Public Core Logo Public Core

 

Public Core is an organization of West Contra Costa County parents, teachers, community members, and school staff who fight for public control and accountability in our schools. We believe that public schools, open to all, are essential to the health of a democratic society. Our goal is high quality, inclusive public education for all students. We believe that the proliferation of privately-operated schools using public money will increase inequalities in education and in our society. We are dedicated to informing the public about the impact of publicly-funded, privately operated schools on our community.

For more information: (510) 270-0955
info@PublicCore.net or publiccorewestcounty@gmail.com
En Español

New Entries in Charters 101

Pro-Charter Groups Keep Up

Constant Derogatory Drumbeat

 

In April, a group of college students appeared at a WCCUSD Board meeting to hand-deliver a document to the Board. The group belongs to the West Contra Costa chapter of the New York-based “Students for Education Reform” , a charter school advocacy group. Their document, the results of a “WCCUSD Board Watch” effort, rated the district on how transparent it is (2.7 out of 5), how focused it is on students (3), and how engaged it is in the community (3.3). Not incidentally, two other pro-charter groups in our area, GO Public Schools WCC and Education Matters also conduct WCCUSD Board Watches.

pull-quote

In their presentations and materials, all of these groups claim to be acting as good local citizens, the guardians of our taxpayer money and public school system. Yet, however justified they may be in demanding accountability and transparency from our school district, they do so while ignoring the urgent need for accountability from the private schools operating in our district with public money (charter schools)--despite the fact that, unlike the WCCUSD board, charter boards are 1) not elected (or even locally based), 2) do not hold public meetings, and 3) do not televise their proceedings.

The fact is, the billionaire-funded “astroturf” groups operating in the WCCUSD and nationwide exist to deliberately keep public school districts on the defensive and deflect attention from charter schools’ own lack of transparency and indifferent performance.

PublicCore.net has documented how a single ultra-wealthy couple and the “community organizations” they fund worked in 2014 and 2016 to purchase three of the five seats on the WCCUSD School Board (see 2016 summary and 2014 detail).UPennILCStudents.png In service to their agenda, SFER-AN WCC, Go Public Schools WCC, and Education Matters follow the national education “reform” script scrupulously, cultivating, inculcating, and coordinating local surrogates. Last fall, for example, they provided facilitators for “parent council” meetings at the Latina Center, and packed it with lawyers to fish for stories of negative experiences. That negativity is important:  the more negative a picture these groups paint of public schools, the better it is for charters.

Like other pro-privatization groups around the country, SFER hypocritically ignores WCCUSD success stories, evidence of excellence and progress, and the vitality present in many of the district’s incredibly diverse schools. .....(continued)

 

The Redundancy of Charter Schools

There are many different ways we can evaluate the impact of charter schools on public education.  We are educating our children and determining what kind of society we live in and what our future will be.  So economics should not be the most important consideration.  But economics is still critical and must be understood.

Economies of scale
Economies of scale  are the cost savings that result when we make something larger.  Certain “fixed costs” are spread over more units making the cost per unit cheaper.  A school of 50 may have a gym which is used one period during the day.  The same gym could serve a school of  250 and would only cost one-fifth the amount per student.    (see Wikipedia definition)

Let’s look at the costs that each school budget must absorb:

Utilities: Not just the electricity and water bills, but also the actual wiring and plumbing maintenance as well as technology: Internet access, modems, computers and technological support.

Communal spaces: Each school has, or should have, regardless of size, an auditorium (meeting/performance space,) playgrounds, gym or other indoor exercise area, music room, library, restrooms, administrative office space, staff room, copy machines, storage area. For Middle and High Schools, there must be science labs and vocational skill shops.

Support staff: Administrators and safety staff, clerical staff, specialists for teacher training, support, and special programs such as music (especially band), theater, and art.  ESL instruction and specialists and classroom aids for children with disabilities.  Currently many of these specialists work in more than one or two schools and spend much of their time driving around and securing their space and equipment in different schools.

District wide programs: Free and reduced cost meal programs, health (there are now only five nurses for the whole district), and social services, such as homeless student outreach and the transportation voucher system, are hampered by the need to service many scattered locations.

If economies of scale principles were implemented, we would have larger schools where more students, teachers, and families share communal spaces and support staff. And likely there would be development of “schools within schools” where students and teachers could enjoy the benefits of smaller cohorts.

Every time another charter school is approved, each piece of the district-wide pie—the budget—shrinks, and each student, whether in District schools or charter schools, has less to use and learn from. The education budget is inadequate and getting smaller. Continuing to open charter schools dilutes the per-pupil income we get from the State because the District must move services from school to school, and chip away at full services at any one school.

Because the overhead is not distributed as widely now, we have already crossed the tipping point where it is not realistic to propose full services and facilities for any public school. Charter schools rarely offer full services because they are private operations focused on niche markets. They have already had the effect of lowering the expectations about the breadth of what our community offers up as a “quality education.” It is not realistic to propose full services and facilities for every charter school and continue to support District schools.

If one views a district’s educational system holistically, the parallel system of charter schools within the district looks more like an economic parasite than a partner.

Karen Pfeifer,
School Board Trustee 2004-2008  

Public  Core welcomes articles by parents, teachers, and community members

Intelligence Squared Debate

charter building
Motion: "Charter schools are overrated."
Thought-provoking and civilized debate that you can either watch or listen to. 1:36 mins. 
March, 2017, New York City

You can make up your own mind after watching it, and then see how the audience in NYC voted. If you've ever watched/listened to these Intelligence Squared debates before, you'll know that they ask the audience at the beginning to vote, using handheld devices at their seats, whether they agree, disagree, or are undecided about the motion. Then, after opening statements, moderator, opponent, and audience questions, and closing statements, the audience votes again. The team that changes the most minds wins. It's dependent on the people in the room. Other rooms may vote other ways.


Arguing for the motion:
Gary Miron - Western Michigan University - Professor of Education)
Julian Vasquez Heilig - California State University, Sacramento - Professor of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies)

Arguing against the motion:
Jeanne Allen - Founder and CEO of the Center for Education Reform - Washington D.C.

Gerard Robinson - Fellow at American Enterprise Institute, former Commissioner of Education for the State of Florida, and former Secretary of Education for Commonwealth of Virginia  - Washington D.C

 


Legislative Action

A number of bills are moving through the California legislature that will restrict the growth of Charter Schools in the state:

  • AB1478 which requires Charter Schools to have the same  transparency and accountability as regular public schools
  • SB 808 which requires local school board approval for charter schools and stops the practice that charters which are rejected local can get approval for operation at the county and state level.
  • AB1360 which prohibits charter school admissions  discrimination  and due process for student discipline.

