As statewide tensions continue, East Palo Alto district eyes charter school moratorium

Ravenswood school board to vote on anti-charter resolution Thursday

The Ravenswood City School District Board of Education could become the latest public agency to lend its voice to the divisive fight against charter school growth in California.

The board is set to vote Thursday on a resolution that supports a statewide moratorium on new charter schools and advocates for legislation to restrict their expansion, citing negative financial and other impacts on neighborhood public schools.

Ravenswood is one of many districts across the state losing students, facilities and funding to charter schools. Tensions flared up this year when a growing charter, Kipp, requested its own long-term campus in East Palo Alto, sparking concerns that a district school would have to close. Over the past four years, Ravenswood has lost more than 1,000 students — nearly one-third of its enrollment — to charter schools as well as private schools, the longtime Voluntary Transfer Program (VTP) and families leaving the area due to the rising cost of housing in the Bay Area.

Other school districts, public agencies and organizations have approved near-identical charter school moratoriums in recent months, including the Los Angeles Unified, West Contra Costa Unified and Anaheim Union High school districts; and the cities of Richmond and Huntington Park.

California has more charter schools and students than any other state, accounting for 10% of the state's K-12 enrollment. According to the California Charter Schools Association, 660,000 students are enrolled at 1,323 charter schools this year, up from 746 schools a decade ago.

The proposed moratorium seeks to increase oversight of charters and strengthen school boards' ability to manage their growth.

"Local school boards are the best determiners of how local education dollars should be spent to benefit local students, including the appropriate number and type of schools in their district, yet are prohibited under current law from considering such factors when deciding whether or not to approve a charter school petition," the resolution states.

The document backs a package of state legislation aimed at supporting neighborhood public schools, including bills that would cap charter-school growth; would allow agencies to consider the facilities, fiscal and academic impacts on districts in granting charters; would remove the right to appeal if a charter's application is denied; and would ensure local governing boards have control over all decisions related to charter schools' authorizations and renewals.

If approved, the resolution also commits the school district to conducting a public analysis of existing and potential new charter schools, including the demographics of charter school students in East Palo Alto, the net fiscal impact of existing charter schools on the district, student discipline statistics at charters, the number and reasons why students leave charter schools and teacher credentialing and retention. When considering whether to co-locate a charter school on a Ravenswood campus, the district would also create a public report that scrutinizes "the potential financial, academic, and socio-emotional impact of charter school co-location on the existing campus and students attending other schools within the surrounding community," the resolution states.

The district could also avail itself of its right as the authorizer of charter schools to appoint members to the charters' board of directors, the document states.

Thursday's vote will come the day after thousands of teachers rallied at the state capitol in Sacramento to lobby for the California Teacher Association's legislative priorities, primarily on charter school reform.

The board is set to meet in open session around 7:15 p.m. at the district office, 2120 Euclid Ave., East Palo Alto. View the agenda here.


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5 people like this
Posted by Stand and Deliver
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 23, 2019 at 3:50 am

I wish these articles had more information. Are these charter schools for-profit charter schools, or are they non-profit entities that are doing what the charter system was set up to do, which is to create an alternative when local schools aren't doing their job? I think for-profit charters should be illegal. But since charters were set up to be an escape hatch to schools that fail to provide the legally due equal education under the law, why should school boards have any more power than they do now? Isn't this exactly what the charter school system was set up to do? Why did no one imagine what happens next to support districts who get to this point, so that everyone can have the benefit of the better education?

One of the things we found from homeschooling - which we never wanted to do but ended up doing because of how abysmally we and our 2e child were treated in Palo Alto schools and we can't afford a private education - is that so many people do homeschool because the local schools fail their special needs kids.

In high school homeschooling, we see a lot of gifted kids, kids with significant special needs, or both (2e), especially boys, whose children were quite literally saved because at least they had the choice to do what their children needed before it was too late. Many parents sacrifice a great deal trying to change/improve the schools while their children languish. Homeschooling for many is the last resort, and the homeschool CHARTERS are where those who can least afford it can get teacher support and some (albeit far less than school kids) funding and resources. Homeschool charters ARE a PUBLIC education for those who need the independence.

