The Charter schools have rich and powerful lobyists. We need to counter with popular support for the bills now in the state legislature. Our State Senatator is Namcy Skinner who is supporting this legislation. It is not clear where our Assembly Reprenentative, Buffy Wicks, stands. Email her.

 

  • Please Sign the Petition Here
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    (drafted by Educators for Democratic Schools and Wellstone Education Committee charterlawreform.com

    Get Your Organization on Record

    Ask your organization to adopt a resolution urging the legislature to pass these bills for a moratorium on charters, allowing local districts to decide how to run their schools, and stronger regulations on charters.

    Following is a sample resolution being circulated in some organizaitons and has been adopted by the Alameda County Democratic Party Central Committee. Modify it to fit your situation..

    Whereas the proliferation of charter schools in California has undermined our democratic public education system, draining resources from our most vulnerable communities and children already most impacted by racism and poverty and transferring those resources to privately-governed charter schools and

    Whereas the California Charter School Act of 1992 has eroded local control of public school districts by not permitting local school boards to deny a new charter school based on the impact it would have on the district’s public schools and also, by allowing charter operators to appeal denials from the local school board to the county and state boards of education.

    Whereas charter schools in California discriminate against high needs students by not offering programs for and not enrolling a proportionate number of Newcomers and students with disabilities, especially moderate and severe disabilities,

    Therefore be it resolved that the California Charter School Act of 1992 be amended to restore local control to public school districts, including consideration, in determining whether to approve a new charter school petition, of the financial, academic, and facilities impacts the new charter school would have on neighborhood public schools and also, giving locally elected school boards the sole authority to approve and renew charter school petitions, and

    Therefore be it further resolved that the California Charter School Act of 1992 be amended to require charter schools to offer programs for and enroll a proportionate number of Newcomers and students with special needs, including those with moderate and severe disabilities, as in the public school district in which they are located.

    Video Game Programming Curriculum?

    The WCCUSD Board is considering an expansion of the Richmond College Prep Charter (currently K-8)  to add a high school which will be located in a church..

    In addition to the negative financial impact of expanding Charters on our district and the issue of public money used to support a church,this particular application raises the issue of the type of education  that Charter education. RCP plans to use the Summit Learning Program under attack around the country (New York Times). RCP  proposes to build the school around two tracks: product design with computers, and video games programming.

    In response to the Charter school presentation at the April 10 school board meeting, Pinole education activist Tammy Campbell gave this public comment:


    Good evening Board and Superintendent,

    I work at the Lawrence Berkeley Lab and as part of my job and my IT profession, I mentor and teach college computer science interns. My interns go on to be IT directors and successful employees in startups and in major IT companies in SF and Silicon Valley. I have served on several community college curriculum advisory boards across the Bay Area and provide advice as to what students need to learn to succeed. [My views on the proposed RCP curriculum design:] Product design good, video games not my favorite. Programming in python and understanding big data analysis can be done at the high school level, emphasize math. I know video games are sexy and capture students' attention, but the jobs in video gaming are considered the sweatshops of today. Just be aware. Ensure you are teaching psychology and user interface development as core and the capturing of data and statistics on the back-end of a website. That is where the jobs are. Don’t emphasize the video gaming. Emphasize functional design, math, art and programming.

    The board's discussion regarding race and allowing neighborhood students to attend this school was very interesting. Curious have you looked at the enrollment percentages regarding race at all your charter schools? Are they diverse? Do we value diversity? I was thankful I went to John F Kennedy in this school district. Diversity then, taught me to think about the good of all the district students today. It reminds me to balance my decisions based on the good of the whole for all students. Are you willing to sacrifice the whole for a few in charter schools?

    I do not know or cannot judge what goes on in these charter schools. I can only speak about the impact these schools have on the rest of the district, especially the financial impact. I have the right to ask where my taxpayer dollars go, where the money is spent and how their test scores are. Understand all the numbers. Major loss of ADA [average daily attendance state funding] for the rest of the district's students. What does that mean to you school board members? For me it means no support for this expansion.

    "Co-location" Means Closing Neighborhood Public Schools

    For three years, PublicCore has been warning that continued WCCUSD approval of charter schools will lead to the closure of neighborhood schools. Now that chicken is coming home to roost. Unless neighbors and concerned community members rise up and say "NO!” El Sobrante will lose its middle school.

    Pinole Middle School has already been forced to share its site with Voices Charter School as part of a practice known as "co-location." Across the freeway in El Sobrante, Crespi Middle School has been forced to share its facility with Invictus Middle School. According to Prop 39 (aka “the charter school law”), each February, charter schools must make their anticipated facility needs request to the school district in which they are located. WCCUSD superintendent Matt Duffy has announced that both Voices and Invictus will be asking the district for more space in the 2019 – 2020 school year.

    One of the options the district is considering is to close Crespi Middle School, move those students to Pinole Middle School, and allow Voices and Invictus to take over the Crespi site. Even though the district says it has no immediate plans to close Crespi, it has also stated that if enrollment falls that it will be closed.

    PublicCore is vehemently opposed to this option, as it gives public school students and their families fewer choices and takes away El Sobrante's only middle school.

