan with CC. It was never about education it was about the money. It was about taking out public schools and putting the tax dollars in someone else’s hands. Charter’s are perfect because they can install a board or not and they do not have to answer to the public.

    CTA should have been fighting for the teaching profession and the students who are in the classrooms. That is not what they have been nor are they doing now. They are fighting for membership dues to fight back the corporate money that is now buying up Sacramento, the SBE, T-squared, the legislature, and Moonbeam could not give a damn.

    That is in my opinion how we are not in a shooting war between all the parties involved. The only ones that will be hurt in the end will be the students.

    A crying damn shame, and if I know this Sacramento knows this, and they could care less because all they want to do is stay in office.

    LA is a nightmare, CTA screwed the pooch, & the people notably the children lose. Nightmare does not do justice to the mess we are in.

  3. “Charters Under Attack – California’s Teachers Unions Go On The Offensive”
    Boy, the CTA sure is offensive, isn’t it? Why doesn’t the instigator for the 1970s lift on the ban on public sector unions, then Gov. Moon beam, now Gov. Full Moon (as in his bald pate) get off the dime and proposed legislation and/or an initiative re-instating a public sector ban on trade unions. Sure it is political suicide, but Jerry Brown is singly responsible for encouraging Jesse Unruhs Califonia legislature to propose legislation lifting the ban that he signed, with his camel sized wagging tongue operated by his pea-sized brain. IMO

    • And another thing Jerry, California PAID for the governors mansion you then called,”The Taj Mahal”. It remains an enduring indictment of your short-sightedness, that you come off as an unrepentant jerk in refusing to take up residence, “in the house that Reagan built”, but that Californians paid for. GRRRRRR!
      (thats right folks, I and other California natives have issues with Jerry)

  4. Jose Curvo says

    ^^^Amen and amen…
    Jerry Clown was an abject failure when I was in high school and he’s worse, now that my peers ‘ kids are in high school…

  5. Neil Mahony says

    “Jerry the Incompetent” says it all!

  6. Wow, I didn’t already like Unions… now I dislike them even more. It seems like their interests are not in helping teachers, their goals are somewhat skewed.

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