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Bill would check Oakland’s charter movement

By Katy Murphy
Thursday, April 17th, 2008 at 7:15 pm in charter schools.

train2.jpgThe 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

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  • Sue

    Bill, I think you must be new to this blog. Private school advocates abound here. We even have a few who believe the solution to OUSD’s problems is everyone-out-of-the-district, last-one-turn-out-the-lights-and-close-the-door-behind-you.

  • Nextset

    Sue, Many people believe the solution to OUSD’s problems is for them to run decent schools. Until they do run decent schools, no decent family will allow their children to set foot in OUSD.

    It is not too difficult for OUSD to start segregating problem students – and field a set of schools K-12 where the students and staff do not experience violence, threats of violence, promiscuity, unacceptable clothing and deportment, indiscipline and uncivil behavior. Alternative schools can remain for those who want to go to classes run in the more liberal mold (drop in when they feel like it, be whatever they want to be).

    Intolerence is what decent people want in their schools. OUSD schools pride themselves in tolerating just about anything, as long as it’s politically correct. Better families insist on better conditions for their children to be taught in.

  • Bill

    Sue;

    I think you hit the nail on the head. Oakland is much too tolerant of those who do not care about school, education, or values for that matter.
    Until then, I will send mine to private schools.

    I wish that Swanson should feel the backlash of those inner city, flatland voters. But then again; this is Oakland!

  • Bill

    Excuse me, I mean Nextset, not Sue.

  • cranky teacher

    Nextset wrote: “Schools are far more powerful than parents.”

    This goes against everything I’ve ever read, with the notable exception of some recent researchers who claim at a certain age *peers* become more influential than parents.

    Adolescence is all about individuation from parents, but it is parents who are the model, not teachers.

    Research I’ve read would indicate the following order of influences on a person’s development:

    - Parents
    - Genes
    - Exposure to trauma or deprivation
    - Siblings and peers and extended family networks
    - Sub-cultural norms

    School would be somewhere below this, perhaps tied with television/videogames as an influence.

    Now, when you say it is up to schools to impose discipline during school hours, you are right. But to say schools form human beings is wrong in general, although I’m sure you can find exceptions.

  • Sue

    Nextset Says:
    Sue, Many people believe the solution to OUSD’s problems is for them to run decent schools. Until they do run decent schools, no decent family will allow their children to set foot in OUSD.

    SUE: My children are in OUSD schools – decent ones, I might add – did you intend to call my family indecent?

    Nextset Says:
    It is not too difficult for OUSD to start segregating problem students…

    SUE: Funny, you seem to frequently hold forth on how difficult it is for OUSD to get rid of problem students, and now you are contradicting your previous position. So, how did it suddenly become less difficult?

    Nextset Says:
    Intolerence is what decent people want in their schools.

    SUE: Again, you are directing this post to me, and it appears that you’re calling me and my family indecent because we don’t embrace intolerance.
    I think we are using “intolerance” to mean very different things, though. I mean “unwilling to tolerate others’ beliefs, etc” – the first definition of intolerant from Webster’s New World Dictionary, 1973 edition. I think you mean the list of unacceptable behaviors that I didn’t quote in full, which I agree should be controlled and as far as possible eliminated from schools. But I don’t think the word “intolerance” communicates what you intended.

    Nextset Says:
    Better families insist on better conditions for their children to be taught in.

    SUE: Okay, one sentence that I can agree with – since my husband and I specifically chose our sons’ public schools for their good conditions for learning.

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