New Calif. Gov. Shifts Course of Charter School Debate

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January 14, 2011; Source: Education Week | There is a new governor in Sacramento, and the influence of some nonprofits that had high flying roles with Arnold Schwarzenegger in office will find their influence altered under California’s new governor, Jerry Brown. In one of Governor Brown's first decisions, he sacked seven members of the state education board, including Ted Mitchell, the president of the NewSchools Venture Fund, and most notably for NPQ readers, Ben Austin, an official at a Los Angeles-based nonprofit called Parent Revolution.

We wrote about Parent Revolution in a previous NPQ Newswire because of its controversial role in using the state's "parent trigger" law to oust the management of a public school in Compton, Calif.

One of the governor's new appointees is Trish Boyd Williams, the executive director of EdSource, a nonprofit education research organization. While they might reject the notion, the Venture Fund and Parent Revolution are pretty strongly pro-charter schools, as are their financial backers. EdSource presents a much more nuanced and contextualized view of this flashpoint issue in education policy.

Its method of operation distinguishes it from the ideological advocates on either side of the charter school debate: "EdSource staff endeavor to approach our studies and other work impartially, with an open mind informed by the best data and evidence but unconstrained by conventional wisdom or by political or cultural ideologies. We are interested in exploring and discovering what works educationally, for which students, under what conditions."

Brown is a Democrat, linked nominally to the Obama Administration, which has been unabashedly comfortable with charter schools and other privatization models. Will the replacement of Parent Revolution with EdSource on the school board lead to substantive changes in California's education policy direction?—Rick Cohen

  • David Cearley

    Mr Brown is the guy who actually allowed state employees to unionize during his first term. Bloated state payrolls, unaccountable union employees, and escalating pension liabilities that can’t even be discharged in bankruptcy are the result. Mr Brown is playing to his union base, helping shift the balance of power in the classroom clearly away from parents, and into the hands of union bosses much more concerned about dues and membership than in actually holding anyone accountable for the education of the students in their charge. That lack of accountability is apparent in the terrible outcomes in California’s primary education system.