With so much attention focused on the balance of power in the U.S. Congress, Californians should be mindful that the rapidly approaching midterm elections will usher in a very different looking California Legislature. As a result of the redistricting that takes place once every ten years, a substantial number of Democrats have decided to abandon their Assembly and State Senate seats rather than defend them against same-party opponents. All told, 25 Assemblymembers and 14 State Senators will have either termed-out, resigned, or chosen not to run for re-election. That being the case, nearly 1/3 of our state lawmakers will feature new faces when the 2023-24 legislative session commences.
The names of some of the departing state legislators will be familiar to many readers, including as they include the authors of bills of interest to California’s private school community, chairs of key committees, and longtime “movers and shakers.” These include State Senators Bob Hertzberg, Connie Leyva and Richard Pan, as well as Assemblymembers Autumn Burke, Lorena Gonzalez, Jose Medina, Patrick O’Donnell, and Mark Stone. Astute readers will have noted that the respective Chairs of each house’s Education Committee appear among the aforementioned names.
Once the dust from the elections has settled, CAPSO will update its “Find a CAPSO-member school’s state legislators” webpage, which will make it a snap for private school leaders and stakeholders to identify the Assemblymember and State Senator in whose districts their school is located. If a legislator is new to a district, private school leaders should do what any good neighbor does by extending an invitation to visit. Here’s an example of what you may wish to write.
Dear Assemblymember/Senator ____________,
Congratulations on your election to the California Legislature. On behalf of [name of school] I wish you success in, and fulfillment from your new leadership role. As your constituents, the members of our school community would love to have you visit our campus so that we can have the opportunity to get to know you, and you can have the opportunity to learn about us. We will contact your office, shortly, to attempt to schedule a date and time that will prove convenient for you.
Private schools are partners in the education of the public. Though schools such as ours don’t operate under state control, they serve a public purpose. California’s private schools educate 8.5 percent of our state’s total enrollment in grades K-12, inclusive. More than one-in-every-five K-12 schools in California is a private school. If enrollment figures were aggregated across the state, private schools would comprise California’s second largest school ‘district’, with a combined enrollment of 498,138, and would easily employ more full-time teachers (44,001) than any public school district. Not incidentally, California’s private schools save the people of the state at least $5 billion per annum.
As members of the public and as taxpayers, we wish to see our state’s public schools succeed, for it is there that the great majority of our young people receive their formal education. To whatever extent our public schools fail, we all pay the price. At the same time, we reject the view that education is a zero-sum game that must invariably pit public and private schools against one another. The common good is best served when all schools succeed in meeting the individual needs of students and contributing to the formation of a well educated, productive, and civically responsible society.
Your visit will give us an opportunity to show you, first-hand, how our school pursues the achievement of those goals while upholding pluralism in American education. You’ll learn of our ever-present efforts to make our school accessible to all who share our vision and mission, as well as how we strive to be of service to the broader community. Correspondingly, we look forward to learning from you how we can best support your work on behalf of our district, with an eye toward building a strong working partnership grounded in mutual trust and respect.
I look forward to extending a warm personal welcome, accompanied by words of appreciation and encouragement.
Sincerely,[Name] [Position] [School]
While hosting a legislator may not seem vital to your daily work, the time may come when your Assemblymember or State Senator will cast the vote that spells the life or death of a bill of major consequence to California’s private schools – yours included. No matter what I do in my role as a statewide advocate, there’s nothing that equals the lasting impact of a personal visit to a private school. Making that happen will require initiative and persistence on the part of private school leaders. And with a bevy of new state legislators about to take office, a golden opportunity for outreach and advocacy is at hand.