While these three bills are not enough to stop the expansion of charter schools  and we need much more, Public Core  regards these bills, actively supported by the California Teachers Association, as first steps and urges support for them.

Urge Assembly Education Committee members to vote YES on AB 1478, by phone or Twitter:


Sign in Ross
photo: Suzanne Balmaceda

Seen in Ross, Marin County

Supporters of Ross Public Schools seem to be very organized against charters!

facebook:

website:

Money

$7.9 Million spent by pretender "PTA" sponsored by Charter School Association on local and state elections

Click here for documents

 

Money flows in from outside West Contra Costa
to support Pro-Charter Candidates Panas and Sequeira

More than $688,000 for paid canvassing, phone-banking, yard signs, online ads, and consulting documented. Undoubtedly more will show up with the next filing.
See the Summary to Date, and then check out the Money 2016 page, and the Detail


Alan Singer:  Thirteen Questions that Scare Charter School Advocates:  Communities need to know what they're being sold.Huffington Post, April 18, 2017 Are charter schools truly public schools? Do charter schools and school vouchers “hurt” public schools? Do charter schools get better academic results than public schools? Are charter schools and vouchers a civil rights cause? Click here for answers to these questions and more.
http://www.alternet.org/education/13-hard-questions-charter-schools-promoters-dont-want-taxpayers-ask


Public schools leading the way with good food

Chef Alice Waters at Peres and Madera


Allice Waters at Peres

"Although many school districts are trying to provide fresh, made-from-scratch and locally sourced meals, this was the first time she'd seen a school district as large as West Contra Costa try to go fully organic at a number of its public schools, she said, and that's why she wanted to pledge her support for the program."

Two East Bay schools, with chef Alice Waters' help, commit to serving all organic meals next year by Joyce Tsai in East Bay Times. (Photo by Laura.A Oda Bay Area News Group)

"California has more charter schools than any other state in the nation, in large part because of generous public funding and subsidies to lease, build, or buy school buildings. But much of this public investment, hundreds of millions of dollars, has been misspent on schools that do not fulfill the intent of state charter school policy and undermine the financial viability of California’s public school districts.

"In the report, Spending Blind: The Failure of Policy Planning in California’s Charter School Facility Funding, In the Public Interest reveals that a substantial portion of the more than $2.5 billion in tax dollars or taxpayer subsidized financing spent on California charter school facilities in the past 15 years has been misspent on: schools that underperformed nearby traditional public schools; schools built in districts that already had enough classroom space; schools that were found to have discriminatory enrollment policies; and in the worst cases, schools that engaged in unethical or corrupt practices."

Why Are We Doing This?

In autumn 2014, West County mailboxes were overflowing with school board election mailers.  I can’t remember where we had our first conversations, perhaps while waiting in line at Progress Report Night at the high school, but I and several other parents began talking with each other about the unbelievable amounts of money being spent on our local school board election.

We were concerned that candidates we’d never heard of were running campaigns using money from outside forces. We were so concerned that three of us met, early on a Saturday morning, and began the arduous process of writing a guest editorial titled, “Our Schools Are Not for Sale.” We met several times, painstakingly crafting our message of outrage. We shared it with others, and quickly had more than two dozen parents who wanted to sign on. We were glad we had taken a stand.

But then the East Bay Times didn’t publish it.

Perhaps if the letter had been published, that would have been the end of it and there would have been no PublicCore. But we decided we weren’t going to take that rejection lying down, so we began meeting early on Saturday mornings, sorting through the problems created by corporations, wealthy ideologues, and financiers coming into our community and paying for privatization of public resources behind the cloak of “parent choice”,and “education reform.” Very quickly we discovered that the issue of charter management organizations and the schools they run is very complicated.

So complicated, in fact, that we felt we needed to do lots of research, lots of reading, and then lots of sharing. So we created a website publiccore.net, to be able to inform others about this nationa issue that has lots of local impact.

This site, created by volunteers who live, work, vote, and send their children to the publicly managed, publicly funded schools of WCCUSD includes links such as “Takeover Watch,” “Follow the Money,” and “Charter Articles” We encourage you to read our website, send us articles, and, most especially, get  to know your local schools.

Join the PTA’s at the schools that serve your neighborhood – just going to meetings to listen is a huge learning experience.

Help start a PTA, if they don’t have one.

Attend school board meetings, or stream them live or later on KCRT, to observe our current board members in action.

Scan the agendas or the minutes to get to know the issues.

And keep checking publiccore.net!
Joanna Pace
PublicCore Spokesperson


Simply Ticking the Boxes is all it Takes

The ease of starting a charter school is threatening resources for the majority of students

The unsettling truth is, any organization in California that can fill out a template can start a charter school. The bar is low, and the incentives are high.

California has both the fastest growth rate of charter schools, and the most charter schools of any state in the nation. This is partly because California is not fully committed to funding public education for its amazing and beautiful melting pot, and partly because the California Ed code is written for the schools Beaver Cleaver attended.

Hedge Fund managers, real estate developers, and ideologues will do what they're born to do, of course. They find holes in a weak law and exploit them while making a great return and while reshaping society. continue...

See our
FAQ on Charter Schools


  • How do Charter schools decide whom to admit?
  • Are Charter schools safe?
  • Are there standardized tests in Charters?
  • Are Charter schools better?
  • Who runs Charter Schools?
  • Are Charter schools "public" schools?
  • Reasons for choosing Charter and Neighborhood schools,
  • And much more.


WCCUSD Charter School Spreadsheet

A spreadsheet listing Charter School info: what, where, who, and connections


What Does a Superintendent Do?


Bayside PTA Council calls for parent voices. We recommend parents to be involved with these District decisions.

Making Our Public Schools Better

 

Julian Vasquez Hellig:  Failing the Test:  Nine Solution Takeaways

Capital&Main, June 3, 2016

“Despite the trendy popularity of charter schools in some circles, their wholesale replacement of traditional public schools is unnecessary. Not only do decades of data and research show this, but in each city there are plenty of successful public schools on the other side of the tracks or highway or river. The wealthy in the United States, regardless of locality, continue to have access to quality public education. So what should all parents already be able to choose from in their existing neighborhood public schools?"

