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Mandarin immersion charter school petitions Menlo Park district for approval

Original post made on Sep 15, 2014

Supporters of a new charter school in the Menlo Park City School District that would teach many of its classes in Mandarin have asked the district to authorize the school. The school now has 30 days to hold a hearing on the request and 60 days to make a decision.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, September 12, 2014, 9:02 PM

Comments (11)

3 people like this
Posted by Susannah
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Sep 15, 2014 at 12:41 pm

Would Menlo Park City School District really have to pay the entire cost of educating students from other districts? And as a bonus find classroom space for those students on one of our campuses? Encinal has 100 more students than its campus is supposed to have.


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Posted by SteveC
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 15, 2014 at 2:21 pm

SteveC is a registered user.

I thought petition was withdrawn and they were going to petition the county. Is this an old article or did they change their minds again.


4 people like this
Posted by palo alto parent
a resident of another community
on Sep 16, 2014 at 9:38 am

@Susannah - Potentially, yes, the "Menlo Park City School District would really have to pay the entire cost of educating students from other districts" If the student comes from another basic aid district then Menlo Park pays for the student. If the other student comes from a non-basic aid district, the state kicks in its $7200 or so dollars, funding follows the student in non-basic aid districts. Priority would be given to Menlo Park students.

Your second comment about classroom space "And as a bonus find classroom space for those students on one of our campuses?" If there are 80 or more students, Menlo Park must provide facilities for them.

My personal opinion is that Charter schools have no place in high performing school districts. The intention of charter schools was to provide better educational opportunities for low performing school districts.


2 people like this
Posted by Concerned MPCSD Parent
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Sep 20, 2014 at 1:48 pm

Important points to be aware of about the impact of bringing a Mandarin Immersion School to MPCSD

· Student Admission for the Charter School: Attendance will not be restricted by Residence; students can come from anywhere in California including Palo Alto, Portola Valley, Woodside, and Los Altos & Menlo Park and Atherton tax dollars would have to pay for students from other cities to attend the charter school.
· MPCSD is a small district with only 2,029 K-5 students and 880 6-8 grade students, versus Palo Alto which has 5,816 K-5 students and 2,787 6-8 grade students as of 9/2013. MPCSD is simply not big enough to absorb the costly implications of hosting a charter school
· Basic aid districts (like the MPCSD) must share property tax revenue with charter schools that they authorize – this means Menlo Park and Atherton property tax dollars will be removed from existing the schools and given to the charter school and will not be reimbursed.
· Facilities would have to be provided by District under Proposition 39-it states equivalent facilities to charter schools who project or enroll at least 80 Average Daily Attendance (ADA) from that district. This obligation applies even if the charter was granted by another agency (such as a neighboring district, a county board of education or the State Board of Education.)
· Facilities offered must be contiguous, furnished and equipped, and reasonably equivalent to district schools that the charter school students would have otherwise attended. The State Board of Education has implemented detailed regulations defining the key terms of Proposition 39
· The school district must make “reasonable efforts” to grant charter school’s preferred location (Ed. Code section 47614) – taking away from existing public school campuses potentially including our recent Bond passed for the brand new school in the Willows - Laurel Upper Campus
· As a Basic Aid District MPCSD raises it’s own funds through each school’s PTO and MPAEF to support our Specialty Classes and keep our class sizes from getting crowded – bringing a Charter school to MPCSD could take approximately $775,000 out of our PTO and MPAEF funds every year
· ACTION – if you signed a petition from organizers calling themselves Menlo Mandarin Immersion Charter School (MMICS) please note this is not a petition for an Immersion program it is a petition for an Immersion school. If you would like your name removed from the petition please contact BOTH www.menlomandarin.org and fill out a contact form and ask for your name to be removed from the petition, and call the (MPCSD) District Office at 650-321-7140 and ask them to remove your name from the petition submitted 9/12/2014 to the District.
· ACTION – If you do not support the petition for Menlo Mandarin Immersion Charter School let your presence, and possibly your voice, be seen at the Special Public Hearing at Menlo Park City School District (TERC Building) 181 Encinal Ave., Atherton, CA, to be held in the next 30 days. Watch the MPCSD website (www.mpcsd.org), the Almanac (www.almanacnews.com), and your local public school newsletters for date and time.


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Posted by palo alto parent
a resident of another community
on Sep 22, 2014 at 11:02 am

@concerned parent - you put together a lot of good facts. Two comments

1). If there is enough interest, preference can be given to MP students which would help with the students coming from other Districts without funding. Although with less than 3000 students, it might be hard to find 40 students per grade interested in MI from just the MP school District (I think the Charter organizers are looking for 2 classrooms worth of students per grade level). But perhaps they are looking for that so they can have the 80 students needed to
force MPSD to supply classroom space.

2) I don't think that Charter Schools have to receive a share of private education funding (MPAEF) or any parcel taxes related to schools. And they would have their own PTO/PTA.


