The challenge of charter schools | March 22, 2019 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

Cover Story - March 22, 2019

The challenge of charter schools

Rapid rise of public-school alternatives leaves school districts scrambling for funding and students

by Elena Kadvany

Three years ago, Maria Rodriguez, then a high school freshman, pleaded with the Ravenswood City School District Board of Education to give the green light for a new public charter school — for the sake of her younger sisters, whom she wanted to have a better education than she'd received.

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Staff Writer Elena Kadvany can be emailed at ekadvany@paweekly.com.

Comments

16 people like this
Posted by Winifred
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Mar 22, 2019 at 9:17 am

East Palo Alto could take it one step further with wealthy donors assisting in the development of an exclusive private preparatory school complete with school ties, dormitories, & a headmaster...an Exeter of EPA concept. This would add to the overall prestige of EPA academics.

Wealthy & meddling Palo Alto 'do-gooders' who are always commenting about how to best improve East Palo Alto should be the first ones to contribute & create various fundraisers for such an effort.

That will be the day.


9 people like this
Posted by Product of VTP (Paly grad)
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Mar 22, 2019 at 12:24 pm

Winifred-Do you mean replicate what Eastside Prep School is already doing?
EPA/MP families need options like VTP, charters, privates. We need them all. Families should decide what is best for their kids. Consider Ravenswood school board members. You have two board members who are products of VTP and one who sends their children to private school outside of EPA. Board members need to ask themselves if they would send their OWN children to Ravenswood schools? Families have a right to look for the best option. Especially when Ravenswood has been failing kids for over 50 years.


6 people like this
Posted by Academic Pride
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Mar 22, 2019 at 12:39 pm

A preppy EPA academic environment would be something new.

Navy blue sports coats and gray slacks + lacrosse teams?

I say go for it!


3 people like this
Posted by Charter schools are destructive.
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 22, 2019 at 12:43 pm

Charter schools are destructive. is a registered user.

People who promote and run charter and private schools for a living love to say, "Let's cooperate to create more options for students." They are motivated by self-interest, not student achievement. If they were collaborators, they'd be collaborating in the public school system, instead of peeling off the best an brightest along with public school money. Charter schools are vampires...sucking the life out of our public school systems.

If you want to create better options for kids, get civically active in our PUBLIC school system and advocate for those options. Make our public schools the best they can be for EVERY child.


6 people like this
Posted by Jacquille
a resident of East Palo Alto
on Mar 22, 2019 at 1:07 pm

EPA should also have its own private college. Start off that way first & then become a major university granting doctorates.

The University of Nairobi (following in the footsteps of Nairobi College) has a nice ring to it & an NCAA sports program would help to stimulate revenue.

When/if EPA became a bonafide 'college town' then real estate valuations would increase, resulting in more tax revenue for infrastructure improvements & advancements.

Perhaps they could even play Stanford during the inter-collegiate football & basketball seasons.

A fresh injection of community pride would work wonders for EPA>


7 people like this
Posted by Homeschoolers
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 22, 2019 at 3:06 pm

According to the Brookings Institute: "Web Link




It’s disconcerting that homeschooling and autonomous education are not a part of this discussion, because they could bridge the gap, including the financial gap.

According to the Brookings Institute (and many other sources) "there are more children home schooling than in charter schools and public voucher programs combined.”

In particular, in the Bay Area, the homeschoolers tend to be those who choose freedom, innovation, and customization of their children’s education. Another major motivation is to be able to put one’s energies into education and healing rather than overhead or even dealing with all the hyper “mean girl” administrative flak that can characterize school for special needs families. My observation is that especially at the high school level, there seems to be a disproportionate number of homeschooling 2e and gifted boys.

One of the quick solutions for East Palo Alto is for the district to simply adopt an independent study program for homeschoolers, similar to the one in SJUSD, which actually makes money for the district because of students transferring from other districts where they don’t have such programs. This could be done overnight, but it might be hard to start up since what draws families is typically a desire for a working relationship with the school district (they don’t want to homeschool entirely on their own) and the ability to take some classes at district schools.