Children can homeschool on their own or through homestudy charters - which don't have the facilities requirement of regular brick and mortar charter schools. The charters provide structure, oversight, funds, institutional resources, teachers families can work with. (Often, these charters attract teachers disillusioned by school and what it does to the students it fails.) But generally, the independent study charters are much cheaper, and can even make money for districts, while frankly, better serving kids the school districts relentlessly fail or like ours, don't even WANT to serve (actively drive out). Because the homestudy charters are independent, almost no one cares what school district they are under.

This option of last resort for the children who would otherwise fall through the cracks in our schools should not be so thoughtlessly destroyed along with the bad actors that really should be reined in.

The irony here is that a good independent study/distance charter could be set up fast (if the rules don't change) and actually bring back students to the Ravenswood district, even attract students from the Palo Alto district who are currently homeschooling, gifted kids who are ill-served by the rat race, creative kids who turn into discipline problems in Palo Alto schools because the treadmill is so soul-deadening, special needs kids who are languishing because of our district's continuing behavior of only taking care of those who make them through connections or expensive lawyers, and playing politics with (even retaliating against, deliberately trying to drive out, and/or at best persistently ignoring) anyone else who dares try to ensure their child has a FAPE as the LAW provides for.

(The Weekly had it right that some board members who used to be so critical of those before them have turned into worse. Those who do not learn from history are condemned to repeat it...I learned in school.)

Lawmakers are making a huge mistake by lumping everything in together, rather than trying to fix the bad actors. They will end up pitting people who could be allies -- including parents of homeschoolers most of whom would work with local districts if they had the choice -- against each other. It's long been overdue that the state treat those who choose or have to choose an independent education as equals as the state Constitution requires. Mostly people have just been trying to stay under the radar and do what their children need and avoid confrontation even if it means they never have close to parity with kids in school.

Putting the screws to those people inadvertently could get them to stand up and finally force the state to treat their kids as equal. That wouldn't be a bad thing, but I think the state doesn't yet realize what they have been getting away with so far. (Any lawmakers reading this, do you remember the last recent hearing that would have negatively impacted state homeschoolers? I can still hear the jaws dropping from how many people flooded in to comment from across the state. That was nothing.)

10 people like this
Posted by Dishonest
a resident of Downtown North
on May 23, 2019 at 12:09 pm

Charter schools offer an alternative to traditional public schools that aren't serving their children. The reason that school boards and school districts oppose Charter schools is because they are generally NON-UNION and represent competition for the UNION traditional public schools. This is a UNION issue trying to drive out any competition, not teachers or school boards or school districts trying to serve students. If the schools were actually educating and serving students, then there wouldn't be much discussion about charter schools. But traditional public schools in California (and the nation) are failing to educate our students well, and academic performance has been flat for decades, even though funding for traditional public schools has increased greatly.

How about spending time, money and energy on better educating our children rather than driving out your competition? No? Of course not --- just another MONEY GRAB.

Like this comment
Posted by revdreileen
a resident of East Palo Alto
on May 23, 2019 at 7:41 pm

revdreileen is a registered user.

I'm glad that more and more districts are pushing back against charters. There is a lack of accountability for the way they spend public funds and how they affect local school districts which are legally required to serve ALL children, while charters select which children they will serve. The financial mismanagement and theft of public funds by some charter operators is a national scandal -- Web Link.

While there are certainly some responsible and effective charter school operators, current CA law does not give the public adequate protection against fraudulent and ineffective operators. We need to start having an honest conversation about charters.

3 people like this
Posted by Cover-up Culture
a resident of Community Center
on May 23, 2019 at 10:29 pm

How about the lack of accountability for how traditional public schools spend their money and how they refuse to abide by the law? Pot calling the kettle black.

3 people like this
Posted by Stand and Deliver
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 23, 2019 at 11:43 pm

"while charters select which children they will serve"

Not homeschool charters. They take everyone, including the special needs kids the school districts like ours unlawfully push out.

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