Article provides nine answers.

http://capitalandmain.com/latest-news/issues/education/failing-the-test-nine-solution-takeaways-0603/

 

Add your ideas

Email us at

publiccorewestcounty
@gmail.com
  or

info@PublicCore.net

Good features of our public schools that should be strengthened

  • Libraries
  • Academies in high schools provide information and pathways to different occupations
  • Wide diversity in class room better prepares kids for real world
  • Sports facilities
  • Music and performing arts program
  • More electives available within schools
  • Providing Arts and Performance electives so that students can meet that part of the A-G requirements of UC System eligibility
  • Schools are community centers --the heart of the neighborhood

Address the Achievement Gap

  • Focus Resources
  • Strengthen community involvement

Public Schools Areas to Improve

  • Not paying teachers enough to recruit and retain them
  • Class sizes too big
  • Some administrators and teachers don't listen to parents
  • Lack of customer-service attitude by some teachers and administrators towards students and families
  • Transfer process is difficult and not transparent
  • Parent opportunities to meet with teachers too inflexible
  • Not enough parent involvement from underserved communities
  • Not enough continuing teacher training and development
  • Difficult to reform or remove teachers who openly dislike children or who have abdicated their job to teach
  • Not enough parent teacher conferences. Should be at least twice per year
  • Some teachers refuse to adopt digital tools for connecting with students and parents

Will Charter Schools Close Kennedy High School?

En Español

Early last month, after winning the playoffs for the first time since 1988, the Kennedy High School Football team was honored by the Richmond City Council. One public commenter listed the hurdles that individual players have had to overcome, including violence in their neighborhoods, lack of social support, and homelessness. Richmond is really proud of Kennedy High. (See SF Chronicle article on the team)

But there is a good chance that Kennedy will be closed in the next few years. Why? Because of the growth of charter schools in the West Contra Costa Unified School District, and the laws that favor that growth, tying the hands of local school districts all over the state--and the nation.

Many of the charter schools in the WCCUSD plan to increase enrollment, opening new high schools or expanding already existing high school programs (see Making WavesCaliber, Summit) Under current law, the district will be forced to provide them with facilities, even if that means compromising the quality of facilities and programs for our district as a whole. Originally many supported charters to allow more parent involvement and experimentation with schools, but the dominant trend now is charter schools operated by regional and national corporations.

Some see the corporate chain charter school trend as one that offers more choices to parents. But the reality is that more charters will kill important choices for the majority of students--including the opportunity to attend public high schools that offer the full range of programs. Charters siphon off money and students from traditional public schools.

As more charters offer high school programs, the School Board will be forced by economics to close a current full-program high school - known in the education world as a "comprehensive high school." The District cannot afford to keep all the current high schools open with a smaller enrollment.  As a result, high schools in the WCCUSD will be consolidated, and parents and students lose the “option” of a big high school that, because of its size, offers diversity and a wide variety of enrichment programs such as:

    • Sports (swim team, golf, dragon boating, cross country, soccer, baseball, softball,
    • mountain biking, ultimate frisbee, football, volleyball)
    • Music
    • Arts
    • Science fairs, hands-on physics and chemistry labs
    • Clubs (speech and debate, mock trial, math club, language clubs, etc.)
    • Multiple foreign language offerings
    • Special interest courses, such as WWII History, AP Government, Ceramics, Auto Shop,
    • Photography, Dance, and Band:  Symphonic, Concert, Jazz, and Marching

There is nothing dictating that the first high school to be closed will be Kennedy. But geography, facility age, and test scores all combine to increase the likelihood that it will be Kennedy that is closed first.

The charter school movement is so "off the rails," even John Oliver is catching on to the crazy lack of oversight and profit-motive behind it. He focuses here mainly on the problems that arise from lack of oversight, but see minute 12 + for how "non-profit" charter schools go about enriching their operators."

 

 

Developments

Diane Ravitch:  California Teachers Form State-Wide Alliance to Fight for Real Reform
dianeravitch.net, March 22, 2017
Officially launched on March 23, the California Alliance for Community Schools is a "groundbreaking coalition of educator unions from 8 of the largest cities in California, representing more than 50,000 educators." The group is uniting around statewide demands, through local bargaining as well as legislation, for more resources for public schools, accountability and transparency for charter schools, lower class sizes and other critical improvements. Its members include: Anaheim Secondary Teachers Association, Oakland Education Association, San Bernardino Teachers Association, San Jose Teachers Association, San DiegoEducation Association, United Educators of San Francisco, United Teachers Los Angeles and United Teachers of Richmond.

Valerie Strauss:  Trump’s First Full Education Budget: Deep Cuts to Public School Programs in Pursuit of School Choice
Washington Post, May 17, 2017
"Funding for college work-study programs would be cut in half, public-service loan forgiveness would end and hundreds of millions of dollars that public schools could use for mental health, advanced coursework and other services would vanish under a Trump administration plan to cut $10.6 billion from federal education initiatives... The administration would channel part of the savings into its top priority: school choice. It seeks to spend about $400 million to expand charter schools and vouchers for private and religious schools, and another $1 billion to push public schools to adopt choice-friendly policies."
Valerie Strauss: Why the Shine is Off the Charter School Movement
Washington Post, October 25, 2016
The last of a four-part series on California’s charter schools, often called the “Wild West” of the charter sector, by former award-winning high school principal Carol Burris, who is now executive director of the nonprofit Network for Public Education advocacy group. She chronicles the many problems with the charter school law in California and how students are affected. This article discusses how Prop 13 paved the way for charters, and relates the battle of Superintendent Mike Matsuda, Anaheim Union High School District, against the Epic charter chain, which has given families free concert tickets, vacations, and other prizes for referrals of students to the school, but has a four-year graduation rate of only 28 percent. “Unfortunately many charters are undermining the basic tenets of our democracy, while at the same time selling out a generation of Americans,” Matusuda said.

 

Paul Buchheit: New Layers of Dirt on Charter Schools
Common Dreams, October 24, 2016
"An earlier review identified the "Three Big Sins of Charter Schools": Fraud, a Lack of Transparency, and the Exclusion of Unwanted Students. The evidence against charters continues to grow. Yet except for its reporting on a few egregious examples of charter malfeasance and failure, the mainstream media continues to echo the sentiments of privatization-loving billionaires who believe their wealth somehow equates to educational wisdom." Article details the " Big Sins of Charter Schools, updated by a surge of new evidence."

 

Darwin BondGraham: How a Handful of Pro-Charter Billionaires Flooded Oakland's School Board Elections with Cash
East Bay Express, October 25, 2016
"Two independent-expenditure committees with ties to charter-school groups have spent nearly half-a-million dollars on three Oakland school-board candidates: James Harris, Huber Trenado, and Jumoke Hinton Hodge. Article questions the "grassroots support" claims of GO Public Schools, reporting that, instead, "approximately two-thirds of all the money contributed to the Families and Educators for Public Education committee that GO sponsors came from just three [billionaires]." Just ten people have provided 88% of its cash since 2014.

 

Valerie Strauss: California Gov. Jerry Brown Vetoes Bills Seeking More Accountability for Troubled Charter-School Sector

Washington Post, September 30, 2016
An alliance of California business and political leaders urged Governor Brown to sign Assembly Bill 709, which would have required that all charters be transparent about how they spend public funds, and would have barred charter school board members and their relatives from profiting from their schools. The bill also would have insisted that charter schools be subject to the state's laws involving conflict of interest, open meetings and open records. California Gov. Jerry Brown, vetoed the legislation passed by lawmakers, saying he felt that the new legislation went too far in telling charters how to operate. Yet he also vetoed Senate Bill 739, which was narrower than AB 709.