    What you can do:
    ---Read the concerns of Joseph Glatzer, 7th grade history teacher at Pinole Middle School (see below)
    ---Contact the WCCUSD Board of Education [tom.panas@wccusd.net, stephanie.hernandez-jarvis@wccusd.net, valerie.cuevas@wccusd.net, clara@wccusd.net, mister.phillips@wccusd.net]

    Letter from Jospeph Glatzer:
    I'm Joseph Glatzer, 7th grade history teacher at Pinole Middle School. I'm here to oppose Voices getting any more of our classrooms and deepening their occupation of our campus. My criticism is with the charter system, not individual families.

    I noticed in reading Mr. Duffy's report that it says our enrollment at Pinole Middle is down. It had been down the past few years due to charter encroachment, but because of the amazing job our staff has done, our enrollment is up pretty significantly this year. Is the board aware of that? Parents are fed up with the lack of actual teaching at Summit, and we get kids coming back from them nearly every week.

    Also, we know you're not trying to close Crespi until 2 years from now, but that doesn't make it any better.

    How much smaller could our classrooms be if we weren't hemorrhaging money to charter schools for their own profit? 

    Hiding behind the law and saying you have no choice doesn't make any sense. Voices is not holding board meetings in Contra Costa County. They're in violation of their charter and it should be revoked. The dangerous driving, traffic and noise is out of control. Our students are being hurt by a de facto private elementary being artificially wedged into their school.

    It's time for the school board to adopt the NAACP resolution for a moratorium on charter schools, which was just endorsed by UTR. Are you going to be on the side of the NAACP or on the side of a deeply segregated de facto private school which is taking our desperately needed public funds? 

    The argument has been that if you don't approve these collocations then we'll get sued and that'll cost the district a lot of money. But we're already losing tens of millions of dollars from approving all these charters and co-locations. We're going to have severe financial challenges, like we see in Oakland, if something doesn't change. So we might as well unite with other districts and fight for what's right. 

    Prop 39 can be challenged as unconstitutional under the California state constitution, because it guarantees children the right to an education, which charters are endangering.

    This is a civil rights issue and a human rights issue. We learned from Gandhi and Martin Luther King that respecting unjust laws is an immoral act.

    Don't take away any more of our classrooms at Pinole Middle. Thank you.

    District Elections for all WCCUSD Trustees  in 2020

    A more detailed  map defining  districts for School Board Trustees with supporting information   can be seen here. All Trustees will be up for election in November 2020.  Districts #4 and #5  will be two-year terms in this election while #1,#2, and #3 will be four-year terms  to allow for staggered terms ongoing.
    Current Trustees live in these districts:

    • Panas # 5
    • Cuevas #5
    • Mister #2
    • Hernadez-Jarvis #1
    • Lara #4

    Provisions in the California Voting Rights Act turn out to be revenue generators for lawyers who use it to force at-large elections into district elections.  In a lengthy and complicated process our money-strapped school district had to pay over $300,000 in legal expenses to the plaintiffs as well as what must be hundreds of thousands to district legal and administrative staff and contracted services. And the expense will continue as the WCCUSD must pay for another round of map-drawing after the 2020 Census.  It is doubtful that this process will help the real problems of improving education for everyone, closing the achievement gaps, paying teachers and principals enough to maintain a stable educational environment, lowering class size, providing student and community support services,  providing adult and pre-K programs, and improving facilities.  Documents about the districts can be seen here.

    Push to Ban Teach for America  Approach

    Legislation that would force Teach for America to change its model is in the state legislature.

    AB 221 would prohibit contracting with organizations for teachers who do not commit to at least five years of employment.  Further school districts could not use these contracted teachers in schools where more than 40% are from low income families.

    Typically Teach for America recruits young people with no teaching experience to teach for two years. Many  just use the experience as a resume builder and leave teaching . 

    While there are TFA teachers who become good committed teachers the overall result of the program is a churning of inexperienced teachers in schools in low income areas contributing to the widening disparities in education.  See this Politico  article for more information.


    Pro-Charter Groups Keep Up

    Constant Derogatory Drumbeat

     

    Last 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.

    pull-quote

    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).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

    Charter Accounting Practices

    Some charter entities, such as Voices (which collocates at Pinole Middle) organize their budgets very differently than authentic public schools such as WCCUSD.


    WCCUSD files one set of budget forms to the State for the entire District - all the schools, all the administrative and physical plant operations that occur off school site, and all the salaries of everyone - from Superintendent on down - all of this is covered in one set of documents, the budget for the Local Educational Agency (LEA) known as WCCUSD.


    But...Voices files at least one budget for each of its four campuses - including for the Voices collocating at Pinole Middle School. That also means (strangely) that the little bitty Voices school (150 students) is considered its own LEA - on an organizational par, in terms of budgetary accounting, with mighty WCCUSD (28,000 students).


    I conjecture that Voices may do this for two reasons. The first conjecture is that a multiplicity of budgets filed with the State may make general accountability more difficult. The second conjecture is that making each school its own LEA may be a serious barrier to unionization efforts - because employee contracts are signed with the LEA. Imagine having to negotiate a separate contract with each school site!


    I think it is important to find out how many charter schools follow this practice of treating each school site as a separate LEA - with an LEA's obligation to file the State budget forms. If it turns out that there are a lot, this calls in question the soundness of CTA's attempt to unionize charters - because charter that use Voices budget model may be impossible to organize collectively.


    I would further note that Voices does not contribute to STRS. It would be interesting to find out what the correlation is between charters that do not contribute to STRS, and those that treat each school site as a separate LEA


    John Irminger


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    WCCUSD:

    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