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Posted by John Donald
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Sep 22, 2014 at 3:29 pm

John Donald is a registered user.

@palo alto parent:

Per Charter School Fundamentals
John R. Yeh, Partner Burke, Williams & Sorensen, LLP
Menlo Park City School District Board Study Session September 3, 2014 (Web Link)

Basic aid school districts pay to charter schools a per-pupil share of property tax funding, up to the Statewide LCFF funding rate, for each of their students attending a charter school, as follows:
 If a basic aid district authorizes a charter school, all charter students, including out-of- district students, receive a per-pupil share of property taxes, up to the LCFF funding rate
 The rule also generally applies to basic aid students attending charter schools authorized by non-basic aid agencies

This is not clear to me. But I suppose that's a point in and of itself. These issues need to be fully explained to the community.


3 people like this
Posted by Aaron
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Sep 29, 2014 at 4:43 pm

Aaron is a registered user.

I support bilingual immersion and would consider supporting the introduction of an Mandarin Immersion (MI) class within an existing district school. However, I question the value of a MI charter school for the general public in the district. Not only does a charter school divert funds away from schools that already rely on the PTO and MPAEF to supplement critical programs, but it also means that students across the MPCSD will not necessarily benefit from cross-cultural interaction with teachers and students at the charter school (or vice versa). There has to be a tremendous upside impact of a charter school to counteract the negative impact such a school would have on average per student spending (given that some students would come from out-of-district) and use of MPCSD facilities. Usually charter schools provide impact in terms of vastly improving education for children in districts that have notoriously poor performance, so it's not clear to me that there is such impact to be achieved in MPCSD.

I gather that the group supporting the MICS is potentially using the same playbook that was used in Palo Alto to establish the MI program at Ohlone (I'm not clear on that history). If the School Board votes against granting a charter, then what? Would the families supporting the MICS be willing to accept a limited MI program instead? If the school board says no to the charter and restates their decision to not support an MI program at this time, are we in for an expensive court battle (again taking funds away from educating kids in our schools)?

Another obvious thing to consider is that families in the district have options for MI in our area, as long as they are willing to pay for private school. ISTP has a MI program in Palo Alto, and there's also the Yew Chung International School in Mountain View. Yes, these are expensive options, but they do exist for families that believe that MI is critical for their child's education.


4 people like this
Posted by Ken Rutsky
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Oct 1, 2014 at 12:08 pm

Frankly
This entire initiative reeks of selfish self centered parents who want a high end alternative program for their children AT THE EXPENSE of all of the other taxpayers and children in the district. You can sugar coat it all you want and wrap it around the charter school program, but MPCSD is OUTSTANDING and this program will be a drain and disadvantage, impacting both quality of education in the district overall, AND therefore property values to advantage a SMALL group of children. As one writer points out, there are ways to get this for your children via private schools, BUT the rest of us should not have to fund your luxury.

It is an abuse and misuse of why charter schools exist. All the other points above are the factual ones that don't need restating. Please show up at the board meeting and voice you opinion against this threat to the quality of our schools.


3 people like this
Posted by concerned MPCSD parent and tax payer
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on Oct 6, 2014 at 8:49 pm

Please read this and share it with other MPCSD residents so we all understand the impact and timing of the Menlo Mandarin Immersion Charter School. Together we CAN make a difference, so please take the actions we've outlined at the end of this email if you, too, agree that a Mandarin Immersion Charter School is not right for MPCSD. Thank you!

Reason #1- Charter schools are NOT intended to be established for groups of high-achieving students in top-ranked districts.
The law states two of the purposes of a charter school must be to:
“Increase learning opportunities for all pupils, with special emphasis on expanded learning experiences for pupils who are identified as academically low achieving.”
“Provide vigorous competition within the public school system to stimulate continual improvements in all public schools.”
According to California school rankings (Web Link), Encinal, Laurel, Oak Knoll, and Hillview all get the highest possible score: 10. Academic achievement is thriving in MPCSD. The intent of this law is to create potential areas of innovation where it doesn’t exist. In this case, there is a Mandarin program available to students at a private school within 15 minutes of Menlo Park. A charter school threatens to pull funding from the innovative programs currently offered in MPCSD schools, including those aimed at closing the achievement gap. This is clearly a misuse of the charter school intention.

Reason #2: MPCSD will be legally forced to fund students from outside the district.
Any spots not taken by MPCSD students will be filled by students from outside the district, and priority spots must be reserved for charter school founders’ children. Over half of the MMICS founders live outside the district. In the case of local Basic Aid Districts (i.e. PA, Los Lomitas, Woodside), MPCSD will pick up 100% of the cost for students, with no reimbursement from those districts. In the case of Revenue Limit Districts (i.e., Redwood City, Ravenswood), MPCSD will receive 70% of the LCFF funding. Our property taxes should not be used to support other school districts.