Spencer Buell: Elizabeth Warren Won't Support Charter School Expansion
Boston Magazine, September 29, 2016
Elizabeth Warren, a onetime charter school advocate who has been reconsidering her position, announced on September 26 that she will be voting No on Question 2, the ballot question in Massachusetts that would raise the annual cap on charters. Article provides full text of her statement, in which she expresses concern about the impact of charter schools on the state as a whole.

Andy Metzger: Massachusetts Democrats Vote to Oppose Charter School Question
Edify, State House News Service, August 17, 2016
On August 16, the Massachusetts Democratic Party voted to oppose a ballot question that would expand charter schools in Massachusetts, stating, "Already, cities and towns forced to make budget cuts every year due to the state's underfunding of education and the money lost to charters. If this ballot question passes, it will create budget crises in hundreds of Massachusetts communities, and hurt the students who remain in our local district public schools." The move pits them against the pro-charter "Democrats for Education Reform."

Kate Taylor: Letter to Cuomo Reveals State Senate's Plan to Help Success Academy
New York Times, August 11, 2016
"What the Success Academy charter school network could not get through the courts or from the New York State Education Department, it may get from the governor: the ability to run prekindergarten programs without oversight from New York City." When the city demanded that Eva Moskowitz, CEO of the Success Academy charter chain, sign a contract for her prekindergarten program, she refused, saying it gave the city too much control, and sought redress from the state education commissioner, then the State Supreme Court. When both ruled the city could demand that Success sign the contract in order to be paid, she appealed to state senate Republicans, who have received substantial support from wealthy charter school supporters. They wrote a letter to Governor Cuomo asking that Success Academies be exempted from certain rules; in particular, that their teachers be "given time" to become certified and that the program be given space in public school buildings.

 

Valerie Strauss: NAACP Members Call for Ban on Privately-Managed Charter Schools

Washington Post, August 7, 2016

"The 2016 resolution uses stark language. The new resolution (see text below) notes that “charter schools with privately appointed boards do not represent the public but make decisions about how public funds are spent,” and it cites a number of problems with some charters, including punitive disciplinary policies, fiscal mismanagement and conflicts of interest."
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2016/08/07/naacp-members-call-for-ban-on-privately-managed-charter-schools/

see also Breaking News: @NAACP calls for national moratorium on charters

 

Julian Vasquez Heilig: Breaking News: ACLU Finds Many Illegal Policies in Charter Schools

Cloaking Inequity, August 1, 2016
An ACLU review of California charter schools' public, written policies reveals that many charters illegally prevent students from enrolling or remaining at their schools. At least 253, representing roughly 25% of all of California's charter schools, have policies that are plainly exclusionary.
Animation from the Network for Public Education


Every week or so we highlight articles and web information relevant to the future of Public Education in West County


For previous posts and more articles see the tabs on the menu bar or see our longer Reading List


FOLLOW THE MONEY / THE PLAYERS

BAY AREA

Ken Epstein: Large Contributions Flood Oakland School Board Races
The Post News Group, October 7, 2016
Much of the money flowing into the Oakland Board of Education race this year is coming from Great Oakland (GO) public schools, widely viewed as a supporter of new charter schools and pro-charter policies in Oakland. Article details amounts and PACs seeking to influence the race.

Jan Malvin and Joel Moskowitz: Op-Ed: 'Oakland Achieves' School Progress Report Misses the Mark
The Post News Group, October 6, 2016

"Confusing the public may well be the major achievement of the fourth annual 'Oakland Achieves' Public Education Progress Report prepared by Urban Strategies Council.

This report, deemed 'primarily an update on the academic outcomes for the 2014-15 school year,' offers no trends data for Oakland Unified School District-run schools. Rather, it is the first report in the series to feature student-level data from charter schools. Without explaining the omission of trends data for district-run schools, the report appears crafted to tell a story that compares charter schools with district-run schools." Article details the skewed findings of a report that ignores the "selective enrollment and pushout practices" of local charters and other relevant data.

http://postnewsgroup.com/blog/2016/10/06/op-ed-oakland-achieves-school-progress-report-misses-mark/


CALIFORNIA:

PTA Clarification:  Parent Teacher Alliance is not PTA
California State PTA, May 16, 2017
In statewide elections last year, and now again in the Los Angeles school board election, a charter-school PAC supported by the California Charter Schools Association (CCSA) sent out candidate endorsements that traded on the history and standing of the Parent Teacher Association by mimicking its name and logo, prompting the state PTA to issue a statement:
"National PTA has notified the California Charter Schools Association of the Parent Teacher Alliance’s use of National PTA’s PTA trademark and the confusingly similar Parent Teacher Alliance name and has demanded that the Parent Teacher Alliance cease all use of the PTA mark and the Parent Teacher Alliance name.”


Louis Freedberg: Push to Expand California Charter School Enrollments Provokes Backlash
EdSource, October 30, 2016
"After a quarter century of uninterrupted growth, aggressive efforts by charter school advocates to increase enrollments and to elect sympathetic school board members and legislators have triggered a backlash unlike anything that has occurred since the first charter school opened in California."
https://edsource.org/2016/push-to-expand-california-charter-school-enrollments-provokes-backlash/571132


Carol Burris: How Messed up is California's Charter School Sector? You won't believe how much.
Washington Post, September 9, 2016

First of four articles discussing the "never-ending stream of charter scandals coming from California," including the use of school funds to pay a more than half a million-dollar settlement to a teacher who sued for being wrongly terminated after she was ordered by her charter school director to travel to Nigeria and marry the director's brother-in-law so he could become a U.S. citizen. The California charter landscape and all of its players are surveyed in detail, along with the lack of oversight.


Harold Meyerson: How the Charter School Lobby is Changing the Democratic Party

Los Angeles Times, August 26, 2016
"At a time when Democrats and their party are, by virtually every index, moving left, a powerful center-right pressure group within the liberal universe has nonetheless sprung up. Funded by billionaires and arrayed against unions, it is increasingly contesting for power in city halls and statehouses where Democrats already govern. That's not how the charter school lobby is customarily described, but it's most certainly what it's become."
Article details how, in California and New York, "political action committees funded by charter school backers have become among the largest donors to centrist Democratic state legislators who not only favor expanding charters at the expense of school districts, but also have blocked some of Gov. Jerry Brown's more liberal initiatives."

