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

Ravenswood school board to vote on anti-charter resolution Thursday

Kipp Valiant Community Prep students play outside. The East Palo Alto charter school shares its outdoor play space with neighborhood public school Los Robles Magnet Academy. Photo by Veronica Weber.

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.

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Comments

4 people like this
Posted by menlo mom
a resident of Menlo Park: University Heights
on May 23, 2019 at 1:22 pm

menlo mom is a registered user.

I understand the financial burden that Ravenswood is under due partly to the charter school options in the area. But in this resolution, all I see are ways that traditional school districts are attempting to squash the charter system, and if that fails, to have their fingers in all aspects of it. What I don't see is an attempt to address the reasons that parents in under-performing districts are taking their tax money and enrolling their students in charter schools. How about some school union reform? A revamping of the tenure system and ability to fire underperfoming teachers?

You can suppress the charter schools and have the short term gain of slowing the hemorrhage of money, but are you really improving the lives of the children in your area in a long term capacity?


Like this comment
Posted by Agree with Menlo Mom
a resident of Atherton: other
on May 23, 2019 at 2:26 pm

I agree with Menlo Mom. What are these failing public schools doing to provide a better education to the underserved? Stop with the pleas for more money and address the issue of too many administrators and lack of the teachers union to support termination of underperforming teachers. Unions are more about dues than the effectiveness of their membership. For those who say "how do you measure what a teacher does"; you do it like you measure any other employee. Keep the Charter Schools going, it is the best hope for improvements in our school system. Competition is a good thing.


Like this comment
Posted by Joseph E. Davis
a resident of Woodside: Emerald Hills
on May 23, 2019 at 2:54 pm

There is no greater and more implacable enemy of children than the Teacher's Union.


4 people like this
Posted by Anne DeCarli
a resident of another community
on May 23, 2019 at 5:33 pm

Anne DeCarli is a registered user.

The prize-winning public schools in the Menlo Park, Las Lomitas, and Portola Valley school districts have strong unions and tenure.

A more likely cause of the difference between, say, the Las Lomitas schools' performance and that of the Ravenswood schools, is the greater wealth of the Las Lomitas district. It allows them to choose and hire and keep teachers with the best resumes - the best credentialed, the best educated, the most experienced.


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