Reason #3: There are many hidden costs for MPCSD if a charter school is approved.
The financial commitments of MPCSD supporting a charter school are obvious (i.e. student funding and facilities costs), but there will be many additional demands on the MPCSD administration’s time and budget. While no Foundation or PTO dollars go directly to the charter school, it’s likely that these costs will increase to make up for deficiencies in the budget created by a charter’s hidden costs. These include, but are not limited to: lawyer fees, administration’s time/mindshare, and fewer jobs for current district teachers and staff. An example of this can be seen in the Los Altos School District. They have spent over $1.6 million and countless administrative hours dealing with the Bullis Charter School, pulling focus from district schools’ potential.

The provision under Prop 39 to provide “facilities of reasonable equivalence” will be a sure source of dispute in a school district that doesn’t currently have enough classroom or campus space for its own enrollment—especially as MMICS plans to increase enrollment by two classrooms each year. The construction of the new O’Connor campus as planned is a priority, which could be derailed by the obligation to dedicate multiple classrooms and ancillary rooms to a specialized charter school at a location of the founders’ choosing. And, should they choose to lease private space, MPCSD would be required to fund a portion of that.

Reason #5: Making the best-informed decision for our community takes time.
MPCSD should be free to fully investigate the implementation of Mandarin as an Immersion Program within its current curriculum, similar to the existing Spanish Immersion Program. MPCSD should decide if it is a viable option desired by district parents in the near future. However, current analysis and improvement of the Spanish Immersion Program, and thorough research into other global language programs will take time and effort, which the timeline requested by MMICS does not allow for. A survey of district families and/or Menlo Park taxpayers would be a good indication of the real level of interest in Mandarin at the elementary level (it is currently available at Menlo-Atherton High School). Costs need to be carefully analyzed, and budget choices weighed by looking at the big picture with the benefits of all 2,800 district students in mind. A rush to grant a charter school to meet the needs of a handful of district founder families only serves personal agendas.

SO, WHAT CAN YOU DO?

1) Write your elected school board officials TODAY to voice your concerns: board@mpcsd.org

2) Check the MMICS petition to see if you signed it prior to understanding its impact, and ask the MPCSD Board to remove your name if you should so choose: Web Link

3) Sign the NEW petition asking the MPCSD Board to deny approval of MMICS: Web Link

4) Attend an informational meeting Thursday, October 9 at 8:30 a.m. at Oak Knoll Elementary School, 1895 Oak Knoll Lane, Menlo Park

5) Attend the public hearing to voice your opinion on Tues, October 14 at 6:30 p.m. at Encinal Elementary School, Multi-Use Room, 195 Encinal Ave., Atherton​


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Posted by First World Problems
a resident of Menlo Park: Linfield Oaks
on Oct 7, 2014 at 2:18 pm

Let's see. Should we allocate funds to buy a brand new math curriculum after ignoring parent feedback and spending a fortune to buy a horrible program just five years ago? Or use those funds to provide a Mandarin immersion curriculum? Or buy more iPads so all 2,500 students in the district finally have their very own?

Does anyone else think this is an outrageous situation?

The real issue isn't about another language immersion program -- it's about the arrogance that stems from abundance. Those in control of the money (donated in truckloads by wealthy community members) feel entitled to dictate the terms of spending without challenge. The MPCSD, fueled by the MPAEF, is neither collaborative nor representative, so woe be unto any group of parents who have other ideas. If there had been a more open-minded and respectful process, we wouldn't be looking at the costly alternative of a charter school.

I think the parents applying to the county (or possibly the state) for a Mandarin Immersion charter are being extremely self-serving. Unless they are committed to leveling the playing field for underperforming students they are just a bunch of spoiled whiners. On the other hand, the school district has earned this grief with a long history of self-importance and exclusivity.


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Posted by Downtowner
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Oct 7, 2014 at 5:57 pm

@ 1st World Problems -

I resent any implication that MPAEF contributions come primarily from "wealthy community members." MPAEF was started years ago by concerned MPCSD parents of (at that time) current students who wanted to maintain existing programs which were endangered by budget cuts. We wanted school librarians, art and music classes, PE and other important benefits for our kids.

We solicited local business owners for contributions to our cause. Many downtown retailers & restaurant owners contributed. I remember it well because I was one of the committee members who contributed our time & efforts & approached business owners for contributions. We thought of different ways to raise money over the years & some wealthy people became aware of the needs & contributed, but MPAEF is a great example of a successful grass-roots movement very much driven by the spirit of community residents.

By the way, we didn't & don't work that hard so that we could fund a separate charter school benefitting parents from other communities seeking an opportunity for free foreign language immersion education at the reduction in funding to our existing MPCSD students. There are many very wealthy native Mandarin speakers who have prospered in Silicon Valley since moving here. How about approaching those individuals and corporations to fund a new MI private school for those parents who so strongly desire that? Subsidized tuition for students & use of space on business campuses can certainly be arranged for by this super-vocal group. Just do not try for a charter school which will is 1) outside the stated purpose of charter schools & 2) will cause harm to the other students in the district by removing funds & space from an already over-crowded system.


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