Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a law overhauling California charter schools Thursday in a move seen as a compromise between the state’s teachers’ unions and charter school supporters, who have long argued over how charter schools impact public education.
Charter schools are privately-run or nonprofit public schools that operate by different rules than traditional public schools. Anyone can apply to create a charter school, and state law requires school districts to OK them if they meet certain basic requirements
The law gives school districts more authority to choose which charter schools are approved within district boundaries. It would allow the districts to consider factors including how new charter schools would impact communities and existing schools within districts. And it requires districts to close charter schools if they are not providing students with a good education or if there are concerns with the finances of charter schools or how they are run.
“This is historic legislation that marks a new chapter of collaboration between charter and traditional schools in California,” Newsom, a Democrat, said in a statement.
Charter school enrollment has more than doubled over the last decade in California. The state now has more than 1,300 charter schools that serve about 10% of the state’s more than 6.2 million public school students, according to the California Department of Education.
More than 60% of the state’s charter schools are in Los Angeles County, San Diego County and the nine counties in the Bay Area near San Francisco.
A legislative analysis of the bill that led to the charter school law said that most charter school growth has been in areas where students come from low-income families.
Critics have often blamed the proliferation of charter schools for putting pressure on local education budgets. But supporters have said the schools are a needed alternative for students seeking more than what traditional schools offer.