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

Support for Charter School Moratorium Grows

The June 2107 California-Nevada Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church has adopted a resolution of support for the NAACP position calling for a moratorium on establishing new charter schools. The resolution also calls for local churches to engage in study of the charter issue and assist public schools with after-school and parenting enrichment programs, updated library materials and teacher appreciation programs.  The Conference represents over 350 churches and 80,000 Methodists in Northern California and Nevada.

There is increasing recognition among organizations concerned about social welfare and democracy that the growth of charter schools and privatization of educational services has become a threat to the existence of public schools. In a society of increasing inequality, public schools are essential to the health of our democracy, ensuring an equal playing field for all members of society and serving as an important multi-cultural experience in a multi-cultural society.

Nevada-California United Methodist Conference Resolution

NAACP Resolution

United Teachers of Richmond Resolution 


NYTimes Editorial Board:  School Districts Fight Segregation on their Own

New York Times, June 26, 2017

Article provides evidence that public schools are more racially segregated today than a half century ago, with three-quarters of black and Hispanic children attending schools where most students come from low-income families, something that’s true for only about a third of white children. It asserts that economic isolation undermines academic achievement among the poor while depriving all young people of experiences that would prepare them for living and working in a multiracial society, and discusses how districts in scores of states have recognized the dangers of racial and socioeconomic isolation and are taking steps to bring together children of different backgrounds, primarily by taking socioeconomic status into account as they assign children to schools.

No "Bond Scandal" After All

The so-called WCCUSD "Bond Scandal" is over, as much as those who benefit from draining resources away from our district would like to believe otherwise.

Just like former probes--by the FBI, FPPC, District Attorney, etc.--the SEC investigation has turned up no wrongdoing. Exhaustive subpoenas issued at both the county and district levels cost our students millions of dollars and failed to find a scandal. The “Forensic Audit” was also a bust; no elected official has ever been indicted, let alone tried or convicted. The entire affair can be likened to our very own “Benghazi” for anti-tax zealots, and those with a vested interest in district failure. Now what? Children in West County still deserve state-of-the-art schools, but the bond program has been eviscerated by those who appear to believe otherwise. 

Richmond Mayor Tom Butt called this “another dry hole” for bond critics. "After three years, the much ballyhooed Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) investigation of the WCCUSD bond program ended the same way it started – with no finding of any illegal activity. What it did do is cost the taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars – maybe hundreds of thousands – in legal fees and other costs required to provide documents and records."

The claims about the "Scandal" have been a big part of the "Derogatory Drumbeat" against the public school system. See the article below.


Invictus Charter Application comes to County Board

The Invictus Charter application, rejected by the WCC Board, is now being heard by the County Board on September 6 in Pleasanton.

Our local Board turned down the Invictus Academy of Richmond on July 19. Voting for: Block, Panas. Against:Phillips, Kroneberg, Cuevas. Click here for the presentation, and petition. See item E4 here for links to the attached documents.

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


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 Reading List

 

WCCUSD:

Jim Miller:  California approved $9 billion for schools. Why aren’t we spending the money?

Sacramento Bee, August 25, 2017

In November of 2016, fifty-five percent of voters approved the $9 billion school-construction measure, Proposition 51, which passed in two-thirds of California's cities and 32 of the state’s 58 counties. Yet nine months later, the state has not sold any of the authorized bonds. Article discusses why, and provides a list of hundreds of projects long that shows WCCUSD projects as seventh, ninth, tenth, and thirteenth in line for this funding.
{link}

Staff Writer:  13 WCCUSD Elementary Schools Earn Gold Ribbon Award

Richmond Standard, April 14, 2016
WCCUSD elementary schools won the state award for their implementation of state-adopted academic content and performance standards, including Peres for its Efficacy Model ("Think you can, work hard, get smart"), and Washington for its dual immersion program. The full list of winners is:  Coronado, Farimont, Hanna Ranch, Harding, Kensington, Madera, Montalvin, Olinda, Peres, Riverside, Sheldon, Valley View, and Washington.
{Link}     {Link to WCCUSD press release}  

