CCSA Celebrates 20th Anniversary of the Charter Schools Movement at the San Carlos Learning Center

August 21, 2012

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For Immediate Release

Contact: Vicky Waters, CCSA
(415) 505-7575

SAN CARLOS, California (Aug. 21, 2012).--The California Charter Schools Association (CCSA) officially kicked off the 20th anniversary of the state's charter school movement at a news conference in California's longest-operating charter school, the San Carlos Charter Learning Center.

In the fall of 1992, Governor Pete Wilson signed SB 1446, better known as the Charter Schools Act, making California the second state to formally establish the creation of charter schools. The San Carlos Charter Learning Center, which opened that following year, is known as the birthplace of the charter movement. The charter movement transformed public education, and heralded in an era in which parents and communities can create schools of choice for their children and have greater flexibility and richer learning environments in exchange for added accountability.

In attendance were leaders and parents who founded the San Carlos Charter Learning Center, including Dr. Don Shalvey, Deputy Director, Education, Bill &Melinda Gates Foundation, CCSA Board Member, and Beth Hunkapiller, former director of the Charter School Division at the California Department of Education (CDE) and current Vice-President of the San Carlos School Board, as well as parents and alumni.

"It is incredible to think that this movement started with parents and community members, who wanted more innovation and choice for their kids, and created a galvanizing force that has in the past two decades unleashed incredible dynamism. That dynamism has grown to become the primary engine of reform of our public education system, and our impact is only going to grow in the charter movement's third decade," said Jed Wallace, President and CEO, CCSA. "Over the past 20 years, charter schools have transformed the lives of millions of students, and although we continue to face challenges, like funding inequity and facilities issues, we have become the answer for families looking for a quality education for their children."

Over the past 20 years, charter schools have consistently grown in both urban and rural. In 1993, the year the Charter Schools Act came into effect, there were 31 charters in California. In the 2011-12 SY, there were 982 charters serving more than 412,000 students, the most of any other state in the nation. Demand continues to increase with thousands of students currently on waiting lists in CA.

"We were making the rules as we went along, this was very new territory, and looking back, perhaps the most important achievement is that we planted a seed that has continued to grow and evolve," said Dr. Shalvey. "Right now, our focus must be to support the voice of the charter movement, to mitigate political and ideological battlegrounds, and instead, find common ground to ensure all students are getting the education they deserve. There should never be a missed opportunity to teach and innovate."

Former Assemblymember Ted Lempert, the author of AB 544, which expanded the number of charter schools in California in 1997 and effectively removed obstacles that were inhibiting growth in the movement's first few years, was also in attendance. Lempert was a member of the Legislature when the Charter Schools Act was passed in 1992.

"Children are our most important asset, and it is our collective responsibility to ensure they have great schools they can attend. The goal has always been to save, change, and transform children's lives. It is imperative that we bridge the achievement, gap, and that all children, regardless of where they come from, have the same opportunities to succeed," said former Assemblymember Lempert, who has remained a leader on children's issues, as head of Children Now.

One of the ways in which charter schools have transformed public education is through innovation, and by supporting specialty programs that serve various needs. New school models have been able to be established and thrive over the past two decades, including the use of technology to change the way students learn.

In Summit Public Schools, for instance, make effective use of technology to add to students' learning experience.

"At Summit, our students and their learning are at the center of everything we do, leveraging technology to truly personalize learning for every individual student to deliver exactly what they need, when they need it and how they need it," said Diane Tavenner, founder and CEO of Summit Public Schools and CCSA board chair. "Every day, we see charters fulfill their promise of being schools of innovation. Through modeling, thought leading and simply providing an example of what is possible in public education, charter schools are helping to transform education as we know it. The rapid growth of charter schools across California has created pockets of innovation and creativity that are finding their way back into the larger public education system. "

"The charter movement is a great collection of people of different backgrounds, philosophies, and talents that have come together to develop good schools," said Hunkapiller. "Traditional public schools and charter schools should not be pitted against each other. At the end of the day, we are all working for the success of students."

For the San Carlos Charter Learning Center, the formula to their longevity has been the continued commitment from the community, parents and students.

"Charter schools must work in partnership with their school district and their community," said Chris Mahoney, Director of the San Carlos Charter Learning Center. "Such collaboration, along with support from parents and students, will help charter schools achieve the kind of long-term success that our children deserve, and create innovative learning experiences for all our children."

"What will continue to make the charter school movement grow is the fact that we have empowered parents and communities to have a direct say in their children's education, and we have discredited the notion that some kids cannot achieve at high levels. Charters have figured out how to reach students. And we have had the courage to look at ourselves, celebrate our wins, identify our weaknesses, and evolve in the best interests of students and their families," added Wallace.

View full video of the news conference here.

About the California Charter Schools Association

The California Charter Schools Association is the membership and professional organization serving 982 charter public schools and more than 412,000 students in the state of California. The Vision of the California Charter Schools Association is to usher in a new era in public education so all students attend independent, innovative, accountable schools of choice. The Mission of the California Charter Schools Association is to influence the legislative and policy environments, leverage collective advocacy, and provide resources to support our members in developing and operating high quality, charter schools reflective of California's student population. For more information, please visit

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