SCUSD Observer

Sacramento, California

The Charter School Mess

By Mike Simpson
SCUSD Parent

The St. Hope mess points to a weakness in the law that authorizes Charter schools in California. Governing Boards are required to authorize, establish, support and monitor Charter Schools. The Governing Boards must pay for the cost of these required actions and services. The enormous amount of time and other resources necessary to discharge this responsibility continues to consume inordinate amount time and effort of the Board of Education, senior staff including the superintendent, associate superintendents, business and accounting services as well as legal services often at the expense of other pressing issues. In an era of severe budget cuts, why do we continue to allow a handful of schools to take the focus off the challenges facing all the schools in the district? The California charter law requires it.

At a recent board meeting, five district schools were honored for achieving “Distinguished Schools” status. An achievement of major proportion considering there were only 48 schools that attained the award of nearly 6000 public schools statewide. That celebration lasted under 10 minutes. Much of the rest of the board meeting was spent discussing new and existing charter schools. Many of the board meetings in the past few years have included glowing anecdotal praise from students, parents and staff of the charter schools as well as the obligatory bashing of the board by groups opposed to the charter. Each of these sessions takes away precious time needed to deal with other public issues facing our district and often obscures the success that happens daily in our district schools.

I hope the allegations that have initiated the current investigation of St. Hope are found to be without merit. My hope is for those students, parents and staff at the St. Hope charters. They deserve a good, safe education, whether public or charter.

The question of Charter schools is not only a local one but one that has national proportions. In almost every state that has a charter school law (41 states have such laws) problems exist. Charges of fraud, mismanagement, racism and sexual abuse as well as outright charter failures and closures continue to drive the debate and consume scarce education resources.

In Texas (considered the birthplace of NCLB and a leader of the Charter movement) state records show Charter schools have received more than $26 million in undeserved state funding through inaccurate student attendance reports. The Dallas Morning News reported that the Texas Education Agency is trying to recover $17 million from nearly half the charter schools in the Lone Star State. State officials cannot collect money from the 20 charters that have gone out of business, leaving taxpayers to pay the debt.

Across the country, there are calls for Charter School Reform. Two states (Ohio and New York) have considered a two-year moratorium on the issuance of charters for new schools.

It is ironic that the remedy for failing public schools is to make them charter schools. Maybe it is time for California to implement a moratorium on charter schools. In light of the outrageous budget cuts that are looming over schools, the continued drain on educational resources represented by the “charter school mess” must be contained.

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Written by scusdobserver

April 27, 2008 at 9:57 pm

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