In a process that some are likening to a messy divorce, talks aimed at merging California's two main charter-support organizations have collapsed as the more junior partner bowed out and decided to form its own rival advocacy group.
Still, plans are proceeding for a revamped statewide charter school association. The board of directors would be anchored by representatives of three foundations that have strongly backed charter schools, including Wal-Mart heir John T. Walton of the Bentonville, Ark.-based Walton Family Foundation.
Heading up the planned new California Charter Schools Association is Caprice Young, 37, the past president of the Los Angeles board of education.
Plans for the restructured association must be approved by members of the California Network of Educational Charters, or CANEC, an 11-year-old organization that represents about 70 percent of the state's charter schools. The results of the mail-in balloting are to be announced next week.
A chief goal of the new group will be to exert greater influence in the state capital. In part, the restructuring push grew out of concern that Golden State charter schools have failed to contain the damage from highly publicized abuses by charter operators.
Prompted partly by funders, talks began late last year between CANEC and the 6-year-old Charter Schools Development Center, which offers resources and technical support.
But in late July, the center's co- directors announced they were pulling out and would start their own advocacy organization, to be known as CharterVoice. Despite their close ties, network and center leaders have not always seen eye to eye on such issues as how to get bad apples out of the charter sector.
"After trying to get along and patch things up, we decided it was better to just articulate an agenda and move forward with it," said Eric Premack, one of the center's co-directors.
For her part, Ms. Young plans to take the state's charter sector "to the next level" in both clout and quality.
"That means drawing on the expertise of the people who have been leaders and pioneers for the last decade or more and really developing new leadership," she said.
Vol. 23, Issue 2, Page 10Published in Print: September 10, 2003, as Charter Schools