Brown’s clout comes in big for Oakland charter schools

Jerry Brown at the January opening of the new Oakland School for the Arts building at the Fox Theater

Carla Marinucci, a political reporter for the Chronicle, had a piece in today’s paper about the $9.65 million that Jerry Brown, California Attorney General and likely candidate for governor, has raised for his favorite educational causes since 2006.

The Oakland School for the Arts and the Oakland Military Institute — two independently run, publicly funded charter schools that Brown started while mayor of Oakland — received the contributions, according to the news report.

That’s probably not a surprise to anyone who follows the local schools closely. Remember in April, when Brown got Oscar-winner Sean Penn to show up for a benefit at the arts school? Brown told me then that he had received more than $1 million in donations for that one event.

Marinucci’s piece questions the ethics of these donations, made on Brown’s behalf. Here’s an exerpt from today’s Chron story:

Brown’s spokesman, Scott Gerber, defended the contributions Tuesday, saying the attorney general is duly proud of his leading role in supporting the two inner-city schools, “which over nine years have served thousands of deserving and talented students.”

“They are outstanding institutions of learning” whose supporters include U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, ex-Secretary of State George Shultz, actors Clint Eastwood and Sean Penn and “outstanding citizens, companies and foundations,” Gerber said.

“Only a warped mind would deny these young people this golden opportunity, particularly at a time when the state is making draconian cuts to our public schools,” Gerber added.

Still, state records show that many of Brown’s gift donors have no apparent connection to the cause, while they have interests and businesses that are subject to the attorney general’s oversight.


Katy Murphy

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

  • Michael Siegel

    Katy, I am not sure if you were in Oakland when Jerry introduced these two schools years ago, but there were many fierce fights around here. Basically, when the Mayor realized that he was not going to be able to do whatever he wanted with OUSD, he turned his sights to OMI and OSA. I don’t think many would argue that these schools are bad for their students. I personally know several young folks who love Oakland School for the Arts. But while Jerry harnessed all of his political connections from decades of public service for the benefit of these two schools, there were 100+ other public schools that he totally ignored.

    Another aspect of this, of course, is that the charter school movement is a bonanza of political contributions for a gubernatorial run. It was much easier for Mayor Brown to cater to those interests than to get down in the nitty-gritty of OUSD, with our tens of thousands of students, powerful unions, entrenched bureaucracy, ultra-diverse student population, large special education programs, fading infrastructure, and so forth. Instead of trying to win gains there, the guy started fresh with new buildings, tons of press and financial support, etc. He got his photo opps and stayed above the fray.

    Again, the kids who go to these schools are very fortunate. But I can’t say I am surprised that throwing millions of dollars in extra funds at 1000 or so students will help you create a successful school.

  • Chauncey

    Hey Mikey- is it true that your dad also accepted contributions from charter school leaders during his mayoral campaign? Your dad lost and Brown i sat the state ready to run for Governor.

    I’d say his strategy worked, and your dads did not.

  • Katy Murphy

    Let’s not make this personal. My post, and the issue at hand, does not have to do with Dan Siegel. More importantly, Michael Siegel could easily post anonymously, but he didn’t.

    I want to encourage people to use their full names on this blog for transparency’s sake — and to discourage commenters, especially anonymous ones, from taking shots at them because of it.

  • Oakland Teacher


    I wish that when people post personal attacks and thinly veiled racist remarks, they were not allowed to be public. While your articles are intelligent and provocative, those types of responses degrade the site.

  • Nextset

    Oakland Teacher: The mark of a true liberal is suppression of free speech. If you had your way the town would look like Orwell’s “1984”.

    People have a right to be racist and every other political view that makes sense to them personally. People have a right to express their views. Those views either rise or fall on the merits, not what some government worker – like you and the other teachers – feel about it.

    It’s just that simple.

    I see less damage to society from “racists” than from you lot. Especially damage to black people. The KKK never did the harm to blacks that have been done in recent decades by white liberals.

    If you go about teaching people – “victims” as you would think of them – that they aren’t expected to deal with the marketplace of ideas and economics head on as an equal they grow up sheltered and weak, unable to stand on their own feet. Maybe you think you and the government will always be standing behind them to “protect” them. You won’t. You never did. Maybe you’d like to. You don’t have that power and you never will. People want to grow up and handle their own affairs. You are supposed to be teaching that.

