Charters and School Closures
This is one of the logical results of combining 1) under-enrolled urban school districts and 2) a lemming-like rush to institute school "choice" by opening as many charter schools as fast as you possibly can. One did not need to possess Cassandra-like foresight to see this coming down the road, nor the same situation playing itself out yearly in the Oakland Unified School District. Fewer kids + more schools = closed schools. Interesting that more "choice" for some resulted in less "choice" for others. Interesting that your ability to exercise your "choice" in San Francisco was negatively correlated with being African-American and/or Latino.
My district has (almost shockingly) avoided this same problem (for now). In rejecting proposals to open more schools in our under-enrolled urban district, we have averted the kind of nightmare that plagues San Francisco. (How's the learning and teaching been going lately, with all this hanging over their heads?) Yet, the San Jose Mercury News -- and, I assume, one particular editor possessed of a near-religious ideological support of charter schools -- has seen to bash this (remarkably) responsible and far-sighted decision. http://www.mercurynews.com/mld/mercurynews/news/opinion/13636969.htm
Some factual errors:
"The highest-performing school by far in the Alum Rock Unified Elementary district is KIPP Heartwood, a 2-year-old charter school."
They are not part of this District. That school is an independent charter that happens to be located in the geographic area served by our District. While a majority (probably) of students that attend this school would have attended District schools, it also admits students from other Districts, indescriminately.
"The teachers union hates charters, which it perceives as siphoning money for pay raises."
The union opposes charters out of its professional obligation to protect the working conditions of all members and maintain its ability to collectively bargain -- to assign personal/emotional motives to a multi-layered organization made up of many hundreds of diverse personalities and experiences is probably just a bit of a reach. Moreoever, the opposition does not derive from the kind of simple greed implied here. I have never heard that or anything like it during my time as a Union Rep, and indeed, this is a fairly illogicaly claim, based on the way funds are earmarked and distributed.
"And some in Alum Rock simply have chips on their shoulders. They're sick of hearing comparisons: ``KIPP did this and KIPP did that.' "
This is in quotes, so I assume it is a direct quote from an individual employed in some capacity by Alum Rock, and yet there is no attribution. This is inflammatory, snide, and potentially wrong. If you quote, you attribute. Personally, I will say I am sick of hearing what KIPP did only because the conversation rarely gets around to how we will bring those conditions to all students. Their success does not threaten me because it is 1) limited; 2) dependent upon a certain amount of sleight-of-hand; 3) a good thing for those kids and their families; 4) we do more with less.
The editorial "board" that produced this work cites ed code in its declaration that charter schools ought to be a part of the educational landscape in California, implying the District should adhere more closely to all legal principles. Then there's this: "The result was a 20-page rationale for rejection that was handed to RAICES two days before the trustees voted, with neither time nor an invitation to respond." The rationale for rejection was given with the legally defined time frame, in compliance with the ed code and applicable legal statutes, but suddenly that's not good enough. The position of the editorial "board" is that the District ought to act in strict accordance to the law when it is in the interest of charter schools, but should act in a "law-plus" manner, going beyond their legally outlined responsibilities, when it is in the interest of charter schools. Okay, got it.
"But none of these is a valid reason to deny RAICES a charter and parents a quality choice. And all are secondary to what's best for Alum Rock's kids."
This editorial "board" is correct; under the straw man they created nothing is valid. Viewing the situation with an intellectually honest disposition however, you find a myriad of reasons to deny this petition:
1) Under-enrollment and more school openings -- like Jose Cuervo and 2% milk -- do not mix.
2) Facilities crunch (which doesn't seem to fit in with 1. above, but does).
3) Refusal/ inability of charter schools to bring reform to the most needy in our District (newcomers, chronic CELDT-3s, SpEd, kids with no/ negative parental involvement, kids with high suspension and/or absentee rates).
4) Gross failure of 2 out of 3 charter/small schools (with one abstention for reserved judgment)
5) Desire to bring reform to 13,000 kids in our district, not 1,300.