The second options, that could solve those problems, is for the district to create a homeschool/independent study charter that could serve anyone in Santa Clara County, that is geared to serving homeschoolers. This would allow the district to take students from all over the county (and get their state funding), without requiring them to provide a physical location for the students. Although the teachers would still be needed as Educational Specialists to meet with the students and keep track of their progress (and ensure the education meets state rules), this is still cheaper, and often helps with retention of good teachers who find what they love about education again by working individually and more flexibly with truly motivated students focused on their educations rather than traditional academic overhead. Teachers who need to take leave from classrooms for various reasons could stay because of the flexibility.

The flexibility also helps students better succeed, and could both allow students not doing well in traditional school as well as those who are otherwise high performers to bring up test scores for the district. (Studies of homeschoolers find they perform higher on standardized tests and have no gender or achievement gap.)

This is not going to attract students away from school — homeschooling is hard in other ways and not for everyone — but it could attract students TOMORROW from outside the district to an East Palo Alto distance charter, but there just aren’t enough charters like this in the area. All East Palo Alto has to do is just add homeschooling to an existing charter (that wants to), and open enrollment to homeschoolers around the Bay Area.

Valley View Charter Prep in Berkeley is a good model — it has a reputation for helping families be flexible and innovative, and thus has so much interest, they have to hold a lottery — they didn’t even have the staff to hire the ES’s fast enough to provide for everyone who wanted to enroll.

The beauty of it is that an East Palo Alto could support a successful program (first) that would then enable it to attract funds for a facility from investment outside of the district. A facility wouldn’t be a school, it would just be like a kind of community center for independent learners, such as Connecting Waters East Bay in Union City has.

I wonder if homeschoolers are being left out of these discussions because it makes the arguments about costs and funds moot? But we are badly impacted by these discussions that don’t take us — and the benefits to students who don’t fit in the system — into account. East Palo Alto: if you expand to homeschooling with an existing well-functioning charter, you will have too many students for you to even handle by the end of this school year. (If the funding available to families is competitive with Ocean Grove, the only real competitor in this area.)



13 people like this
Posted by Seperate But Equal
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 22, 2019 at 5:49 pm

> Wealthy & meddling Palo Alto 'do-gooders' who are always commenting about how to best improve East Palo Alto should be the first ones to contribute & create various fundraisers for such an effort.

I agree Winifred...

(1) The best thing is for Palo Altans not to add their 2 cents worth about EPA as East Palo Alto's destiny is its own business.

(2) Along the same lines...why the heck should wealthy Palo Altans subsidize the or be concerned about redevelopment or public education in EPA? Deal with the pressing issues on your own. Palo Alto residents have their own 'presing' concerns.

(3) Until EPA gets further gentrified, its inherent problems will continue. Developers can resurrect EPA to a vibrant Silicon Valley community but that is the call of its residents & municipal government.



5 people like this
Posted by Homeschoolers
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 22, 2019 at 7:03 pm

@Separate,

Palo Alto has a VTP program that means a fair number of students come to Palo Alto for school from East Palo Alto. I think it is does matter to Palo Altans, morally and for that reason, that East Palo Alto is able to enjoy the same quality of schools.

If East Palo Alto started a distance homestudies program like Valley View Charter Prep, we would transfer there from PAUSD. Anyone in Santa Clara County and any county touching SC County (provided they could get the ES's) could send their kids. East Palo Alto would get the funding for them but would not have to provide a facility.

Palo Alto could do this, too, but for the purpose of innovating for its own students and giving them options. Especially since PAUSD has done such a brutally abysmal job with 2e and gifted students.


3 people like this
Posted by Charter = Public School
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 22, 2019 at 7:48 pm

People seem to believe that charter schools are not state public schools but they are. Charter school = California public School. Ocean Grove, mentioned above, is a California public school that helps families homeschool while still meeting state requirements. There was a thread about it here on Palo Alto Online over a year go.