    Brave New World.

  • Yastrzemski

    Michael…thank you for recognizing that the students who attend both of these school are fortunate.

    I just needed to correct a couple of little things. OMI is not in a “new” building. They were on the Oakland Army base, and now in the old Longfellow school building on Lusk Street. It probably looks new because the place is immaculate, there isn’t a single piece of grafitti or trash on the school grounds.

    I disagree that the only reason they are succeeding is that millions of dollars are thrown at them. OMI provides one key thing that OUSD does not. These kids are held ACCOUNTABLE for their behavior….good and bad. The kids and parents sign a behavior contract and agree to abide by all of the rules. You don’t sign, you don’t get to go. It is right there in black and white. They follow through with it….it really is simple. OMI serves a population that would not get this chance in an OUSD middle or high school.

    Check out the link to their web site, see what these kids do over the summmer…..required work. I have 2 children at OMI….I cannot say enough good things about it and I am thankful that Jerry Brown has consistently supported this school after leaving Oakland.

  • http://www.examiner.com/x-356-SF-Education-Examiner Caroline Grannan

    I blogged about this issue on examiner.com yesterday.

    The gist:

    Back in December 2001, I heard Jerry Brown speak at an event run by California’s charter school lobbying organization (then called CANEC), promoting his plans for the two charters, OSA and OMI. His attitude was that he would show those stupid educators how to do it right.

    Well, both schools have struggled badly (I’m much more familiar with OSA, which has had near-death experiences) and would never have made it without Brown’s relentless commitment and fundraising.

    I don’t have a huge ethical issue with Brown’s fundraising — he’s not benefiting personally. And I give him credit for remaining so relentlessly committed. But the righteous attitude for Brown to take would be a public apology to the educators of whom he was so disdainful back when he figured it would be E-Z to run inner-city schools, and a new commitment to supporting ALL public schools, not just his personal projects.

    By the way, I know that the entire notion of having experienced educators run OSA was disdained until it became apparent how necessary that was — at which point Brown recruited Donn Harris, veteran principal of San Francisco School of the Arts (my kids’ school) to run OSA. That was a tacit acknowledgment that experienced educators have some value after all.

  • http://www.cpa.com len raphael

    i’m no fan brown’s breezy lack of attention to detail mayoral tenure, so it’s a pleasant surprise that he followed thru on something of value to oakland residents.

    the problems of urban schools are darn near unfixable. you’d need some multiple of those millions of $ to make a dent; so it’s a good thing that at least some lower income kids got what upper middle and upper income kids get.

    -len raphael

  • http://www.examiner.com/x-356-SF-Education-Examiner Caroline Grannan

    This quote from the nonprofit organization Rethinking Schools sums up the issues that Len and I mention:

    “The elixir of an individualized bailout from a struggling system has serious side effects, however. It can create a painful wedge in many communities, especially among African-Americans. It can weaken the political will for a collective solution to the problems in public education; and it can promote the deterioration of traditional schools. As highly motivated and engaged families pull their children from traditional public schools, urban districts have fewer resources – both financial and human – to address their many problems. The worse the schools get, the more appealing the escape to charters and private schools, all of which feeds into the conservative dream of replacing public education with a free-market system of everyone for themselves, the common good be damned.”

    — From the introduction to the book “Keeping the Promise? The debate over charter schools,” published by Rethinking Schools in collaboration with the Center for Community Change. The introduction was written by education researcher/commentators Leigh Dingerson, Barbara Miner, Bob Peterson and Stephanie Walters.

  • Yastrzemski

    Caroline…would you agree that it is better for the OUSD schools to have the “highly motivated and engaged families” turn to OUSD charters that succeed (all 3 of the AIPCS, OSA, OCA, OMI etc…)instead of packing up and moving either to Piedmont or through the tunnel?
    They take their tax dollars with them and they usually withdraw a few younger siblings in OUSD elementary schools too.
    I cannot see how that is a better option for OUSD or Oakland.

