Making Waves Charter Academy decided to pull their expansion petition from the County Board of Education May 6 Agenda Thank you to everyone who wrote emails to the county board members, it worked! We will keep an eye on them, as they could bring forward this expansion request again in the near future, so stay tuned!

Stop Making Waves Expansion

Making Waves Academy Charter School at Richmond Hilltop is petitioning to expand. Currently it is a 5-12 grade school, it is asking to add a 4th grade (168 students). However, as the school’s website indicates, its ultimate goal is to expand into a K-12. This would be disastrous for the WCCUSD financially.

Making Waves Academy’s petition to expand will be on the agenda for next week’s County Board of Education meeting (Wednesday, May 6). Our opposition needs to be expressed to the Board well in advance, as they may be asked to vote on it at this meeting, but we won’t know until the agenda comes out on Friday, May 1.

Please take a few minutes to email County Board members and the County Superintendent to voice your opposition to this expansion request. Below is a sample email with bullet points. Feel free to copy and paste, or write your own message, and copy all board members and Superintendent Mackey.

Email addresses

Fatima Alleyne:
Sarah Butler:
Vikki Chavez:
Annette Lewis:
Mike Maxwell:
Superintendent Lynn Mackey:

Sample Email

Board Members and Ms. Mackey, 

I have become aware that Making Waves Academy in Richmond, CA, is petitioning to add a 4th grade, and that their ultimate plan is to become a K-12. If this expansion is approved, the impact on the approximate 32,000 WCCUSD students in our traditional public schools would be enormous.  Please do your due diligence to review pertinent information about this important issue.

Even just the loss of 168 4th graders due to this expansion would greatly impact the 4th grades at the surrounding elementary schools, such as Tara Hills, Bay View, Highland and Montalvin. We cannot afford for these schools to decrease their enrollment.

Additionally, the following concerns about Making Waves Academy are reasons to NOT approve this request to expand.

  • As you are aware, the WCCUSD is already grappling with a deficit of approximately $49 million dollars that must be resolved within the next two years. Now with COVID-19, the district is facing even more financial instability.
  • If you approve this expansion, the WCCUSD will lose at least 168 more students initially. This alone will cost the district approximately $1,680,000. It will hurt WCCUSD students.
  • According to this In The Public Interest Report, charter schools are already costing the WCCUSD at least $27.9 million per year. We cannot afford this expansion.
  • According to this article, Making Waves Academy at Hilltop has already taken over approximately 13.4 acres of Industrial Business land that contained 165,387square feet of one- and two-story commercial and industrial developments. According to the General Plan for the City of Richmond, the Southern Shoreline and Hilltop areas were supposed to promote uses such as high-density housing. The school is already poorly located, causing traffic, parking, and public safety problems that would only be worsened by this expansion.
  • Making Waves Academy began as a selective organization, and still is one. Its student body is not reflective of the population of the WCCUSD. For example, Making Waves Academy has only 5.9% special education students whereas the district has 12.70% special education students.
  • There is no public demand for this expansion.  

Please do NOT approve this expansion for Making Waves Academy Charter School.


New Report by Public Interest

Charters Hurting School District

"Public school students in California’s West Contra Costa Unified School District (WCCUSD) are paying dearly for privately managed charter schools they don’t attend. Unchecked charter school expansion in recent years has added to the cost of educating students who attend traditional public schools. This has increased pressure on the district to cut spending on academic tutoring, services for English learners, and more.

"Charter schools add $27.9 million a year to WCCUSD’s costs of running its own schools, this study finds. That’s a net loss, after accounting for all savings realized by no longer educating the charter school students. As a result, the district has $978 less in funding for each traditional public school student it serves. This previously unmeasured cost is a conservative estimate. The district faces additional fiscal pressures due to charter schools that are too difficult to measure, such as the inequitable proportion of state funding it receives for educating high-needs students.
"...this report’s aim is not to debate the value of charter schools as educational policy or review all fiscal pressures facing districts but to document a cost that has previously gone unmeasured and ignored in California educational planning."

