Charter Grounded -- for now
County Board Rejects Rocketship!!
By the time corporate charter chain Rocketship (backed by Betsy Devos’s Department of Education to the tune of a $12.6-million grant last October), reached the West Contra Costa County Board of Education meeting on Wednesday, April 11, it had been given ample opportunity to make its case. At a previous County BOE hearing, for example, it was allowed unlimited time for presentations, time not granted equally to those opposing its petition or to anyone representing the WCCUSD, the district targeted by it. Yet, at the Wednesday, April 11, 2018, hearing at which the County BOE would vote on the petition, Rocketship was given still more time to present Powerpoint slides in response to the findings of a BOE staff report raising concerns about its management structure and approach to Special Education, among other things. One attendee was overheard comparing the situation to a graduate student failing oral exams yet immediately being granted a “do-over.”
As if this constant procedural stacking-of-the-deck in favor of the powerful, moneyed forces backing privately-run charters were not discouraging enough, those opposing the petition from the WCCUSD, if they managed to get off work early enough to sit through an hour of rush hour traffic to attend the 5:00 pm meeting in Pleasant Hill, were greeted outside by a large private bus and a gauntlet of pizza boxes and stacks of purple T-shirts for Rocketship supporters. Inside, the billionaire-backed busload of people who had arrived earlier sat together on one side of the room wearing the matching T-shirts and waving signs they drew from a stack provided for them. The message on many of the signs read: “Parents deserve options. That’s democracy.” Considering that one of the concerns raised by BOE staff was that Rocketship only promised to “consider” holding public meetings once a year in the WCCUSD, the sentiment was not without irony.
Regardless of the obstacles, defenders of public education persisted. And this time, all of the money spent to defeat them was not enough. The final vote, not delivered until 10:20 p.m., denied the petition. One board member later said her vote to deny was based in large part on Rocketship’s inability to answer questions relating to Special Ed.
Voting in FAVOR of the petition:
Voting to DENY the petition:
Now, presumably, it’s on to the State Board of Education, where Rocketship will likely renew its attempt to co-locate at a WCCUSD school. Stay tuned, because we will need speak out against this effort as well, since the State Board of Education has traditionally favored charter petitions.
Let them know they should respect our School Board’s decision.
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, publiccore.net
If we want real transparency in public schools, we should start with the parent petition that charters use to start the grab ofpublic money for their own use. The petition should say in large type:
"I understand that if this charter school is established it will likely mean closing a neighborhood school"