  • Steven Weinberg

    Michael and Caroline are correct. By ignoring the rest of the schools in Oakland and devoting all his attention to the two charters that were his creation, Brown hurt the overall condition of schools in the city.
    Didn’t Brown also work out a deal so that a sizeable revenue from the monstrous billboard by the Bay Bridge goes to the School of the Arts? I remember reading that once. Is that correct, Katy. If so, all Oaklanders complaining now about higher fees and fewer services, might feel that those funds could have been shared more widely.

  • http://www.examiner.com/x-356-SF-Education-Examiner Caroline Grannan

    Yes, Steven’s memory is correct about the billboard proceeds going to OSA.

    Yastrzemski — both are harmful to Oakland schools. I would actually say the charter invasion is MORE harmful, though — charter schools harm public schools* even more than the loss of students to the ‘burbs does, in my opinion.

    Also, by the way, OMI’s test scores are pretty mediocre for a school that’s rolling in money, gets to pick-n-choose its students and shuns special-education students — I’m glad it’s working for your kids (though its low number of sped students is really immoral), but it’s questionable whether it can be really called a success.

    *I don’t consider charter schools public schools — they’re private schools funded with public money.

  • Gail

    Another point about Brown’s support for OSA: when he got the brilliant idea that Oakland needed a performing arts charter high school he apparently neither knew nor cared that starting such a school could undermine the wonderful but struggling Performing Arts Academy at Skyline. Fortunately that academy is still thriving but it’s an ongoing struggle–one that would likely be eased if OSA weren’t sucking up arts funding (in addition to funding from sources that care little about the arts but want a once and future Calif. governor to take their phone calls). This is just one example of Jerry Brown’s scary combination of ignorance and arrogance.

  • Dan Siegel

    There are many issues with Brown’s charter schools, including the military connection and the poor pay and protection structure for teachers. But from an education policy perspective, the biggest problem is that they do not work financially. Charter school supporters argue that they create innovative models for the public schools to emulate. That may be true in some cases, but Brown’s charter schools rely on huge financial supplements that result in their spending at least twice what public schools have to spend on each student. I think we can solve the problems of public education in California with $12-15,000 for each student, but until that happens Brown’s charters will, at best, benefit only the students who attend them.

    Dan Siegel

  • Nextset

    I tend to agree with Dan that extraordinary spending on a handful of students as a demonstration is not going to accomplish much for Oakland or OUSD. Incremental change for most of the students should produce more. Monthly incremental change perhaps..

  • Sara

    You can throw all the money you want at a school but unless there are enforced consequences for bad behavior it doesn’t matter at all. I didn’t dare send my son to Skyline because I knew he would be in classes with kids who can’t control themselves and everyone is afraid to do anything about it. So what if they miss their bus home due to after school detention, or miss football practice – bet you they won’t misbehave as much. Give the teachers latitude to prevent a student from sitting in their classroom until he or she can behave. It is pretty simple.

  • Yastrzemski

    Thank you Sara!
    That was the point I was trying to make also (#6).

    OMI does not “cherry-pick” students with behavior problems or poor test scores. They take all that apply, provided that they can pass their summer camp and exam.

    Special ed (“shun” is pretty harsh)…Caroline you are correct there aren’t very many, but I’m not sure some of those kids would even want to attend a school like this. (I work for OUSD in a school with a SDC…I know the types of children in these classes.)

    OMI has a zero tolerance policy for the behaviors that are tolerated in OUSD. They also provide a really great positive track. They are rewarded for good behavior and want to do well and get the rewards. Those who do not are usually gone by the end of the year and cannot come back. Take a look at what OUSD elementary schools have students there, it is probably one of the best options for these kids. They would not even be considered at a private school.

  • Let’s Get Real

    Thank you both, Sara and Yastrzemski, for driving home the most important point that needs to be heard and acted upon to improve Oakland schools. Until the Oakland school community comes to grips with the need to improve discipline, we will continue to see families understandably opt for alternatives to traditional public schools. We will also continue to see politicians and other opportunists take advantage of the situation.

  • http://www.examiner.com/x-356-SF-Education-Examiner Caroline Grannan

    So OMI requires students to pass an exam to get in? That’s new information to me.

    Even charter schools that don’t impose admissions requirements like that cream by the nature of their admissions process. The fact that every charter student has to specifically apply means that the children of unmotivated, low-functioning families will not be applying. On top of that, charter schools’ admissions processes get no oversight, so they’re free to pick and choose as they please, should they so desire. Oakland’s public schools are not.