 

NATIONAL:

Rebecca Klein: Trump's Signature Education Goal Has a Long History with White Flight
Huffington Post, March 21, 2017
"Debates about the viability of school voucher programs have focused in recent months on programs with lackluster or spotty academic records. But there’s another issue raised by the potential expansion of public financing for private schools: an exacerbation of segregation."
Article tracks the history of school voucher programs, which is "tied up with ideas of white supremacy."
<br>

National Education Association: Tell Betsy DeVos: Parents, Students, and Educators Demand Answers

February 2017
This page presents a petition asking Betsy DeVos to answer four questions:
1. Do you agree that all schools receiving public dollars must be held to the same accountability and transparency standards?
2. Will you agree not to privatize funding for Special Education of Title I?
3. Will you stand with educators and protect our most vulnerable students from discrimination, including LGBT students, immigrant students, students of color, girls and English language learners?
4. Will you focus, as educators are focused, on the civil rights of all children, regardless of their ZIP code, by challenging the inequities so many face in equal access to programs, services and support?

Ben Mathis-Lilley: Insane Betsy DeVos Press Release Celebrates Jim Crow Education System as Pioneer of “School Choice”
Slate, February 28, 2017

After a meeting at the White House with the leaders of historically black colleges and universities, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, in an apparent attempt to bring up her pet issue of school choice, praised the segregated higher education system of the Jim Crow South, sparking controversy.


Emma Brown: Influential conservative group: Trump, DeVos should dismantle Education Department and bring God into classrooms
Washington Post, February 15, 2017
A "five-page document produced by the Council for National Policy calls for a “restoration of education in America” that would minimize the federal role, promote religious schools and home schooling and enshrine “historic Judeo-Christian principles” as a basis for instruction.
Names of the council’s members are closely held. But the Southern Poverty Law Center published a 2014 membership directory showing that Stephen K. Bannon — now chief White House strategist for President Trump — was a member and that Kellyanne Conway — now counselor to the president — served on the council’s executive committee"

Ben Miller and Laura Jimenez: Inside the Financial Holdings of Billionaire Betsy DeVos
Center for American Progress, January 27, 2017
The article provides details of an Office of Government Ethics report of DeVos's investments indicating that she "profited from student loan misery;" has connections to a "major for-profit college" and investments in firms that also own for-profit colleges; has "dismissed early childhood education but profits from it;" has a "mysterious" $1 million-plus "education holding;" and more.

Ralph Ellis: Protesters Block Betsy Devos from Entering a Public School in Washington
CNN, February 10, 2017
The Washington Teachers' Union, BlackLivesMatter DC, and the Black Youth Project protested at a middle school that Education Secretary Betsy DeVos was scheduled to visit, holding signs and standing in front of her as she tried to enter. She left and returned later.

Michael Stratford: Devos Review Identifies 102 financial interests with potential conflicts
Politico, January 20, 2017
Article provides details of the financial interests of new Education Secretary Betsy Devos (confirmed on February 7), many of which she has agreed to divest from within 90 days of her confirmation. Her holdings in companies that provide services to schools and colleges, a corporate chain daycare company, education software developers, sellers of digital textbooks, and student loan debt collection agencies reveal the ways in which billionaires find education a lucrative investment market.

The American Federation for Children
SourceWatch
This discussion page provides detailed information about the "American Federation for Children," a group organized, funded, and chaired by Betsy DeVos. The page refers to it as "a conservative 501(c)(4) dark money group that promotes the school privatization agenda via the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and other avenues."

Valerie Strauss: Opposition Grows to Senate to Confirmation of Betsy DeVos, Trump's
Washington Post, January 10, 2017
"Her critics say that her long advocacy for vouchers and her push for lax regulation of charter schools reveals an antipathy to public education; they point to an August 2015 speech in which she said that the traditional public education system is a “dead end” and that “government truly sucks. Thousands of people have signed petitions, started Twitter campaigns and called congressional offices urging that DeVos not be confirmed."
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2017/01/10/opposition-grows-to-senate-confirmation-of-betsy-devos-trumps-education-nominee/?utm_term=.4df68ed111f1

James Vaznis: Crushing defeat leaves charter-school movement in limbo
Boston Globe, November 10, 2016
A majority of voters in nearly every Massachusetts community — including all the state’s cities — rejected the ballot question (62% to 32%) to expand charter schools, exceeding the worst-case scenario of supporters who hoped it would at least pass in urban areas. Although proponents were better financed, opponents won the the undecideds by sticking to a simple message: charter schools drain money from traditional schools. They also had a "ready-to-go" ground game led by teacher unions with members in every community.
Dylan Peers McCoy: Teach For America's PAC spends big on a local Indiana election, but no one quite knows why
Chalkbeat, November 1, 2016
"In a district where candidates typically spend less than $10,000 on even the most competitive races, Deitric Hall, a local teacher [who works for KIPP charter network], has raised more than $32,000. Nearly all that money is from a single political action committee: Leadership for Educational Equity, a Washington D.C.-based PAC that supports Teach for America alumni running for public office.... Since it became clear how much money Hall raised, other community members, including parents and even high school students, have become active in the race. They say they are motivated by concern over the role out-of-state funding is playing in Hall's campaign."

Daniel Bergerson: Don't Teach for America, Teach for Real

Columbia Spectator, October 12, 2016
"I almost fell for Teach For America. Its brochure told me I could “make a difference” after college by postponing my imaginary yet promising career for two short years in order to teach in a low-income area. As a senior in high school, I did not yet know that “making a difference” meant shortchanging students in need of real teachers, deprofessionalizing the teaching profession, and leading the charge to privatize schools." Article asserts that Teach For America "bankrolls the expansion of charter schools," and promotes "epistemological racism," "savior complexes," and "neoliberal ideology," while driving down teacher pay and professionalism.

Joel Warner: The Battle of Hastings: What's Behind the Netflix CEO's Fight to Charterize Public Schools?
Capital and Main, October 12, 2016
Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, who has stated that public schools are "hobbled" by elected boards, has donated more than $3.7 million to the California Charter Schools Association (CCSA)’s political action committee so far this election season. The article details Hastings' history as an education reformer, his backing of the heavily criticized Rocketship and failed California Charter Academy chains, and his contribution to the "lengthy dismantling" of bilingual education in California. “When tech industry leaders like Reed Hastings call for an elimination of school boards or for more privatization of public schools, they block low-income people from using the one instrument that the powerful can’t ignore – their vote.”

 

Kristina Rizga: Why Did Black Lives Matter and the NAACP Call for an End to More Charter Schools?

Mother Jones, August 15, 2016
The policy agenda of The Movement for Black Lives released in July argues that charters represent a shift of public funds and control to private entities. Along with "an end to the privatization of education," organizers are demanding increased investments in traditional community schools and the health and social services they provide. The statement comes just weeks after the NAACP also called for a freeze on charters. The article lists the most significant concerns charter school critics have cited over the years.

