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 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.