    (That said, I agree that public education needs far more effective ways of dealing with behavioral and emotional problems. But charter schools deal with them by never having to trouble themselves with them at all.)

    Charter schools overall notoriously underserve disabled students (that is, admit significantly fewer than public schools overall).

  • Yastrzemski

    The admission to OMI is contingent on coming to school for a week in the summer and then passing an exam on what you have learned during that week. Everyone who applies has the opportunity to come to the summer camp.

    I’m not sure if that is the same thing as an admission exam, which can exclude a student based solely on academics. Candidates for OMI have several ways to “fail” during week, including behavior. The OMI staff is incredible and will help a student in any way to get into the school.

    Again, I have to disagree…OMI has kids with significant behavior and discipline problems. They just deal with them much more effectively than OUSD…and if someone is explelled…they are gone, something that RARELY ever happens in OUSD…much to the detriment of the good kids who want to go to school and be safe.

  • Yastrzemski


  • http://perimeterprimate.blogspot.com/ sharon

    On nearly every post here at the Education Report, people will eventually make comments that relate to the chronically intolerable/near-intolerable conditions caused by student misbehavior and its effects. Has anyone else noticed?

    The in-hospitability of urban public school climates is NOT solely an OUSD issue, it’s present nationwide. The amount of student misbehavior that schools are expected to cope with these days is a big, widespread problem and has come about as a result of complicated and tragic societal forces, and decisions that seemed right at the moment but produced negative effects over time.

    Does anyone know an entire school district with similar demographics that’s managing these challenges extremely well? Which specific schools in Oakland have this issue totally under control? How much do the student, teacher, and principal demographics influence their practices? How much can the techniques be replicated at other sites, and how can that be done?

    Do some schools boast about their accomplishments, but then operate by rules or in conditions that can’t be transferred on a wider basis? Is the exclusive enrollment practiced by charters (like refusing to deal with the types of students in Special Day Classes or those who are more defiant) the only way to go? If so, where then should those many more difficult students be educated? Just how much of the difficult student behavior can be suppressed? What are the legal and civil rights issues that need to be considered?

    I once heard a sociologist refer to America’s “incarcerated class.” Looking at the African American incarceration rates over the past decades, and thinking about the families those rates affect, maybe he’s onto something. So is is time yet to publicly admit that we probably have an established caste system in the US, and that the problems we’re talking about just might be connected to that?

    The issue about school climate is THE “big nut” to crack. Finding strategies to deal with this difficult issue should have been placed at the very top of the urban educational reform list.

    Unfortunately, educational reformers from the corporate world — who don’t understand or care about what is really going on in the trenches — are in control right now. They’ve been leading us down the path where everyone fixates on test scores, and scapegoats teachers, etc. because those are strategies that will eventually lead to the corporate world making a buck. Education entrepreneurship in a wide number of forms (tutoring, test materials, coaching, etc.) is now a huge, and growing, billion-dollar business, which developed from specific intent. In the 1980’s these people realized that the billions spent on public education was an untapped well of profit, so they made their political connections and have taken charge ever since. And so far we have let them.

    If both OUSD and the City of Oakland would set its main focus on improving school climates, and if the school board and our superintendent addressed it at every turn, we could become a model for the rest of the nation — we’re a district of manageable size. But they will need firm pressure AND help in the form of fresh ideas and feedback. Constant put-downs and abandonment of the public schools don’t do anything to help our community as a whole.

    How about more people writing letters to demand that the district turns its attention to school climate? How about asking the district to form a task force &/or department that compiles research, generates ideas, makes recommendations, monitors progress, and keeps up an exchange with the community? How about demanding that charter schools take their fair share of more challenging students? How about asking charters to use some of their innovation potential and extra funding to develop special programs for managing the more difficult students?

  • Let’s Get Real

    Well said, Sharon.

  • http://www.examiner.com/x-356-SF-Education-Examiner Caroline Grannan

    Since these school behavioral issues clearly aren’t limited to Oakland, it does seem that there should be larger-scale, serious, national and international efforts to deal with them.

    I’m currently watching my way through “The Wire,” season 4, which focuses on Baltimore’s inner-city schools — highly recommended to anyone who doesn’t grasp what Sharon is describing and who has the stomach for that level of realism. And it should be required background for any education reporter covering inner-city schools, and all policymakers, for that matter!