Rachel Slade: The Great Charter School Debate
Boston Magazine, September 2016
Legislation lifting the cap on the number of charter schools the state can have, and how many students they can enroll, is on the November ballot in Massachusetts. This article provides a detailed, even-handed breakdown of the issues and history of the charter school movement in Massachusetts. It concludes: "The charter school debate touches fundamental issues in our society: income disparity, unions, and private philanthropy in the public realm. These are elemental topics that Americans have grappled with for a couple of centuries, and right now in Boston, that drama is playing out in our public school system."

 

Kate Zernike:  Condemnation of Charter Schools Exposes Rift Over Black Students
New York Times, August 20, 2016
"The nation’s oldest and newest black civil rights organizations are calling for a moratorium on charter schools. Their demands, and the outcry that has ensued, expose a divide among blacks that goes well beyond the now-familiar complaints about charters’ diverting money and attention from traditional public schools."  Says NAACP President Cornell William Brooks, "This whole notion that charter schools are uniformly excellent, and therefore that people don’t even get to raise the question, is simply not the case.”
http://www.nytimes.com/2016/08/21/us/blacks-charter-schools.html?_r=1

Lauren Camera:  A House Divided:  Calls to Curb Charter Growth Are Putting Would-be Allies at Odds
U.S. News and World Report, August 12, 2016
"Charter schools have always represented a flashpoint in the education space. But the demands from the NAACP and the Black Lives Matter-affiliated groups highlight a new wrinkle: After years benefiting from a reform-friendly K-12 agenda that allowed its schools to flourish through the elimination of caps and increased funding at the state and federal levels, the charter sector now finds itself in the crosshairs of a burgeoning and wide-scale debate over who truly holds communities of color in their best interest."
http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2016-08-12/in-charter-school-fight-who-speaks-for-communities-of-color

 

CHARTER PERFORMANCE:

 

WCCUSD


Emma Brown and Todd C. Frankel: Facebook-backed school software shows promise - and raises privacy concerns
The Washington Post, October 11, 2016
Software used by Summit Public Schools, a charter chain that operates in the WCCUSD, is said to tailos lessons to individual students, track their progress, but also capture a stream of personal data that "could include names, email addresses, schoolwork, grades and Internet activity." Education experts also warn that "while using computers to personalize teaching might prove transformative, its effectiveness remains largely unproven."


BAY AREA

Joyce Tsai: Petition Demands Local, Long-Term Schools Superintendant
East Bay Times, February 15, 2017
About 3,000 people so far have signed a petition by the Justice for Oakland Students Coalition demanding a local, long-term superintendent of schools, rather than a candidate with no roots or history in the area. The petition also demands that the superintendent focus on high-quality education for African-American, Latino and high-need students, as well as stronger oversight of charter schools, and that he/she prioritize district-run schools, ending he proliferation of charter schools.
Darwin BondGraham: Toxic Vapors Discovered Inside Oakland School
East Bay Express, August 5, 2016
Soil and groundwater samples collected from underneath the Oakland Charter High School and Oakland Charter Academy campuses (run by Amethod Charter Schools) showed "elevated concentrations" of trichloroethylene (TCE) and other poisonous compounds. Air samples taken inside the school's buildings revealed vapors of TCE at levels exceeding safety limits set by the US EPA. TCE is known to cause cancer and developmental and neurological problems. In a familiar scenario, the privately-owned buildings are leased from a wealthy couple (the Richard S and Susan L Cochran Family Trust) and, unlike public buildings, were not subject to state DSA standards. Because the site is privately owned, the charter school operator was responsible for obtaining legal clearance and conducting an environmental review.

Amy Hollyfield: About 400 Parents Pull Kids Out of Livermore Charter Schools

ABC7 News, August 23, 2016
Livermore Valley Charter Prep School and Livermore Valley Charter School (run by Tri-Valley Learning corporation) are facing parental outrage and accusations of financial mismanagement. The problems, according to Livermore administrators, who have been investigating the schools since February, include not paying rent, not paying teachers and transferring foreign exchange students to Stockton against their will (the latter is being investigated by local prosecutors as possible "false imprisonment"). The schools were questioned in 2015 by administrators about their financing scheme (which involved selling investors a $30 million municipal bond to finance the purchase of a new high school building), but were simply accused of "not liking charters."

http://abc7news.com/education/about-400-parents-pull-kids-out-of-livermore-charter-schools/1481008/


CALIFORNIA

Harold Blume: L.A. Unified decides fate of six charter schools; El Camino leader resigns
Los Angeles Times, October 18, 2016
The L.A. school board's vote was 6 to 0 against a five-year renewal for three schools operated by locally-based Magnolia Educational and Research Foundation. Board member George McKenna abstained. The district agreed to stay a revocation process that would have returned El Camino (accused of misappropriation of funds) to the control of the L.A. Unified School District. But founding executive director, David Fehte, consented to leave within the next week. Several governing board members also are expected to depart over the next several months.

 

NATIONAL:

Michael Hiltzik: Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is getting some very bad news about her favorite thing, school vouchers
Los Angeles Times, February 28, 2017
Numerous recent studies about school vouchers report huge declines of academic achievement among students in voucher programs, especially in Louisiana, Ohio and Indiana. (Article provides details from the studies.) DeVos "seems to favor the least restrictive and most market-oriented policies... This research does not support that view. In fact, it may support the idea that that approach is harmful to student learning.”

Diane Ravitch: Betsy DeVos: I Will Replace The Failed Ideas Of Bush-Obama With My Own Failed Ideas

Huffington Post, February 23, 2017
Article details the ways in which Betsy DeVos's "innovative ideas" are "the same old retreads of the privatization movement" and asserts that evaluations of voucher programs in Milwaukee, Cleveland, the District of Columbia, Louisiana, and Indiana have found no gains for students enrolled in voucher schools, and that the overwhelming majority of charter studies have found that charters perform no better than public schools unless they exclude children with disabilities, English language learners, and behavior problems.

Tom Gralish: Public Schools Step Up Fight to Win Back Charter Students
Phily.com (Philadelphia Inquirer Daily News), February 12, 2017
"Each year, Quakertown Community spends about $2 million on students who choose to attend charters rather than their public schools. As tuition payments to charters bite ever deeper into the budgets of virtually every district in the region, some are beginning aggressive campaigns to win kids back. Their strategies range from direct-mail marketing, to boisterous “back-to-school” rallies with bouncy castles, to pricey new programs such as all-day kindergarten."

Valerie Strauss: What taxpayers should know about the cost of school choice
Washington Post, January 26, 2017
Article focuses primarily on the many scandals occurring at charters and private schools benefit from taxpayer-funded vouchers, due mainly the lack of oversight.