3 people like this
Posted by Pulido a Lier and Dishonest Board Member
a resident of Menlo Park
on Mar 22, 2019 at 9:57 pm

The article reads
The next year, still facing a major budget deficit, the board denied in a 3-2 vote a petition by charter operator Rocketship Education to open a new elementary school in East Palo Alto...
The article also provides a link that takes you to the Rocketship article and found out that Ana Pulido have voted yes to bringing Rocket Ship to East Palo alto. I cannot understand this woman thinking. She has scold one of the trustees and blames her for KIPP being in EPA, when she herself voted yes to Rocketshi in 2011. By the way I heard that Rocket Ship was not as good but still she voted yes at that time. Here is the link to it:
Web Link

Another thing, today's article reads that two of the board members are a VPT product and I think that is probably Pulido and Fitch. However last years campaign, Pulido said in front of more than 50 people who attended the debate organized by Inonvate that took place at Saint Francis Church she said: "I AM A PRODUCT OF RAVENSWOOD SCHOOL DISTRICT''
Pulido lie through her teeth just to get more votes and she forgot all about being honest and transparent. How can she be representing our students when she attended Palo Alto School District as a VPT student and not Ravenswood? .Why did she had to lie. Was it to say that Ravenswood is great or just so people would think that she knew about our district? What ever the reason was she is an embarrassing for our community and shall not be allowed to serve as a board member anymore. Lying in order to win the election is wrong and speaks really bad about her character.
I do have a copy of the writing that Pulido submitted to Innovate before the debate on that questionnaire she also said that she was a product of Ravenswoo, but she really is a product of VPT. Puled has a BA, and am wondering if had got degree if she in fact had gone to Ravenswood Schools.,
I wish there was a way to attach documents here so people could see that I am telling the truth when I said that Pulido lie in front of about more than 50 East Palo Alto and Belle Haven residents, and even worst in a church site. I google her name and found out that she in fact graduate from Palo Alto School District and that she did not attend Ravenswood at all. Can Pulido be recall for lying to the voters?


10 people like this
Posted by EPA & PA Are Like Night & Day
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 23, 2019 at 9:47 am

"I think it is does matter to Palo Altans, morally and for that reason, that East Palo Alto is able to enjoy the same quality of schools."
VS
"why the heck should wealthy Palo Altans subsidize the or be concerned about redevelopment or public education in EPA? Deal with the pressing issues on your own. Palo Alto residents have their own 'pressing' concerns."


EPA issues are not a Palo Alto responsibility. different city, different county, different school district, different demographics, different law enforcement agencies etc.

EPA & Palo Alto are two distinctly different cities with different perspectives on how to go about their business.



2 people like this
Posted by Homeschoolers
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 23, 2019 at 11:34 am

@Day,
I am not really interested in arguing about that issue. I am interested in making East Palo Alto aware of a possible solution to the conflict brought up in this article, about whether charter schools cost money. If a charter school has a homestudy/homeschool/independent study component, like Valley View Charter Prep, they can solve that problem pretty much overnight, while increasing options for local homeschoolers and without requiring new facilities.

Wired Magazine awhile back did a story asking techies to stop abandoning public schools en masse for homeschooling and unschooling, to stay and try to fix them. But the article didn't seem to understand that a lot of homeschooling happens through public entities, and when districts are open to that kind of partnership with self-directed learners, the learners will often choose to stay in public programs. East Palo Alto would be able to attract students from all the adjacent counties and districts throughout Santa Clara County. Properly managed, this would be a net cash inflow for East Palo Alto. It can be set up in no time flat.


4 people like this
Posted by Homeschoolers
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 23, 2019 at 11:35 am

@Day,
I am not really interested in debating whether we owe a responsibility to our fellow man here. I am interested in making East Palo Alto aware of a possible solution to the conflict brought up in this article, about whether charter schools cost money. If a charter school has a homestudy/homeschool/independent study component, like Valley View Charter Prep, they can solve that problem pretty much overnight, while increasing options for local homeschoolers and without requiring new facilities.

Wired Magazine awhile back did a story asking techies to stop abandoning public schools en masse for homeschooling and unschooling, to stay and try to fix them. But the article didn't seem to understand that a lot of homeschooling happens through public entities, and when districts are open to that kind of partnership with self-directed learners, the learners will often choose to stay in public programs. East Palo Alto would be able to attract students from all the adjacent counties and districts throughout Santa Clara County. Properly managed, this would be a net cash inflow for East Palo Alto. It can be set up in no time flat.


5 people like this
Posted by Homeschoolers
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 23, 2019 at 11:39 am

Stanford researchers often go to East Palo Alto hoping to help. They could be a part of setting up a self-directed/independent learning/distance program within an existing charter. They could also learn a tremendous amount about what works and doesn't work from people who are living and innovating in independent learning already.