    It’s completely understandable why a parent would strongly prefer a school like OMI, which has multiple processes for screening out and getting rid of students with behavioral and other problems. Where do those students go when OMI dumps them? OUSD public schools, needless to say. OMI did not deal effectively with those troubled students; it simply got rid of them. So it’s unfair, inaccurate and just plain wrong to tout OMI as dealing more effectively with students with behavior problems — or to blame OUSD public schools and teachers by comparison — when OMI deals with those students by dumping them and OUSD takes them in. And, similarly, OMI manages to serve very few disabled students, leaving OUSD public schools to serve a disproportionate number.

    To restate, the appeal of OMI due to its screening out and dumping of problem students (and its greater resources) is obvious — but giving it credit or casting blame on OUSD is wrong. The schools that have to deal with those most troubled students need the resources to do that — instead, OMI is getting massively more resources. That’s not right.

  • Yastrzemski

    Caroline…I’d invite you to visit OMI before you continue to state your opinion as fact. You are not a parent there and do not work in OUSD, as I do. Where are you getting this from? Please, words like “dump”, “get rid of” etc…are wrong. You do not know this school, and as entitled to your opinion as you are, you are incorrect in your statements. OMI does deal with the “behavior problems” better than OUSD.

    On another thread, there was a link to a web site regarding OUSD’s very small expulsion rate statistics. The kids know this and do not take any “threat” of expulsion from OUSD seriously, the kids at OMI do.

    I do not blame OUSD either…they do what they can with what they have, and need more. Dumping all of the charters into one “bad” group is not fair. Take a look at the OMI feeder schools and their discipline problems, then look at OMI’s. They are doing a good job with what many would say are the “less desireable” kids. I’ll personally show you around myself.

  • Bill Sampson

    Mr. Siegal’s comments exassberate a point that is most depressing in education. Board members, or former, only know how to chant the more money mantra.

    Having worked inside of the state system for many years knocking on interest groups doors and negotiating backroom deals on behalf of them -I can tell you the state gets too much educational dollars.

    It is important to note that education recieves 40 billion dollars in this state! That is 2 times more than health care, fourtimes more than social service, and prisons.

    In reality, CA public school recieve $14,000 per student currently. The rank at about 24 in the nation in terms of monies recieved-the middle of the pack. However, in terms of spending California ranks 3rd in the nation.

    Another hidden aspect in the CA education landscape is that charter school systems recieve on average, $7,480.00 per student, or about half of what districts get.

    After reading this blog for a while- I can see the special interestskew of the old education establishments influence in this town and the attacks of charter schoolers- so for those that perhaps want pure knowldege- i would suggest reading reports from Edsource for content knowldege.

    Do not believe the figures I provide- see for yourself on Edsource. Education must change, but it wont anytime soon due the monies dumped.

  • http://www.examiner.com/x-356-SF-Education-Examiner Caroline Grannan

    But Yastrzemski, what I would see if I toured (which I’m sure would be impressive) was a student body that had been quite aggressively creamed, via a process that you yourself describe.

    It’s also a school with vastly more resources than other Oakland schools, as we learn from the news coverage of Jerry Brown’s fundraising. I can absolutely see why you like it, and why the school would be a more positive climate as a result. My point is the impact on the other schools — and the fact that charter supporters tout their schools as superior to Oakland public schools that don’t have aggressive creaming processes and that have far fewer resources. That’s wrong.

    I’m sure the feeder schools DO have a lot of challenging students, and it also seems obvious that the most challenging of those students would not make it through the aggressive selection process that OMI requires.

    I’m not particularly willing to be PC in my language. What charter schools are doing IS dumping.

  • http://www.examiner.com/x-356-SF-Education-Examiner Caroline Grannan

    Actually, EdSource says California spends $9,124 per pupil, No. 24 among the states. Edsource also points out that California faces some challenges that mean schools need extra resources:


    * California has far more K–12 students than any other state.
    * Its largest ethnic group is Latinos, unlike most states.
    * It has the highest percentage of children who live in a family in which the head of household has not completed high school.
    * It ranks first by a wide margin in the proportion of children who speak a language other than English at home.


