Money and people power in California are shifting the balance of influence in the California legislature. For years, the legislature listened closely to the public school interests. Teachers, parents and unions wielded great power. Now the charter sector is gaining ground. In 2016, a bill to regulate charter enrollment and how they discipline students was assured of passing; it did not. In this account, the advocacy strategies explain the defeat.
The California Charter Schools Association (CCSA) spent $18 million on political campaigns. Large donations came from GAP, Walmart, and Netflix founders. The Association uses the money to make campaign contributions and to mobilize its 280,000 ‘Charter Nation’ members. Here’s what they do:
- Make campaign slogans for charter conferences like: Combat Warfare: Legislative threats to Charter Schools and Building Momentum for Legislative Engagement.
- Create Capital Advocacy Leaders who develop relationships with legislators.
- Hold Advocacy Days to visit legislators in the State Capital.
- Invite local legislators to school tours.
The teachers union and the CCSA spend their money differently. The union spent most of its money on ballot initiatives to increase school funding and to override restrictions on bilingual education. Of the $29 million spent, only $4.3 million went to campaigns and committees.
Conversely, the CCSA and EdVoice, another charter advocacy group, spent over $28 million on legislative and local school board races. The end result has proven to help charters. Bills to support charter expansion are now filed by Democrats as well as Republicans.
As I reflect on these strategies, I know the League has many of these same strategies, but of course, we have to look to others for money. But let’s see…..
Slogans: Hmmm. Parents don’t choose charters; charters choose students. More simply: Charters choose, parents lose.
Advocacy Leaders. Every league builds relationships with its delegation.
Advocacy Days. LWV Legislative Summit is held in each state capital.
School Tours. Have to admit that the local PTA Council did these tours this year. But, collaboration is good!
Getting reach beyond the membership is crucial. How this is done is the key to an informed electorate.