'This is not saying we're anti-charter.' Ravenswood school board backs state charter bills

Charter leaders, parents urge trustees against limiting parent choice

The Ravenswood City school board in East Palo Alto unanimously approved Thursday night a charter school moratorium that throws their support behind a raft of state legislation that they insist is not anti-charter, but rather pro-local control.

The controversial legislation aims to increase oversight of charter schools in California, which has more charter schools and students than any other state, accounting for 10% of the state's K-12 enrollment. Supporters of traditional public schools say this growth is threatening the fiscal and educational health of neighborhood schools, while charter school advocates defend charters as autonomous alternatives that can meet low-income and minority families' demands for better public education. The divisive fight between the two camps is playing out throughout California, from the halls of the state Capitol to school districts across the state, including in East Palo Alto.

"I am not anti-charter but I am pro-public schools," said Ronda White, president of the Ravenswood Teachers Association, which along with the district's classified employees union brought the moratorium to the board. "No school district should have to take on financial burdens that reduce resources for students who attend the local public schools."

The resolution supports four state bills that would: enact a five-year statewide cap on charter schools; allow agencies to consider the facilities, fiscal and academic impacts on districts in granting charters; remove the right to appeal if a charter's application is denied; and ensure local governing boards have control over all decisions related to charter schools' authorizations and renewals, doing away with charters ability to appeal denials at the county and state level (This last bill, Assembly Bill 1505, passed the Assembly this week on a narrow 44-19-17 vote). Gov. Gavin Newsom also signed into law this spring a bill that requires charters to follow the same laws governing open meetings, public records and conflicts of interest that apply to school districts.

Several Ravenswood teachers advocated for the moratorium on Thursday night, including one who delivered a list of signatures from her colleagues in support.

"It frustrates me to think that your hands are tied when a charter comes," said Costaño Elementary School teacher Jesusita Rivera. "I'm not against charters. I'm just against not having the transparency and I'm against the board not being able to make decisions ... and not being able to say 'no'" to new charter schools.

Several local charter school leaders and parents attended the meeting and urged the board against approving the moratorium. Kate Belden, principal of Kipp Valiant Community Prep in East Palo Alto, told the board that the resolution "seeks to cut off school choice for the thousands of East Palo Alto families you represent.

"We share your beliefs that public charter schools should be held accountable for results," Belden said. "We believe in transparency and accountability and gladly comply with ongoing requirements."

The proposed legislation, she said, is "misleading and too far-reaching and any board resolution in support (of it) would be against the interest of East Palo Alto students and families."

Noting that the resolution will not prevent any existing charter schools from operating in East Palo Alto, trustees maintained that their action does not limit parent choice.

"I see it as bringing equality," said Vice President Stephanie Fitch, who has taught in both public and charter schools. "Everyone wants the same great things for our kids and this helps with that."

Trustees lauded the resolution for bringing more transparency to charter schools, which they argued should actually empower parents to make more informed choices for their children.

Under the resolution, the district will conduct 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.

"This is not saying we're anti-charter," said board President Tamara Sobomehin. "This is saying the same expectations we have of ourselves in this public school district we need to have the same expectations for the public charters also. This is something I'd expect in my children's school or anywhere else."

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.

Related content:

Charter school curbs pass Assembly, but drama foretells compromise


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13 people like this
Posted by Parent
a resident of East Palo Alto
on May 24, 2019 at 10:33 am

Repeatedly having to say, "I'm not anti-charter" usually means, umm, yes you are. The board members talked about "transparency" and "no schools will close" - they didn't mention that they were enthusiastically endorsing a bill (SB 756) that places a 5 year moratorium on new charters!

Nor did they mention that the chief driver of these bills (and likely the author of the resolution) is the California Teachers Association. So this is the school board plus the unions vs. the students and the families.

Sadly, this usually divided board was in complete agreement on this. I thought things were changing in Ravenswood - maybe not.

9 people like this
Posted by Cover-up Culture
a resident of Community Center
on May 24, 2019 at 10:39 am

Baloney. The Teacher's UNION wants to limit control, to limit parent's choice to place their child in an environment that might better suit them, which for a charter school can be a NON UNION environment.

This is about MONEY for UNIONS, the teacher's union in this case, don't be fooled. This is about preventing competition so traditional public schools need not be held accountable and parents have nowhere else to send their child. Stop the bleeding and provide school choice so parents can find the best environment for their child to flourish and be educated.

What's the academic performance for students in the Ravenswood school district like? Should students be condemned to that future?

10 people like this
Posted by Cover-up Culture
a resident of Community Center
on May 24, 2019 at 10:50 am

The school board is choosing the Teacher's UNION over parents and students and their education. Shame on you, school board members.

3 people like this
Posted by Charters and Public Money
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 24, 2019 at 2:20 pm

Charters and Public Money is a registered user.

If charter schools want public school money, they should be willing to fully and transparently comply with comparable public review processes and regulations.

8 people like this
Posted by Cover-up Culture
a resident of Community Center
on May 25, 2019 at 4:28 pm

If traditional public schools want public money, they should also be willing to transparently and fully comply w all public review processes, laws and regulations that apply to them - but THEY DON'T. The media is filled w examples of traditional public School districts failing to comply w laws and your logic, we should be allowed to claw our money back...

Like this comment
Posted by Jesusita Rivera
a resident of East Palo Alto
on May 26, 2019 at 8:10 am

There is something to say about people who comment anonymously about such sensitive issues such as our children’s education, stating such rash and false comments. I love having conversations with people not hiding behind a fake name. Have the courage to stand out.

4 people like this
Posted by Winifred
a resident of East Palo Alto
on May 26, 2019 at 9:14 am

> There is something to say about people who comment anonymously about such sensitive issues such as our children’s education, stating such rash and false comments.

And you will notice they are all from Palo if PA residents know anything about EPA.

The ones who enjoy adding their worthless 2 cents worth from afar but contribute little towards actually resolving the issue are best ignored.

Like this comment
Posted by Teacher (not in PAUSD)
a resident of South of Midtown
on May 26, 2019 at 9:52 am

Teacher (not in PAUSD) is a registered user.

Charter schools, like all schools and institutions, can be good, bad or somewhere in between. With so many Charters already operating in the Ravenswood district, now is a good time to figure out how to understand the relationship between Charters and the overall community. This should be a collaborative process the provides time to reflect and evaluate what our community needs for the long term good of all children.

2 people like this
Posted by Palo Alto Always Has The Answers...NOT!
a resident of East Palo Alto
on May 26, 2019 at 11:32 am

All these comments from Palo Alto "know it all" elitists.

Rather than spewing your hypothetical commentaries, why not spend some real time in EPA and see what it's all about.

5 people like this
Posted by Cover-up Culture
a resident of Community Center
on May 26, 2019 at 12:32 pm

No one has disputed this is a teacher's UNION issue trying to eliminate NON UNION competition, charters. Parents can make a choice about what's best for their child, but the teacher's UNION wants to eliminate that choice.

5 people like this
Posted by Cover-up Culture
a resident of Community Center
on May 27, 2019 at 10:33 pm

There’s nothing progressive about strangling charter schools. Washington Post
Web Link

The politics of charter schools have always been fraught for Democrats because of the influence of teachers unions — which oppose charters for reasons having nothing to do with the welfare of children.

3 people like this
Posted by Citizen
a resident of Crescent Park
on May 28, 2019 at 7:27 am

Your report about the $1 billion is bogus and biased, authored by folks trying to strangle charters - me thinks the teachers union:
Web Link

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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