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A charter debate to watch, at your own risk

UPDATE: I’ve just learned that the debate has been postponed — not sure why.


Tribune file photos of Ben Chavis and Yvette Felarca

Let’s just say that when I chose my furlough dates last month, I had no idea that the below event would be happening in the middle of my time away.

Ben Chavis, the infamously temperamental, “Bay Area liberals”-loathing former director of the American Indian Public Charter Schools is taking on Yvette Felarca, a likewise outspoken leader of BAMN (Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, Integration & Immigrant Rights And Fight for Equality By Any Means Necessary) and her colleague, Shanta Driver, in a debate about charter schools.

I wonder if OUSD is taking any additional security precautions.

With school board member Chris Dobbins moderating, Felarca and Driver are going to argue ”that charter schools are part of a new Jim Crow system of education that forces an increasing number of black and Latino students into separate, inferior schools.” (I don’t know which system they consider to be separate and inferior, as more than 80 percent of Oakland’s charter school students are black or Latino — and some of the city’s charter schools are better than others – but I suppose they are referring to district schools.)

Chavis is slated to take the opposite position, which is interesting because I don’t think he’s necessarily pro-charter as much as he is for his particular brand of education — and as much as he is against groups like BAMN. Here’s the flier:

Charter Schools: A Step Forward or Backward for Public Education?

A debate between opponents and advocates of charter schools is scheduled to take place Thursday, February 26th, at 5:00 PM in the OUSD Administration Building, Hunter Hall. In Oakland, and nationally, the growth of charter schools has been one of the most hotly contested changes in the educational system over the past ten years.

Arguing that charter schools are part of a new Jim Crow system of education that forces an increasing number of black and Latino students into separate, inferior schools will be Shanta Driver and Yvette Felarca, representatives of the civil rights group Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, Integration and Immigrant Rights and Fight for Equality by Any Means Necessary (BAMN).

Arguing that charter schools provide students with an education to enhance their academic skills in order to compete and be productive members of society will be Ben Chavez (sic), founder of the American Indian Charter School in Oakland, and Janet Roberts, current Principal of the American Indian Charter School.

Oakland Unified School Board Director Chris Dobbins will be moderating the event. Hunter Hall is located at 1025 2nd Avenue, near Laney College. The public is invited to attend and will have ample opportunities to pose questions to the speakers in what is sure to be a hotly contested debate.

Katy Murphy

Education reporter for the Oakland Tribune. Contact me at kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com.

  • Nextset

    A great topic for a no-holds-barred public debate.

    “Arguing that Charter Schools are part of a new Jim Crow…” Sounds like fun. What the liberals/radicals just can’t seem to understand is that in this Brave new World Affirmative Action is dead. In fat times you might get away with telling people they have to give their treasure to other people because they are politically favored/powerful – that won’t happen in tough times. So where does that leave the endangered species?

    In sink or swim time.

    With liberals clinging to the leaky water wings and refusing to tell their clients that they’d better learn to swim (that’s unfair!!!!!).

    When the municipal budgets collapse completely and basic services end – which is becoming likely – look for the rise of Internet Schools.

  • Maggie

    postponed till when? very excited about this

  • Katy Murphy

    I don’t think a rescheduled date has been set. One of the organizers just emailed to say it would be postponed about a month. I’ll let you know!

  • http://www,sfschools.org Caroline

    I wonder if the California Charter Schools Assn. got wind of this and put on pressure to call it off. Chavis is clearly not a spokesman with whom those with a sophisticated PR concept would be comfortable. When he starts letting fly with the N-word and sexist remarks, it may not be the public image they are seeking.

    As a sharp critic of charter schools myself, I’m not totally sure the arguments put forth by BAMN would reflect my views, for that matter.

    The current budding flap about the KIPP school in Fresno is livening up the charter scene. If the allegations of abuse are accurate, the principal there makes Chavis look like Miss Nancy from Romper Room. That principal is accused of:
    … slamming students against the wall, placing trash cans over their heads, forcing kids to crawl on their hands and knees while barking, and enforcing unreasonably strict bathroom rules, resulting in students having accidents and vomiting on themselves inside the classroom.

    http://tinyurl.com/ck64zw

  • cranky teacher

    Caroline, FYI: tinyurl links are blocked by OUSD’s filter.

  • cranky teacher

    Sounds like this guy may have a pretty good lawsuit because Fresno Unified really aired the dirty laundry, whether true or not:

    http://www.fresnobee.com/local/story/1218145.html

  • http://www,sfschools.org Caroline

    If that principal sues Fresno Unified, what that means is that charter schools have truly declared themselves 100% unaccountable, answerable to no one.

    Right now they are barely accountable and barely answerable, but give it up totally if this dude sues.

    (And I don’t even mean if he wins. If Fresno has to spend money defending against a defamation suit at all…)

  • Mr. G

    Katy, is there any word on whether or not this is going to be rescheduled?

  • Katy Murphy

    Yes, it is. I’m waiting for a news release with more details, but it’ll be from 5 to 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 24 at Hunter Hall (the fourth floor of the OUSD administrative office building).

    The speakers, so far…

    Pro-charter: Ben Chavis, Hugo Arabia (principal of Oasis) and Kristin Gallagher (principal of Millsmont Academy).

    Anti-charter: Shanta Driver and Yvette Felarca and Kim Shipp, former OUSD parent

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