Download the full report

Charter Schools are draining California's education funding

New data released in May confirms that charter schools, which are publicly paid for but privately managed, drain funding from traditional, neighborhood schools. In this five-minute documentary, California’s public school leaders, teachers, and students describe the damage their schools endure because the state allows for an unlimited number of charter schools.

The report, Breaking Point: The Cost of Charter Schools for Public School Districts, calculates the fiscal impact of charter schools on Oakland Unified School District, San Diego Unified School District, and San Jose’s East Side Union High School District.

  • Charter schools cost Oakland Unified $57.3 million per year. That’s $1,500 less in funding for each student that attends a neighborhood school.
  • The annual cost of charter schools to the San Diego Unified is $65.9 million.
  • In East Side Union, the net impact of charter schools amounts to a loss of $19.3 million per year.

AB 1505

Gov signs Charter School Legislation  

On October 3, Governor Newsom signed the charter school legislation that resulted from a year of intense political battle. The compromise engineered by the Governor was embraced by both the California Teachers Association as well as the Charter Schools Association.

In fact, the legislation was a far weaker bill than what was passed by the Assembly and less than what we needed. But the new legislation does give us some tools which may help in battling the growth of charters.  First, the law allows local school boards to consider the economic and community impacts of a new charter.  Second, it eliminates the ability of the Charter to appeal to the State Board. Now a Charter can appeal a decision only to the County Board.

Unfortunately the main provisions of law does not go into effect until next July and there are seven charter renewals and expansions coming up in this period (Five at the WCCUSD and two at the County).


On May 22nd the Assembly passed AB 1505, which, among other provisions, would eliminate the right of charters to appeal school district decisions to the county and state, and permits financial impact to districts as a factor in charter decisions. Since Charters rejected by local school boards have easily gotten approved at the county and state levels, the measure was intended to return to local school boards the ability to oversee public schools using public funds.  The vote was 44 in favor, 19 against - a solid 'yes' vote.

In early June the report of the Charter School Task Force (see accompanying article) came out. The majority proposed reforms along the same lines as the Assembly bill.  It was weaker only in that it allowed for limited appeals to the county but not the state.

But on July 10 the Senate Education Committee approved language that ignored the Task Force Recommendations. It also undermined the main point if the Assembly bill --to restore local control to school districts.

The Senate Education Committee
 Removed language that:

  • Requires current county and state charters to apply to the district, once their county and state charters expire
  • Blocks  County and State appeals
  • Eliminates academic performance as the most important factor in deciding revocation.

Substantially weakened language that

  • Allows local school boards to consider the financial impact on the district

Added language that:

  • Grandfathered in charter school teachers once new credentialing regulations start in 2020.
  • Allows charter appeals to the county and places a greater burden on the local school boards.

The result is far weaker than the May 22 version. Despite the widespread recognition that our system of public schools is in jeopardy, charter school money and influence in Sacramento still has disproportionate power over legislation.

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 #3
  • 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.

June 2019 state conventions

California Democratic Party votes for Charter Moratorium.


Califonia League of Women Voters adopts a resolution for its Board to address the issue of Charter School accountability.

Schools and Communities First files 1.7 M signatures

Supporters of the California initiative, Schools and Communities First announced they have submitted more than 1.7 million signatures to the Secretary of State to qualify for the 2020 ballot. The number is far greater than the required 1 Million and shows strong grassroots support for the reform. Now expect an onslaught of propaganda by developers and big corporations to try to defeat it.