    EdSource doesn’t give a comparable amount for charter schools.

  • Chauncey

    To Katy and all the rest

    I’m getting too personal and attacking Mikey Siegal? Isint that what everyone else does to Chavis, Lopez and others? Only when its to white liberals do ya’ll get testy. Oakland, Oakland, Oakland- I hope my people wake up and realize that this is in fact the problem. Lets ban those that are getting personal- i didnt even say crazy things like those that have been stated in the past by other bloggers!

    I dont care though- cause most my folks in the deep East dont even read let alone read stuff like this!

    Give the taxpayers their choice with their tax dollars is what I say- and if that means destroying public ed- so be it- its already destroyed generations!

    People like Dan, Mikey, and liberals are the problem with minorities and yet we still follow them waiting for scraps. Shame on us!

  • Katy Murphy

    The U.S. Census recently reported a similar per-student spending average for California’s public schools, based on 2007 spending – $9,152.

    I blogged about it last week:

  • Yastrzemski

    You seemed to be determined to cast a negative light on this. My offer was sincere…when you’d like to see exactly what kind of students and discipline system OMI has in place…the truth…I’ll be waiting.

  • http://www.examiner.com/x-356-SF-Education-Examiner Caroline Grannan

    Yastrzemski, I’m a working mom who’s normally not free on weekdays to take much of the day to cross the bay and take a tour. If I can pull it off sometime, I’d certainly be interested, and thank you.

    Your description of the enrollment system speaks for itself, and the extra funding isn’t chopped liver either. It’s understandable that the school climate is likely to be more positive than in a true public school, so in that sense I’m not casting it in a negative light. It’s the issue of comparing OMI to the Oakland schools that are not able to implement a similar winnowing process that’s wrong.

  • Nextset

    Caroline, you are drinking the Kool-Aid. When you are older you will regret your doing so.

    The back and forth about the Charters and OMI only taking the “cream” of incoming students is interesting.

    They are trying to be schools.

    OUSD believes you can run a “school” by mixing unsuitable “students” with real students. No real school operates that way. You can’t mix sewage with swimming pool water either.

    The screening can be significant such as the US Military Academies or it can be subtle such as a trade school barring any student that failed to show up at the mandatory orientation meeting. The point is that you don’t allow people into your student body believed to be unwilling or unable to fit in and get with the program. Those that don’t must go to some program suited for them so they don’t wreck the real school.

    There is nothing bad about this process, it’s how you maintain a real “school” rather than the failure factories the Urban School Districts pass off as a School.

    Just as swimming in sewage makes people sick, trying to get educated in a crowd of disorderly “students” produces weaker graduates with behaviorial problems (bad norms). Who people don’t want to hire.

    As I have said before, since the “Civil Rights Movement” of the 1960s the mission of US public school systems have changed from education and running real schools to pacification of urban minorities. Education is strictly an secondary mission, it’s nice if there is some but that’s optional. The true mission of these systems is to keep the minorities in false happiness and promote false achievement long enough to get these people to the age of majority and out of the system. Along the way we see the false grading and the unearned bogus superlatives (“wonderful” is my favorite).

    Many minority parents see through this and keep their kids clear of these “schools”. Mine did and so did all their friends. Patrician Whites laugh at the notion of putting their kids anywhere near these systems.

    Brave New World.

  • Yastrzemski

    Thank you Nextset….you said it better than I did.

  • http://www.examiner.com/x-356-SF-Education-Examiner Caroline Grannan

    Nextset, I’m 55 — how much older do I have to be? I’ve been following “school reform” since I did a freelance writing job for the Hoover Institution in 1997 (since you mention my age, I must have been 43), and the more I know, the more skeptical I am about the “it’s a miracle!” urban school “reformers.” I happen to be growing older during that learning period.

    A few responses:

    I completely understand why it benefits the school and the students to “only (take) the ‘cream’ of incoming students.”

    The first task is to point out that that’s happening and persuade the charter folks to stop denying it. Are we all on the same page now, acknowledging that charter schools cream? Thank you.

    The false claim that charter schools accept the same cross-section of students as public schools and simply do better with them is, aside from being wrong because it’s a lie, seriously damaging to public schools. So we’re all now agreed that that claim is untrue, dead and buried.

