Charters succed in "Rattle the Capitol” campaign

The California Charter School Association urged supporters to “Rattle the Capitol,” (the California Assembly) to defeat AB 1478 that would require  Charter schools and Charter Management Organizations using public funds, to comply with the California Public Records Act. The act makes records available for public inspection.  We are sorry to report that this simple demand for transparency was defeated with only 27 votes in favor. The Democrats hold a 2/3 majority super majority of the 78 seats!)(graphic from CSEA campaign)



On January 17 the WCCUSD Board of Education voted to deny The Rocketshop petition


  • Rocketship will likely appeal to the Contra Costa Board of Education.
  • Join the Public Core email list: to find when theappeal will be heard.

Background :  “Rocketship San Pablo”

At the November 15 School Board meeting, there was a fantastic turnout of families, community members, educators, and other supporters for our local, district public schools. The San Pablo community was well-represented, with students, parents, and teachers from Lake, Bayview, Dover, Downer and Helms. Not one single parent from San Pablo was there to show support for Rocketship. However, Rocketship bussed in families fromANTIOCH to the meeting to advocate for the charter.

What we heard

  • Rocketship Charter presented its petition at the meeting
  • Passionate speeches were given by the public opposing charters in WCCUSD
  • Questions by the WCCUSD School Board included:
    • Is Rocketship willing to pay its fair share of the financial impact on WCCUSD? (no clear answers)
    • Where are the San Pablo parents in favor of Rocketship? (none present)
    • How will Rocketship respond if its employees want to unionize? (no clear answer)
  • Date for vote on Rocketship’s application:  Not set
  • Facilities:  Rocketship said they will first try to seek private investment (but based on their actions in five other districts, we know they will ask for one of our school sites. We cannot lose a school to this outside group!)
  • Petition can be viewed on the WCCUSD website

See attachment to November 15, 2017 Board Agenda
F.3. Initial Public Hearing for Rocketship San Pablo Elementary Charter Petition


We will let you know the date of the vote as soon as it is determined.
Thanks to everyone for your support!


See the Untied Teachers of Richmond report and photos here.


Is YOUR neighborhood school at risk for closure?


There are THIRTEEN charter schools currently in WCCUSD. If this encroachment on enrollment continues, WCCUSD may not have the finances be able to continue to operate all of our current traditional public schools.

Rocketship Charter School management company has petitioned WCCUSD for a charter school in San Pablo. If approved, which school will have to be closed? Lake? Bayview? Dover?  Which neighborhood will a charter management company target next?  It could be your school.

Now is the time to STAND TOGETHER for ALL  of our children!

We need to make this fundamental choice clear to our WCCUSD Board:
We want to invest our money in the diverse, inclusive public schools our students deserve, not divert funds to form charter schools that are run by private outside companies -- without local, transparent, elected boards.

What is Rocketship?

  • Charter management company founded by John Danner, a tech multi-millionaire who made his fortune from internet advertising.  
  • Employer of uncredentialed teachers who run computer labs, where young children spend up to 80 to 100 minutes daily.
  • Another charter school group where the “proof” of better test scores is questionable.

Genoveva Calloway, Vice Mayor City of San Pablo
Joanna Pace, Spokesperson,

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.


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. 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

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."

Sign in Ross
photo: Suzanne Balmaceda

Seen in Ross, Marin County

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


$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.

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


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}  


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, 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