California’s Charter Schools Have Lower Vaccination Rates Than Traditional Public Schools

Some parents are enlisting the help of doctors to excuse their kids from shots.

scyther5/Getty

Fight disinformation: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter and follow the news that matters.

Some charter school parents in California seem to be taking advantage of a loophole to keep their kids from being vaccinated—and doctors are helping them.

Following the 2015 passage of SB 277, which eliminated the “personal belief exemption” from the state’s vaccination laws, California’s immunization rate soared. But according to a recent analysis by KPCC, a National Public Radio affiliate in Pasadena, charter school students lag behind their counterparts in traditional public schools when it comes to protection from such ailments as measles and whooping cough.

For the 2016-17 school year, while at least 95 percent of seventh graders were “up-to-date” on their vaccinations in 96.8 percent of district-run public schools, only 73.6 percent of charter schools met that mark.

Part of the vaccination rate gap isn’t surprising: SB 277 exempts students who don’t receive “classroom-based instruction” from immunization laws. So students enrolled in virtual charter schools don’t have to get vaccinated.

But there’s another loophole in California’s vaccination laws: Physicians can issue a permanent medical exemption to let a student skirt state-mandated immunizations. Since the SB 277’s passage, some California doctors have agreed to sign medical exemptions for kids with asthma, eczema, and psoriasis.

For reasons that are not entirely understood, charter school parents are more likely than other public school parents to seek medical exemptions for their kids.

In its analysis, KPCC found that in almost all district-run public schools, between 0 and 10 percent of seventh graders received permanent medical exemptions during the 2016-17 year. As for charter schools, 24 out of 505 schools reported permanent medical exemption rates greater than 10 percent.

Read the full story here.

LESS DREADING, MORE DOING

This is the rubber-meets-road moment: the early days in our first fundraising drive since we took a big swing and merged with CIR to bring fearless investigative reporting to the internet, radio, video, and everywhere else that people need an antidote to lies and propaganda.

Donations have started slow, and we hope that explaining, level-headedly, why your support really is everything for our reporting will make a difference. Learn more in “Less Dreading, More Doing,” or in this 2:28 video about our merger (that literally just won an award), and please pitch in if you can right now.

payment methods

LESS DREADING, MORE DOING

This is the rubber-meets-road moment: the early days in our first fundraising drive since we took a big swing and merged with CIR to bring fearless investigative reporting to the internet, radio, video, and everywhere else that people need an antidote to lies and propaganda.

Donations have started slow, and we hope that explaining, level-headedly, why your support really is everything for our reporting will make a difference. Learn more in “Less Dreading, More Doing,” or in this 2:28 video about our merger (that literally just won an award), and please pitch in if you can right now.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate