Judy Appel Touts Experience in Education, Vows to Take on Charters

15th Assembly District candidate Judy Appel, who serves on the Berkeley Unified School District board. (Guy Marzorati/KQED)

This story is part of a weekly series of profiles of candidates running for the 15th Assembly District. You can see all the profiles and news about this race here.

You don't have to talk with Judy Appel for long to figure out the issue driving her candidacy for Assembly in the 15th District.

"Education is really my sweet spot in this election," Appel said. "My number one priority is education, so my first piece of legislation will be around education."

Appel was first elected to the Berkeley Unified School District board in 2012, and she says her time on the board has cultivated a deep knowledge of school financing, including the Local Control Funding Formula that now dictates how districts  get money from the state.

"It took a lot of years to learn that, and we need someone with that deep understanding of how school districts work in order to really be able to move us forward in the state," Appel said.

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Appel's time on the school board has also given her a taste of perhaps the most controversial education issue in the district: charter schools.

The proliferation of charters is most acutely felt at the southern tip of the 15th district, in Oakland. The California Charter Schools Association says a larger percentage of public school students are served by charters in Oakland than in any urban school district in the state.

Like nearly all her Democratic rivals in the race, Appel says the state legislature needs to halt the growth of charters.

"I will support a cap at the very least on charter schools, because we really need to limit the impact that they're having on local school districts," Appel said.

She is also advocating for greater transparency of charter school finances, and increased oversight power for school boards over charters in their district.

Appel is supported in the race by the California Teachers Association, the powerful union that has sparred with charters, many of which are not unionized.

"It's really relevant in this district, where both in West Contra Costa and Oakland, we have so many charter schools that our public school children are really suffering," Appel added.

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