| 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.
|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.
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). 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
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.
Public Core welcomes articles by parents, teachers, and community members
Intelligence Squared Debate
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
A number of bills are moving through the California legislature that will restrict the growth of Charter Schools in the state:
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:
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
Money flows in from outside West Contra Costa
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.
Public schools leading the way with good food
Chef Alice Waters at Peres and Madera
"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."