The presence of Stanford researchers could also be a selling point for the program. Like I said, it could bring in a lot of funds without bringing in more facility-needing students.


4 people like this
Posted by Our Way - Their Way
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 23, 2019 at 12:48 pm

For EPA education to rise above its current standard, continued efforts must come from within (e.g. among parents, school administrators & the students themselves).

It's been over 60+ years now & nothing has changed much for the better.

An unstable school district, minimal civic interest, and a steady stream of crime are all factors contributing to this malaise.

Fortunately this is not a PA problem to contend with & PA bears no responsibility to ease the burden.


7 people like this
Posted by Seriously
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 23, 2019 at 1:18 pm

“For EPA education to rise above its current standard, continued efforts must come from within.”

I’m pretty certain that the efforts will come from China and India. The population that inhabited EPA from the 50’s to 90’s is being displaced by entry level Silicon Valley workers, just as they had previously displaced the previous demographic groups.

East Palo Alto twenty years from now will indistinguishable from Menlo Park.


3 people like this
Posted by Our Way-Their Way
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 23, 2019 at 1:39 pm

> I’m pretty certain that the efforts will come from China and India.

Right now the Asian population (including East Indians) is less than 4% in EPA.

Most of the ones I've spoken to do not want to reside in East Palo Alto for various reasons of their own.

If there is to be a major change in demographics over the next 20 years, what will draw them to EPA before then?


6 people like this
Posted by Seriously
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 23, 2019 at 2:15 pm

“Right now the Asian population (including East Indians) is less than 4% in EPA.”

Your numbers are out of date. The next census is in 2020.

“what will draw them to EPA before then?”

Skyrocketing house prices and rents in Palo Alto and Mountain View will draw them to it.


Like this comment
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Mar 23, 2019 at 2:43 pm

^ Didn't they remove that question from the next census?


Like this comment
Posted by Seriously
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 23, 2019 at 2:53 pm

@musical:

Hadn’t heard that, and just googled it. Seems like there was some debate, but the race and ethnicity questions will remain.


2 people like this
Posted by No Room At The Inn
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 23, 2019 at 3:42 pm

East Indians are not ethnically Asians...it's just a global geographic reference which is misleading.

At the risk of sounding non-PC, would you consider an East Indian whether Hindu, Sikh or even Pakistani an 'oriental'? Probably not.

East Indians are not ethically related to the Chinese, Koreans, Japanese, Okinawans, Cambodians, Laotians and Vietnamese et al.


1 person likes this
Posted by Victoria Thorp
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 24, 2019 at 1:17 pm

The name of one of the key players- KIPP- in this article is spelled incorrectly in both the online and print versions. In every case, the Palo Alto Weekly spells the name as "Kipp," but it is actually an acronym (Knowledge Is Power Program) and should be spelled "KIPP." This is pretty sloppy journalism.


3 people like this
Posted by Wayne Martn
a resident of Professorville
on Mar 24, 2019 at 3:07 pm

Using data provided to TransparentCalifornia, the job titles of those employed by the Ravenswood School District were organized into a spreadsheet, with average salaries and average total compensation costs show for each job title—

Ravenswood Job Titles:
Web Link

For the last four decades, schools have been receiving significant increases in their revenues. As a result, the number of non-teaching employees has increased to the point that money that could have been used for salaries, and dollars for the classrooms have been diverted to salaries and benefits for individuals whose contributions to education are difficult to prove in terms of increased student performance.

Looking at the Ravenswood District data, this “bloat” is not as bad as it is in larger school districts, like Oakland, Sacramento and the LAUSD. However, the question always remains—just how many employees does a school district need?

One of the rough numbers that comes out of an analysis such as this one is: ratio of students to total employees. The compensation data shows 692 employees for just under 2,400 students, or one employee for every 3.5 students. Which really seems like a lot of support staff per student. Will anyone challenge the District as to why they need this many empployees?

This Job Title Inventory is intended only to provide a top-down look at the School District as an organization. Meaning—how big is it, how does it spend its money on labor, and what kind of labor does it hire. School Districts generate a lot of data—which takes a lot of work to locate, collate and then evaluate. Sadly, datasets like this Job Title Inventory don’t appear when discussions about school financing are topical.

(Note--What’s not clear from the TransparentCalifornia data is whether the Charter School employees are included in this dataset.)


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