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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.

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Charters and the Law

Articles which address some of the legal issues involving charter schools


Karina Ioffe:  Richmond Considering Regulations of Charter Schools
East Bay Times, May 13?, 2016
In yet another challenge in the wake of attacks by public school teachers, parents and other critics who accuse charters of cherry-picking students, leaving districts with less money and the most challenging students, Richmond wants to require proposed charter schools to apply for a conditional use permit that would give the city the option to require additional information to prove that the site is suitable for children.


Bill Raden:  Trouble in Eden: A Divided Marin County Gets a New Charter School
Capital and Main, May 18, 2017
Brushing aside local concerns that "one of our neighborhood public schools that serves all of the children is not going to have enough numbers to justify staying open," the California State Board of Education granted a charter school authorization to open in Ross Valley in January of last year.  Now the affluent, liberal community is "belatedly waking up to the sobering realities of the 'school choice' movement and a neoliberal ideology that sees marketplace competition as a cure-all, and redefines citizens as consumers even as it hollows out California’s most cherished of democratic institutions." Said PTA President Heather Bennett, “It’s a solution to a problem that didn’t exist, and it actually creates a problem that need not exist."

Rick Raden:  Plans to Phase Out Richmond Adult School Draw Protest
East Bay Times, May 11, 2017
Plans to phase out the Serra adult school campus (Ralston Ave., Richmond) in favor of an elementary school total immersion program in Mandarin Chinese are being protested by teachers and students at Serra. The WCCUSD plans to begin the immersion program this fall with three kindergarten classes at the Serra Adult School and to add new kindergarten classes each year until the school reaches full capacity. Protestors say the change might make it impossible for the adult students, most of whom are low-income and non-English speakers, to get the education they need to get jobs and participate in society. Most Serra students come from the northern areas of Richmond and from San Pablo

Evan Sternoffsky:  State Report Finds Resource Disparity in a Marin School District
SFGate, August 30, 2016
A scathing report issued by California's Fiscal Crisis & Management Assistance Team found that a Marin County school district has been funneling resources to a Sausalito charter school, away from a nearby Marin City school that has a majority black population, potentially segregating the schools in violation of federal civil rights laws. The report found that leaders of Sausolito's Willow Creek Academy “exercise significant control” over most of the district’s board members, making for a “clearly biased financial arrangement” that benefits the charter. Students at the underperforming Bayside MLK, meanwhile, continue to fall behind as money is diverted from the school to pay for the charter school.

Mark Prado: State: Sausalito-Marin City [School] Board Hurts Minorities with Focus on Charter School
Marin Independent Journal, August 11, 2016
"In a highly critical report, a state education task force concluded the Sausalito Marin City School District board favors the district’s charter school in Sausalito to the detriment of minority children who attend a traditional campus in Marin City. The report also suggests that the way board members are elected could be challenged legally, because it denies minorities equal access to representation, and that the district could be liable for civil rights violations."

Victoria Kezra:  Trial between the City of Sunnyvale and Summit Charter School over Zoning Rules Comes to a Close
San Jose Mercury News, March 17, 2016
A Sunnyvale judge has 90 days to decide whether the Summit charter school chain will be able to continue operating at a Sunnyvale location not zoned for a school. Summit established a school there in violation of zoning rules because its board of directors concluded that, as a charter, it was its own "school district" and therefore exempt from zoning laws.

Steve Rosenfeld:  California Board of Ed Tramples on Local Control, Pushes Charter School on Poor Community that Doesn't Want It
Alternet, March 12, 2016
Contra Costa County and the Mount Diablo School District rejected the charter of national charter franchise Rocketship, stating that its computer-centric learning program, to be supervised by uncredentialed "Learning Specialists," was unsound. When the state approved the charter anyway, they concluded that "the system is rigged for charters and against local control."


Arnold Alder:  Judge Rules for Huntington Park in Charter Schools Suit

Wave Newspapers, May 5, 2017
A Los Angeles Superior Court Judge ruled in favor of the city of Huntington Park in a suit brought against it by the California Charter Schools Association (CCSA), upholding the city's right to take overall community concerns into account with its land use policies. The CCSA filed suit on Nov. 3 after the City Council approved a moratorium on new charter schools, saying it needed to review zoning laws to find the best location for such schools to both protect students and avoid inconveniences such as traffic congestion and parking overflow to residents. 