Douglas Harris: Betsy DeVos and the Wrong Way to Fix Schools

New York Times: November 25, 2016
Article states that the nomination of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education is a "clear sign that Mr. Trump intends a major national push to direct public funds to private and charter schools." It makes the argument that, based on DeVos's results in "reforming" schools in Michigan, her confirmation will most likely be a loss for students. Details are provided to back up the claim that, because of poor results and lack of oversight, she is the author of the "biggest school reform disaster in the country." Ann Shimke and Eric Gorski: How a Colorado court case could change how public schools everywhere serve students with special needs
Chalkbeat, January 11, 2017
On January 11, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in a case that will decide what kind of education public schools must provide students with disabilities. The original case involved a suburban Denver school district and a student diagnosed with autism and attention deficit/hyperactive disorder. His parents pulled him out of his public elementary school, saying he wasn't making enough progress, and sued the district to pay for a private school for children with autism. The decision will affect districts across the nation, and will hinge on whether school districts should provide a "meaningful" education and what that means.

Valerie Strauss/Carol Burris: A disturbing look at how charter schools are hurting a traditional school district
Washington Post, January 9
A "cautionary tale" about the damage to public schools done by charter schools in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and a strong rebuttal to the argument charter proponents make is that since the school is no longer educating the student, the per-pupil amount it sends to the charter represents savings for the district: "If class size is reduced from 28 to 27, or even to 25, you still must retain the teacher and her salary remains the same. The school does not lose a principal, custodian, cafeteria server or school nurse, even when sizable numbers leave. You can't lower the heat or turn off the lights because some students and their funding have left for charters"


Andrew Vanacore: What New Orleans Can Teach Betsy DeVos About Charter Schools
Politico Magazine, January 9, 2017
Soon to become the only big city in the country without a single traditional public school run by a central office, New Orleans' charter schools have succeeded in bringing up test scores. However, as this article demonstrates, just because one charter school system works, doesn't mean every charter school system works, and New Orleans hasalso discovered a lot of the ways that a system based on giving parents choice can go wrong. Unlike Michigan, where Betsy DeVos just helped kill a state law that would have made it easier to close failing charters, Louisiana has been fairly aggressive about closing charters that underperform, including charters that encourage special needs students to go elsewhere.
http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2017/01/what-new-orleans-can-teach-betsy-devos-about- charter-schools-214610

Samuel Abrams: Op-Ed: Forget charter schools and vouchers — here are five business ideas school reformers should adopt
Los Angeles Times, January 8, 2017
This thoroughly researched opinon piece discusses the history of free-market education models (vouchers, charter schools) in the United States and other countries, reporting that such models have yielded uneven academic results, widened achievement and socioeconomic gaps, and depressed teacher pay. (For example, after controlling for demographics, Michigan, home state of Trump-nominated Devos and her commercially-run charter schools, introduced in 1992, ranks 47th out of all states in reading and math). It then provides five business concepts that educators should embrace: early investment, efficiency wage theory, internal talent development (teacher retention, grooming administrators from within--as opposed to the charter school model of putting outsiders without classroom experience in charge), evaluate/reward system (not individual) performance,
and detailed analysis of small samples, instead of across-the-board testing.

C.J. Polychroniou and Lily Sage: Noam Chomsky on the Perils of Market-Driven Education
Truthout, October 22, 2016
In this detailed interview, Noam Chomsky discusses historical trends in public education, and the harmfulness of market-driven education tendencies, which he believes should be "regarded as part of the general neoliberal assault on the public."

Jonathan Kozol: Opinion: Vote No on Charter Schools

Boston Globe, October 27, 2016
Kozol makes the following arguments against lifting the cap on charters in Massachusetts: in terms of performance, "charter schools are not running circles around the public schools that serve the vast majority of children;" the effort is being funded by billionaires with right-wing ideologies who have been trying to privatize schools for decades; charter schools are significantly more likely than their public counterparts to be profoundly segregated; selective enrollment (even if unintentional) and "load-shedding" skew charter schools' results; and charters drain off "enormous sums of money from already-underfunded public schools."

Steven Zimmerman: Opinion: Now's the Time to Reset Charter School Debate

WNYC, September 30, 2016
Nuanced argument by the director of an organization of independent charter schools for reforming a charter school movement that has "lost its way:" "As a long-time progressive educator, I'm happy to concede several important points to [education] reformers. First, we should not make excuses for an inability to provide a great education to all our children. Second, despite misgivings about the narrowness of standardized tests, the data gathered from them is valuable and actionable. There is merit, too, in the civil rights argument that if we were not sufficiently shaming ourselves over the poor academic outcomes from black and brown children we might be insufficiently moved to address the achievement gap. I respect those arguments and credit reformers for forcing them. But ed-reform orthodoxy has had a chilling effect on what should be a joyous vocation and it has narrowed programs and goals, especially in charter schools."

Sean Sullivan and Emma Brown: Trump pitches $20 billion Education Plan at Ohio Charter School that Received Poor Marks from State
Washington Post, September 8, 2016
Donald Trump made a pitch in Cleveland for the "school choice" movement — at a charter school that has received failing grades from the Ohio Department of Education for its students' performance and progress on state math and reading tests. "I'm proposing a plan to provide school choice to every disadvantaged student in America," Trump said. The academy is a K-8 school where fewer than half the students scored proficient or above on standardized math and reading tests in 2014-2015."

Brian Washington: New Report: Taxpayers lose $216 million to charter waste, fraud, and abuse
Education Votes, June 1, 2016
A new report entitled "Charter School Vulnerabilities to Waste, Fraud and abuse" by the Center for Popular Democracy concludes that taxpayers in 15 stateshave lost about $216 million to charter-school waste, fraud, abuse, and mismanagement. Article gives some specific examples in Atlanta and Kansas City, and adds that state, local, and federal governments nationwide could lose more than $1.8 billion this year due to deficiencies related to oversight. The report states that within the last 20 years, the federal government has given more than $3.3 billion to states to increase its number of charter schools.
Valerie Strauss: Will the Thing that Charter Schools Love So Much Be Their Undoing?
Washington Post, August 26, 2016
Article introduces a post by Carol Burris, a former New York high school principal who is now executive director of the nonprofit Network for PublicEducation. Burris explains why putting the word “public” in front of “charter school” is “an affront” to people for whom public education is a mission, and looks at whether charter schools can properly be compared with district public schools. She points to facts such as that only 4 percent of New York’s charter students are English Language Learners, as compared with over three times as many — 13 percent — of the grades 3-8 students in New York City public schools, and other things that make it impossible to compare test scores.

