By Katy Murphy
Thursday, April 17th, 2008 at 7:15 pm in charter schools.
The Oakland school board has endorsed it, and the Assembly’s education committee has kept it alive.
Assembly Bill 2008, which would stop Oakland’s charter movement in its tracks, is another attempt by Sandre Swanson to help the state-run school district get back on its feet and stay there.
Conceived of concern that charters are bleeding the school district of students — and the money that follows them — the bill would prevent any new charters from opening as long as the district has a debt to pay.
In other words, for a looong time.
Oakland’s 32 publicly funded, independently run schools now educate some 8,000 children in the city, and two more are slated to open this fall. One in six public school children in Oakland attend one. (The history of the local charter movement, and all the openings and closings, is well documented here.)
One might argue that it shouldn’t matter how many students leave traditional public schools. If you’re not educating those kids anymore, then why do you need the state dollars alloted to them?
A reasonable point, and one that is often overlooked in calculations of “lost funding.” But, as an analyst from the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office explained to me recently, the state funding formulas work against school districts with declining student populations. And when districts experience steep declines, such as Oakland has, it’s hard to shrink the infrastructure quickly enough.
Now, back to the bill: Is it in the best interest of Oakland families to halt charter expansion? According to Gary Larson, of the California Charter Schools Association, Oakland’s charters have even longer waiting lists, on average, than those in the rest of the state. Is it fair to limit a family’s choices in an effort to uplift the system as a whole?
On the other hand, is it wise to allow the expansion to continue, unchecked, when fiscal experts (i.e. a FCMAT team led by Oakland’s future superintendent) say charters could stand in the way of Oakland Unified’s fiscal recovery?
image from jmfrazier’s site at flickr.com/creativecommons