Valerie Strauss: Why California’s Charter School Sector is Called ‘the Wild West’
Washington Post, September 28, 2016
The second of four articles on charter schools in California, which has more charters and more students in charters than any other state. Among the problems, it discusses: the ACLU's finding that the enrollment policies of over 20% of California charter schools violate state and federal law; charter schools opening without the permission of the school district in which they reside; over $310 million in state funding given to the largest for-profit charter operator in the country, which has “a dismal record of academic achievement;" egregious instances of misappropriation of funds. "What these reveal is a state charter law that allows the schools to operate loosely, with little if any accountability or transparency to the public."
Maureen Magee:  Satellite Charter Schools Under Fire
San Diego Tribune, October 22, 2016
"California’s booming satellite charter school industry that has persevered through lawsuits, scandals and turf wars suffered a blow this past week when a state appellate court ruled hundreds of the campuses are illegally operating outside their districts." San Diego Unified said that it was “fully prepared and has sufficient capacity to absorb those students currently attending these charter schools, with fully robust, higher quality independent study and online learning programs as well as traditional and blended programs. Our graduation rate far exceeds that of many of these and our district provides integrated support not available from these charters.”


Valerie Strauss:  Why California’s Charter School Sector is Called ‘the Wild West’
Washington Post, September 28, 2016
The second of four articles on charter schools in California, which has more charters and more students in charters than any other state. Among the problems, it discusses:  the ACLU's finding that the enrollment policies of over 20% of California charter schools violate state and federal law; charter schools opening without the permission of the school district in which they reside; over $310 million in state funding given to the largest for-profit charter operator in the country, which has “a dismal record of academic achievement;" egregious instances of misappropriation of funds. "What these reveal is a state charter law that allows the schools to operate loosely, with little if any accountability or transparency to the public."


Howard Blume:  Retiree Benefits Become a Flashpoint in the Battle between Charters and Traditional Schools
Los Angeles Times, April 17, 2016
Charter schools have begun paying teachers who have spent their careers at their schools to quit and return to traditional public schools before retirement, in order to avoid paying retirement benefits. However, counsel for the LAUSD has stated that teachers who return simply to retire will not be entitled to benefits.

Robert D. Skeels:  California Charter School Industry Bill Attempts to Eliminate Only Source of Public Oversight
K-12 News Network's The Wire, April 1, 2016
The California Charter School Association (CCSA) is promoting AB 2806, which this article states would "further block oversight of charter schools, and impede any investigation into charter school wrongdoing." The article reproduces comments made against the bill in EdSource, which it calls the "source of political cover and highly biased 'journalism' on behalf of the lucrative charter school industry."


California School Boards Association:  New Legislation would Greatly Expand State Board's Authority on Charter Schools
February 2016
California State Senate Bill 1434 (Glazer, D-Orinda) would expand the powers of the State Board of Education (SBE) over charter school issues and create a new state-level grievance process, removing authority from local school boards and county offices of education, raising serious concerns.

Senate Bill 1434




Mitchell Robinson: Private school vouchers: A solution in search of a problem

Electablog, February 25, 2017
Article provides detailed evidence for each of its claims that vouchers: are overwhelmingly unpopular with voters, contribute to school segregation, don’t help poor families attend the “school of their choice,” and lead students who use them to perform worse academically than their peers in public schools.

Brian Washington: Five Names Politicians Use to Sell Private-School Voucher Schemes to Parents

Education Votes, February 8, 2017
Article discusses the ways in which public school budgets are "hijacked" to fund private and religious schools under a number of different names that obscure the intent: Opportunity Scholarships, Parental Choice Scholarships, Tuition Tax Credits, Education Savings Accounts, Charitable Tax Credits.

Jack Casey:  NFMA Calls for Detailed Charter School Disclosures
The Bond Buyer, September 28, 2016
In a Recommended Best Practices document, the National Federation of Municipal Analysts is urging charter schools to provide detailed financial, academic, and staffing information in primary and secondary disclosure documents. Article details recommended disclosures. "'The NFMA believes that charter school continuing disclosure needs to be far more complete, robust, and timely to reflect credit characteristics and risks specific to the sector," the group said."