Brian Washington: Mom of Special Needs Student Says Mass. Voters Need to Hear Her Charter School Nightmare
Education Votes, August 15, 2016
Based on her son's experience at a local charter school, parent Amanda Ceide is urging Massachusetts voters to defeat a ballot measure this November that would lift the state's cap on charter schools. If it the cap is lifted, she believes it will lead to more charter schools where minority and special needs students, like her son, who is both, face a disproportionate number of suspensions for minor, non-violent offenses. She also thinks it will create an education system where financially strapped public schools struggle to meet the needs of our most vulnerable kids. In Massachusetts, charter schools are not legally required to hire licensed teachers or anyone formally trained in early, secondary, or special education.

 

Sarah K. Satullo: Why this School Director is Fired Up about Charter School Ads
Lehigh Valley Live, August 9, 2016
Frustrated by money being funneled away from local public schools, Bethlehem [Pennsylvania] Area School District board member is filing a Right-to-Know request to find out how much Innovative Arts Academy Charter School spent on full-page color ads in the local paper. He wants parents to know that charters are allowed to operate by different rules than regular public schools and that the school district is being forced to spend $26 million on charter and cyber school tuitions this year and that such schools are, therefore, not "free" as their ads claim.

Emily Deruy: How Black Lives Matter Activists Plan to Fix Schools
The Atlantic, August 5, 2016
Citing statistics showing that public schools remain highly segregated, with black children disproportionately likely to attend schools with fewer resources and concentrated poverty, that four of the 10 biggest school districts in the country have more security officers than counselors; and that spending on corrections increased by 324 percent between 1979 and 2013, while spending on education rose just 107 percent during that time, Black Lives Matter activists are calling for reforms that include: a constitutional amendment for “fully funded” education (activists say federal funding is inadequate and not distributed equally), a moratorium on charter schools, the removal of police from schools, and the closure of all juvenile detention centers.
http://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2016/08/the-ambitious-education-plan-of-the-black-lives-matter-movement/494711/

Chris Savage: Two Michigan For-profit Charter Schools Being Held Accountable for Breaking the Law
Electablog, August 5, 2016
Detroit Community Schools, a charter school located in a low-income, underserved corner of Detroit, has been ordered to repay the state $144,000 after it illegally employed two unlicensed administrators. (In addition, out of the hundreds of students it has graduated since 2007, the charter has had only three pass the ACT.) Another Detroit charter, Universal Academy, run by Hamadeh Educational Services, an “educational services corporation," fired eight teachers, last winter, six of whom had attended a January school board meeting to draw attention to mistreatment of students and other problems at the school. The teachers filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board, which upheld it and ordered the corporation to restore the teachers to their former positions.

LEGAL ISSUES


National

 

Mitchell Robinson: Private school vouchers: A solution in search of a problem

Electablog, February 25, 2017
Article provides detailed evidence for each of its claims that vouchers: are overwhelmingly unpopular with voters, contribute to school segregation, don’t help poor families attend the “school of their choice,” and lead students who use them to perform worse academically than their peers in public schools.

Brian Washington: Five Names Politicians Use to Sell Private-School Voucher Schemes to Parents

Education Votes, February 8, 2017
Article discusses the ways in which public school budgets are "hijacked" to fund private and religious schools under a number of different names that obscure the intent: Opportunity Scholarships, Parental Choice Scholarships, Tuition Tax Credits, Education Savings Accounts, Charitable Tax Credits.

Andy Grimm: Chicago Public Schools Adds Community Input to School Closing, Consolidation Process
Chicago Sun Times, October 1, 2016
Chicago Public Schools, which is headed by a Chief Executive Officer and an unelected school board appointed by the mayor, has developed new, more democratic requirements for consolidating schools and changing attendance boundaries, and spelled out how it will shut down charters that fail to meet benchmarks for student achievement or financial management. The changes come in a climate of backlash against Mayor Rahm Emanuel over the handling of the Laquan McDonald shooting. The Illinois House this spring passed a bill that would create an elected, 21-member board to oversee CPS, replacing the smaller group appointed by the mayor.

Jeff Bryant: Elizabeth Warren Clarifies the Charter School Debate
Common Dreams, September 29, 2016
The author of this opinion piece discusses Warren's stance against a Massachusetts proposition that would raise the cap on charters in the state, in light of the charter school movement, which has proven to be, he asserts, a drain on local schools, an exclusionary approach to schooling, a favored cause of big money, and at odds with progressive causes.

CALIFORNIA

Arnold Alder:  Judge Rules for Huntington Park in Charter Schools Suit

Wave Newspapers, May 5, 2017
A Los Angeles Superior Court Judge ruled in favor of the city of Huntington Park in a suit brought against it by the California Charter Schools Association (CCSA), upholding the city’s right to take overall community concerns into account with its land use policies. The CCSA filed suit on Nov. 3 after the City Council approved a moratorium on new charter schools, saying it needed to review zoning laws to find the best location for such schools to both protect students and avoid inconveniences such as traffic congestion and parking overflow to residents. 

Valerie Strauss: Why California’s Charter School Sector is Called ‘the Wild West’
Washington Post, September 28, 2016
The second of four articles on charter schools in California, which has more charters and more students in charters than any other state. Among the problems, it discusses: the ACLU's finding that the enrollment policies of over 20% of California charter schools violate state and federal law; charter schools opening without the permission of the school district in which they reside; over $310 million in state funding given to the largest for-profit charter operator in the country, which has “a dismal record of academic achievement;" egregious instances of misappropriation of funds. "What these reveal is a state charter law that allows the schools to operate loosely, with little if any accountability or transparency to the public."

BAY AREA

Bill Raden:  Trouble in Eden: A Divided Marin County Gets a New Charter School
Capital and Main, May 18, 2017
Brushing aside local concerns that "one of our neighborhood public schools that serves all of the children is not going to have enough numbers to justify staying open," the California State Board of Education granted a charter school authorization to open in Ross Valley in January of last year.  Now the affluent, liberal community is "belatedly waking up to the sobering realities of the 'school choice' movement and a neoliberal ideology that sees marketplace competition as a cure-all, and redefines citizens as consumers even as it hollows out California’s most cherished of democratic institutions." Said PTA President Heather Bennett, “It’s a solution to a problem that didn’t exist, and it actually creates a problem that need not exist."

Rick Raden:  Plans to Phase Out Richmond Adult School Draw Protest
East Bay Times, May 11, 2017
Plans to phase out the Serra adult school campus (Ralston Ave., Richmond) in favor of an elementary school total immersion program in Mandarin Chinese are being protested by teachers and students at Serra. The WCCUSD plans to begin the immersion program this fall with three kindergarten classes at the Serra Adult School and to add new kindergarten classes each year until the school reaches full capacity. Protestors say the change might make it impossible for the adult students, most of whom are low-income and non-English speakers, to get the education they need to get jobs and participate in society. Most Serra students come from the northern areas of Richmond and from San Pablo