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 contact us at info@PublicCore.net


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 reshaping society.

That’s what’s happening here in West Contra Costa County. We have a vibrant but dysfunctional school district that has big love for its kids. We rightfully see them as our future – and we have voted repeatedly over the past 12 years to fund a huge bond program to give kids the great facilities they need to thrive and grow.

Despite the handicap of being a six-city behemoth with more than 70 percent of our students at or near the poverty line, and a good bit of the rest in the upper middle class, we have been steadily replacing our old buildings. Despite the fact that our district was in state receivership less than 20 years ago, we have been slowly making academic gains. But too slowly of course, for anyone’s satisfaction.

Enter the exploiters, stage right. They write the petition, fill it with boilerplate material any college freshman can find on the internet, get about 100 signatures, ironing-board style, and then descend on the next Board meeting. It matters little whether there is real demand – the marketing budgets are more than ample to create the necessary aura of superiority and scarcity. It also does not matter if the founders have any authentic connection to our community, or whether they have any place to operate the very large schools they have imagined.

What they know is that, under current law, just by virtue of filing the petition, the District owes them a building. These are businesses that are here to shelter the investments of their founders, to serve as test-beds for software under development, and to squeeze efficiencies from the public schools. They have ticked the boxes of the petition template. They know that the law, in a failure of imagination, does not allow a school board to deny a petition for lack of authentic demand, lack of a space to operate, or even questionable educator credentials. So they are home free before they have even broken a sweat.

And this is how we find ourselves witnessing a sale of a public property worth tens of millions of dollars to a disgraced investment banker cum school founder for less than the cost of a used motor home. Our school board tells us that our choice is between this, and consolidating decades-old neighborhood schools to give the buildings to the charter operators. But the real choice we must make is to fix the law that currently allows this kind of craven manipulation of our public education system.

We must call on our legislators to fix the law that allows these privately operated schools so many dibs for public resources. We have to stand up to the increasingly aggressive and hypocritical California Charter School Association as it seeks to put every charter school at the front of the line for public resources.

--PublicCore
5/23/16