Andy Grimm:  Chicago Public Schools Adds Community Input to School Closing, Consolidation Process
Chicago Sun Times, October 1, 2016
Chicago Public Schools, which is headed by a Chief Executive Officer and an unelected school board appointed by the mayor, has developed new, more democratic requirements for consolidating schools and changing attendance boundaries, and spelled out how it will shut down charters that fail to meet benchmarks for student achievement or financial management. The changes come in a climate of backlash against Mayor Rahm Emanuel over the handling of the Laquan McDonald shooting. The Illinois House this spring passed a bill that would create an elected, 21-member board to oversee CPS, replacing the smaller group appointed by the mayor.

Jeff Bryant:  Elizabeth Warren Clarifies the Charter School Debate
Common Dreams, September 29, 2016
The author of this opinion piece discusses Warren's stance against a Massachusetts proposition that would raise the cap on charters in the state, in light of the charter school movement, which has proven to be, he asserts, a drain on local schools, an exclusionary approach to schooling, a favored cause of big money, and at odds with progressive causes.


Mark Dent:  Why John Oliver May Help Change Pennsylvania’s ‘worst charter school laws in the nation’, August 26, 2016
For the last several months, Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale has "railed against" Pennsylvania’s charter laws. After coming out with an audit of Philadelphia’s charter situation earlier this year , he has continued to stress the need for reform. He recently gave a press conference about a faulty payment appeals process that overly benefits charters at the expense of school districts. He’s continually tried to bring awareness, but it seemed no one was listening--until he was featured on John Oliver's HBO show, "Last Week Tonight." (see Oliver's segment on charters here:
Article details Pasquale's issues with charter schools. “There’s something going on out there that needs to be looked at.”


Andy Metzger:  Massachusetts Democrats Vote to Oppose Charter School Question
Edify, State House News Service, August 17, 2016
On August 16, the Massachusetts Democratic Party voted to oppose a ballot question that would expand charter schools in Massachusetts, stating, "Already, cities and towns forced to make budget cuts every year due to the state’s underfunding of education and the money lost to charters. If this ballot question passes, it will create budget crises in hundreds of Massachusetts communities, and hurt the students who remain in our local district public schools." The move pits them against the pro-charter "Democrats for Education Reform."

Kate Taylor:  Letter to Cuomo Reveals State Senate's Plan to Help Success Academy
New York Times, August 11, 2016
"What the Success Academy charter school network could not get through the courts or from the New York State Education Department, it may get from the governor: the ability to run prekindergarten programs without oversight from New York City." When the city demanded that Eva Moskowitz, CEO of the Success Academy charter chain, sign a contract for her prekindergarten program, she refused, saying it gave the city too much control, and sought redress from the state education commissioner, then the State Supreme Court. When both ruled the city could demand that Success sign the contract in order to be paid, she appealed to state senate Republicans, who have received substantial support from wealthy charter school supporters. They wrote a letter to Governor Cuomo asking that Success Academies be exempted from certain rules; in particular, that their teachers be "given time" to become certified and that the program be given space in public school buildings.


Kate Zernike:  New Orleans Plan:  Charter Schools, with a Return to Local Control
New York Times, May 9, 2016
The governor of Louisiana is expected to sign legislation returning New Orleans' charter schools to the locally elected school board for the first time since Hurricane Katrina in 2005. However, the law will forbid the board to interfere in charter school autonomy, who to hire, how to teach, or how to spend money. In New Orleans' school district, 93% of students are in charter schools, the highest percentage in the country.

Benjamin Wood:  Utah Charter Schools Move Millions of Public Dollars to the Coffers of a Few Private Companies
Salt Lake Tribune, May 20, 2016
"Public schools of all types regularly direct money toward private businesses--like software companies, food-service distributors, and textbook publishers--for specific services. But Ascent Academy and many other charter schools take it a step further, abdicating administrative and academic functions to private companies." Two companies in particular, Academica West and Eminent Technical Solutions, received nearly 7 million dollars from charter schools last year. They did not and do not have to disclose how they spend the public education funding they receive, and do not have to return any surplus.

Anotherl list of articles on charter schools can be seen here

Comparison of Construction Requirements for Public Schools (Field Act) and Charter Schools (UBC)
seen here