03/09/2011 07:09 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

My Challenge to Charters

Back in December of last year, I addressed a room full of Sacramento insiders -- including the leadership of California Teachers Association -- and shared my sincere belief that teachers unions must come to the negotiating table and join us in enacting meaningful education reform.

Anyone who knows me knows that I don't have an anti-union bone in my body; In fact, I was a field organizer and legislative advocate for CTA and UTLA. But I believe that we can no longer afford to make decisions based on what is best for the adults in our school system. We must make what is best for our students our top priority. Today I was honored to accept the California Charter Schools Association Elected Official of the Year award. In my remarks, I challenged the charter school community to hold itself to a higher standard by taking on more high-needs students, shutting down its own struggling schools, and exporting the successes it has pioneered to school districts all across the state.

The charter movement has accomplished incredible things, particularly for low-income students of color, but those achievements cannot exist solely within their own classroom walls and schoolhouse doors. We need charters to step up as a vanguard of reform to help us deliver more and better choices to LA Unified students and families.

Today, I asked the teachers and administrators with charter schools to accelerate the pace of reform by taking on more turnarounds and engaging with school districts to deliver the change our schools need. Charters currently only serve 3% of students nationwide, but their important work could be helping all students by demanding more flexibility, more funding, and more freedom for our local schools. In fact, I hope that one day, traditional public schools and charter schools will enjoy similar autonomy so that the lines between the two will be blurred. Only by working together will we be able to ensure a future where every parent has a choice, and every student has a chance.