 

NATIONAL
Karen Rivedal:  Madison School Board Rejects Contract for District's First Public Montessori School
Wisconsin State Journal, August 22, 2017
Continuing concerns over adequate staffing, student demographics, and budget issues sank the proposal to convert a private, tuition-based K-9 Montessori school to a tuition-free charter school under a complicated arrangement that would have let the school continue to charge private tuition for kindergarten for 3-year-olds in the same classroom as young public students in the school. {link}

Scott O'Connell:  School Choice Initiative Drains $ from Hard-hit Districts, Critics Say
Telegram.com, Worcester Massachusetts, August 19, 2017
Some public school officials believe that a program meant to "give families the freedom to choose their child’s education" has instead widened the gap between "the haves -- wealthier suburban systems – and the have-nots – urban and rural school systems," because of the way funding works, which ends up causing districts that are "already challenged in terms of the demographics they serve," to end up subsidizing suburban districts. The state legislature has passed several bills to rein in the program, primarily by capping the number of school choice students districts can accept. Article details the many ways public schools lose out in "choice" systems.  {link}

Mercedes Schneider:  A Teach for America Curiosity: When the Houseplants Outrank TFA 
deutsch29, Mercedes Schneider Edu blog, August 19, 2017
Article provides thorough analysis of Teach for America, including links to lists of wealthy backers, skimpy training program that treats teaching like a temp job, and lack of ongoing commitment from program teachers.  {link}

Edward Ortiz, Ben Chapman: Protesters Outside Success Academy Charter School Call for Dan Loeb's Resignation
New York Daily News, August 18, 2017
"Protesters stormed Success Academy Harlem 1 charter school on Friday demanding that charter school chairman Daniel Loeb be fired for making racist comments about a black lawmaker... The politically connected hedge fund manager came under fire for his Aug. 10 Facebook post saying that Senate Democratic leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, of Yonkers, has done 'more damage to people of color than anyone who has ever donned a hood.' Loeb's statement, which seemingly referenced the Ku Klux Klan, prompted critics such as Mayor de Blasio and National Action Network founder Rev. Al Sharpton to call for his dismissal.  {link}

Taylor Morgan: Betsy DeVos on Affirmative Action, Sexual Assault, and her Controversial HBCU Comment
Detroit Free Press, August 15, 2017
Article details statements DeVos made in support of minorities in a recent interview with the Associated Press, and asks how these statements square with her refusal to protect LGBTQ students, her voucher proposal that would cost $20 billion in federal funding, and her reiteration of her belief that historically black colleges were "real pioneers when it comes to school choice."  {link}

Valerie Strauss, NAACP sticks by its call for charter school moratorium, says they are ‘not a substitute’ for traditional public schools
Washington Post, July 26, 2017
Last fall, the NAACP called for a moratorium on charter schools until the charter sector is reformed and steps are taken to ensure that traditional public school districts are not financially harmed by them. It created a 12-member task force that traveled to seven cities to take testimony about charters and ultimately concluded that, “while high quality, accountable and accessible charters can contribute to educational opportunity, by themselves, even the best charters are not a substitute for more stable, adequate and equitable investments in public education in the communities that serve our children.”  {link}

Valerie Strauss, Florida’s Education System — the one Betsy DeVos cites as a model — Is in Chaos
Washington Post, July 22, 2017
"Traditional public school districts are trying to absorb the loss of millions of dollars for the new school year that starts within weeks. That money, which comes from local property taxes, is used for capital funding but now must be shared with charter schools as a result of a widely criticized $419 million K-12 public education bill crafted by Republican legislative leaders in secret and recently signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott — at a Catholic school... At a recent meeting of the Florida Board of Education, superintendents warned that the new fund-sharing requirement puts their school buildings at risk. Miami-Dade Schools Superintendent Alberto M. Carvalho was quoted by WTVYas saying: “You really could see the potential unraveling of long-term maintenance and construction for public school systems across the state.""  {link}

 

 

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."

 

Animation from the Network for Public Education