What the initiative will do:

  • Reclaim $12 billion per year for K-12 schools, community colleges and local communities
  • Close commercial property tax loopholes that corporations and wealthy investors use to avoid paying their fair share of property taxes
  • Protect all homeowners and renters by maintaining tax protections for ALL residential property
  • Ensure strict accountability so that money goes directly to our schools and communities
For more information

Measure R Passes

We are pleased to anounce that the Measure R bond issue passed with 58.7% yes (55% required). The state Proposition 13 which would have provided much-needed addional funds for repairing schools was defeated with 43%support. While bond issues backed by property tax are a regressive tax until we change the tax system to undo the built-in inequality, we cannot afford to allow our schools to deteriorate. Our future is out children. All the more reason to be supporting the state Schools and Communities First Ballot Initiative on the ballot in November.

In West Contra Costa, we are fortunate to live in a community with outstanding neighborhood schools. The different options of programs protect our property values, improve our quality of life and prepare our students to be successful members of our society.
Yet many of our local schools were built 40 to 70 years ago. Aging classrooms with leaky roofs, outdated technology or no air conditioning require urgent upgrades. Leaky roofs disrupt classroom instruction; outdated technology puts students at a disadvantage; and classrooms without air conditioning reach uncomfortable and unsafe temperatures of up to 100 degrees putting student safety in jeopardy.
The State continues to reduce funding for school facility improvements and we can’t rely on Sacramento to make these important repairs.PC-B

Over the years, our community has been incredibly generous by supporting previous bond measures.  They’ve rebuilt 19 dilapidated, aging buildings (with Wilson ES in the works and Lake ES soon to start):


San Pablo

El Cerrito



De Anza HS

Helms MS

El Cerrito HS

Pinole Valey HS

Ohlone ES

Greenwood HS

Dover ES

Korematsu MS

Pinole MS

Hanna Ranch ES

DeJean MS

Downer ES



Lupine ES

Coronado ES

Lake ES (next up)




Ford ES





King ES





Nystrom ES





Chavez ES





Wilson ES (in process)





Vista Hills Independent Study






And modernized another 16 schools:


San Pablo

El Cerrito




Washington ES

Montalvin ES

Harding ES

Ellerhorst ES


Kensington ES

Lincoln ES

Bayview ES

Madera ES

Stewart K-8



Peres ES

Riverside ES





Murphy ES

Tara Hills ES





Sheldon ES






Verde ES






Mira Vista ES







The District has done special projects and demolitions of unsafe buildings:


San Pablo

El Cerrito



Valley View:
Temp Campus

Sea View

Portola MS



Kennedy HS:
   Sports Field
   Swim Center
   Science Building





Richmond HS:
   Sports Field
   New Gym





But, the need in is great.  Some schools have remained unimproved:


San Pablo

El Cerrito



Grant ES


Fairmont ES

Collins ES


Stege ES


Cameron Special Needs

Shannon ES


Olinda ES





Valley View ES





Alvarado Adult





West County Mandarin ES (Serra)





And more needs to be done to upgrade both Kennedy and Richmond High Schools.

This March 3, the District is asking the community to support one more bond measure – Measure R.  Voting Yes on R provides a local solution to complete urgent upgrades to classrooms; science labs, student restrooms and other facilities to ensure our schools are safe and support high student achievement.

What is Measure R?  Measure R is a classroom modernization and safety update measure in the West Contra Costa Unified School District to repair, upgrade neighborhood schools, modernize core classrooms; provide safe, secure school environments, including updated technology and air conditioning, that improve academic achievement and provide relevant career pathways for all students,

How does it work? By issuing $575 million of bonds, at legal rates, averaging $34.48 million annually while bonds are outstanding, at 6¢ per $100 assessed value, with strict citizens’ oversight, annual audits and all money for local schools.

What will it cost the average homeowner? Measure R is a tax on property of a maximum 6 cents per $100 (or $60 per $100,000) of assessed home value. For example, a home assessed at $400,000 (you can go to the county assessor’s website to see the assessed value of your home), would cost the homeowner an estimated $240 a year or $20 per month.

Measure R is endorsed by Superintendent Tony Thurmond, State Senator Nancy Skinner, Assemblymember Buffy Wicks and many more.  Check out the Measure R website ( for a complete list.

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.


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. 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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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