Public Core Opposes Summit Charter Renewal

Public Core Chair, Joanna Pace, presented a shortened version of this statement at the November 18 WCCUSD Board Meeting. The issue will come up for final decision at the first meeting for newly-elected members on December 16. We urge all supporters of public schools to make their views known to the Board.

We urge the Board not to renew Summit's charter. At the least we urge the new Board to delay the decision to allow them to fully look into the matter. Our opposition is based on one general and two specific concerns: 

1. Summit's academic performance is no better than that of the district as a whole. Neither ELA or Math are at level. In addition, for 2019, the California Department of Education’s Dashboard has classified Summit’s Chronic Absenteeism and Suspension rates, two statewide priorities, as red. This is the lowest possible designation. Compared to 2018, the 2019 Dashboard shows clear evidence of poor results on state priorities. This is a school on a downward trend. 

2. Summit enrolls consistently fewer English Language Learners than the district as a whole, by a wide margin. ELLs comprise 33% of enrollment in the WCCUSD, Summit Tam’s comprise only 20%. Moreover, although reclassification is the goal of all ELL programs, Summit reclassifies very few ELL students. In 2019-20, Summit Tam reclassified only 3.5%, compared to the District’s 9.9%. In 2018-19, Summit managed 2.8%; the District managed 12.7%. Measured by state provided data, Summit's ELL program is a failure. This alone should give the board pause as it reconsiders this charter. 

3. Just as worrisome as the above concerns is Summit's student attrition rate, which is said to be the highest of all charter schools in our District. Students are leaving Summit for a reason. 

Together, Summit's mediocre performance on state-level priorities, poor results for English Language Learners constitute data-founded, legally compliant reasons to refuse this charter. Combined with unusually high student attrition, these make a clear case that the Summit charter school is demonstrably unable to implement the program, as they are “not serving all pupils who wish to attend," per Education Code 47607 (d)(3). 

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Notes: *Dashboard colors range from red for the lowest score, to orange, yellow, green and blue for the highest score. 

**Rating for EL Progress runs from Very Low, to Low, Medium, High and Very High. 

*** Membership in these groups is known to negatively influence educational outcomes. All are tracked and monitored by the California Department of Education 

Source: California Department of Education Dashboard 

Key takeaways: Summit is underperforming in Chronic Absenteeism, Suspension Rates, and English Learner Progress compared to both District and State. The school suffered a decline off 17.4 points in ELA. They are serving about half the % of ELs as the District, no Foster or Homeless students, about a quarter fewer Special Education students (3.9%), and about 10% fewer Socio-economically challenged (SES) students (7.5%).

Charter Money Defeated Across the Board

Public Core endorsed all of the successful candidates. We now have a WCCUSD Board which is fully committed to advancing public education. We thank the candidates who ran for these positions. We thank the United Teachers of Richmond for their work in recruiting good candidates, pulling together a united labor slate, volunteering for phone banking, and contributing enough money to be able to challenge the massive amounts poured into this election by charter school interests. See the table below. The amount spent in these races is 5 to 10 times the amount spent in neighboring school districts which have not been targeted by charter school corporations.

We also thank all the people who made endorsements, participated in social media, and communicated with their own lists. And we thank the Richmond Progressive Alliance for including our candidates in their canvassing and other election activities.

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.
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Using the Pandemic to Privatize Our Schools

Due to the pandemic, schools are grappling with new expenses on top of the fiscal problems they were already facing, and the confusion of instantly having to reorganize their delivery of education. Privatizers see this as a prime opportunity to “outsource” as many public education functions as possible and use schools' temporary reliance on computers and distance learning to give private operators a foot in the door.

The Network for Public Education (NPE) is raising the alarm. Trump’s Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, took $180 million in federal coronavirus relief funds and is allowing states to compete for a share of that money by proposing one of three remote learning options, the first being “microgrants” — what most would call “vouchers" -- an idea that is strikingly similar to the "education savings accounts" backed by private school choice supporters like DeVos.

The NPE is mounting a campaign to email Congress in opposition to this blatant attempt to privatize our schools.

In the Public Interest has compiled “11 warning signs that someone is trying to privatize your public school." Some of the signs relate to the dangerous ground that schools are on as they reorganize to deal with the pandemic, with privatizers looking to turn the situation into an opportunity for outsourcing to private companies. These include emergency powers, changes in procurement rules, and "new creative and effective" approaches in education. Others are a direct assault on public education disguised as “help.” One example is education technology companies offering free trials of their software for distance learning. See the complete article.

"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.


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.

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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  

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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