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The Carlsbad Unified School District offices. Courtesy photo
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Carlsbad Unified board backs bills targeting charter schools

CARLSBAD — Typically, school districts avoid public support or opposition of state bills.

However, the Carlsbad Unified School District board of trustees voted 3-2 on June 5 to support two bills making their way through the California State Legislature.

Assembly bills 1505 and 1507, which have passed the Assembly and are now in the Senate, center on charter schools, which have been a source of controversy among traditional public school districts, their funding and oversight.

Trustees Kathy Rallings, Veronica Williams and Claudine Jones voted in favor of supporting the bills, while trustees Ray Pearson and Elisa Williamson voted no.

“A lot of the charter schools are taking advantage of the school districts, in my opinion,” Rallings said. “In my view, funding … 100% of those dollars are based on public funding, our taxes. All of the dollars that fund school districts are political. I don’t think we are doing our due diligence if we are not protecting those dollars and ensure we get more.”

If passed, AB 1505 would alter the Charter Schools Act authorizing a school board to deny petitions for the establishment of a new charter school if a finding discovers the charter school would have a negative financial, academic or facilities impact on those public schools in a district.

A petition for renewal by a charter school, meanwhile, cannot be denied unless the charter school proposes expanding enrollment not previously approved by the chartering authority, according to the bill. A county office of education is also held to the proposed standards under AB 1505.

As for AB 1507, it eliminates the authorization for a charter school to be located outside the boundaries of an authorized district in specified instances. It also authorizes a non-classroom-based charter school to establish one resource center within the jurisdiction of the school district where the charter school is located, subject to specified conditions, according to the bill.

“The person who requested this at the last meeting (May 15) said they didn’t want to make the board too political,” Williamson said. “This is clearly a political issue. During the 19 years I’ve been serving on the board … we have been consistent about not asking our fellow board members to pass resolutions for these causes.”

She said she has two main concerns — the first is taking staff time away from day-to-day duties to craft a resolution and conduct research and due diligence. Her second concern is polarizing the board and community through such actions by the board.

Williamson said even if the charter school lobby had some items removed from the bills, she would still vote no. Williamson added she supports one of the bills personally, but did not disclose which one.

Jones said she agreed with Williamson’s position, but the board has passed resolutions when it impacts the district financially. She said locally and representatives in Sacramento supersede regionally elected board members with no connection to the community during an appeal.

Additionally, Jones said during economic downturns, state government lowers the district’s funding to basic aid, or “very well-funded, and I beg to differ.” One issue with basic aid, Jones said, is the district does not receive any money from the state for students from other basic aid school districts, such as Encinitas, San Dieguito or Del Mar.

“Districts that are basic aid with charter schools would only receive 70% of funding from students originating from LCFF (Local Control Funding Formula) districts,” Jones added. “In addition, only 50% of the charter school population must originate from inside the district, that means Carlsbad taxpayers would pay for those students outside the district.”