    Nextset says:

    “OUSD believes you can run a “school” by mixing unsuitable “students” with real students. No real school operates that way.”

    I would question whether OUSD is running that way because of an institutional belief or philosophy. The situation in our public education system requires OUSD to try to do that (what I’ll rephrase as educating highly challenged students along with higher-functioning students), and OUSD figuratively grits its collective teeth and tries to do it. I’ll rephrase Nextset’s “real school” as “successful school.”

    In my personal experience and observation, a school with a certain percentage of troubled, at-risk, high-need students amid the higher-functioning students can absorb the struggling students and still function effectively. When the percentage of troubled, at-risk high-need students grows to critical mass, the school becomes overwhelmed.

    Nextset says: “The point is that you don’t allow people into your student body believed to be unwilling or unable to fit in and get with the program. Those that don’t must go to some program suited for them so they don’t wreck the real school.”

    This is a restatement, in less-gentle language, of what Sharon posted earlier, and I agree with it. In some form, such a system needs to be created for urban schools.

    Nextset says: “The true mission of these systems is to keep the minorities in false happiness and promote false achievement long enough to get these people to the age of majority and out of the system. Along the way we see the false grading and the unearned bogus superlatives (”wonderful” is my favorite). Many minority parents see through this and keep their kids clear of these “schools”.”

    Maybe I’m out of line as I’m not a minority parent (though surely Nextset would be the last person to blast me for not being PC), but I’m going to speculate on the motives of the minority parents Nextset refers to.

    I would bet that their primary concern is not the “false grading and the unearned bogus superlatives” but the real dangers posed by the “street” kids’ association with their kids. Both physical safety and separation from troublesome influences are serious concerns. (I’m talking about minority kids here, since they face threats their peers from other communities do not. As an example: An African-American classmate of my daughter’s in their middle school honors classes was subjected to torment and threats from her African-American peers, simply for being in the honors program. The tormentors never bothered my white daughter at all and were not a threat nor an annoyance to her.)

    In other words, I well understand why minority families are desperate for a way out of schools full of troubled, at-risk, low-functioning students from their own communities. I strongly support finding a way to allow the public schools to create such a system.

    But my original point is:

    — Charter schools cream.
    — Then, in general, they deny doing so and claim that they’re simply superior to the public schools that accept the students dumped by the charter schools.
    — That harms the public schools by eroding support for them, when they need MORE support as they have to deal with the most challenged students.

    Despite the creaming, by the way, charter schools do not overall show higher achievement than public schools.

  • Nextset

    CG: I agree that the Charters do not accept a cross section of the community. They have a good idea which students they are after and they don’t want the high maintenance kids.

    Therefore your position that the Charters cream cannot be denied. Whether they discourage undesirable applicants actively or passively the results are always the same. Cream.

    As far as the minority parents motives in keeping their kids out of the Urban Publics – it is more complicated that you have stated. I remember well my parent’s moving from the black neighborhood in 1959 to an all white neighborhood. I remember some of the comments. I noticed that all their friends were doing the same in that period. Yes, ALL their (black Professional) friends. Some of them had to do so using straw men to buy the new houses. There were difficulties in getting the mortgages, Bank Of America would not issue a mortgage for any black to move to a non-black neighborhood as one of their close friends learned. The mortgage was approved until the address was provided and it was learned that the proposed address was “white”. They found another bank.

  • http://www.examiner.com/x-356-SF-Education-Examiner~y2009m7d29-Does-Bay-Area-Rep-George-Miller-support-harming-Calif-schools-One-blogger-thinks-so Caroline Grannan

    Thank you, Nextset. The claim by charter schools and their supporters that they don’t cream is a constant, ongoing drumbeat; I have this conversation regularly.

    It appears to me that our students and our educational system would be better served if the charter folks were honest about this — and conversely, I believe that our students and our educational system are harmed by their dishonesty.

    I know it’s true that many African-American families left for the suburbs. My guess would be that was for a list of reasons, but that safety and protection from the influence of problem companions would be at the top.

  • Nextset

    Caroline Graham: I do remember being taught as a child that (some black) people were “different” and I wasn’t to play with the “others”. At least that’s the way I think I remember – we are talking about prior to 1st grade.

    By first grade I was in Catholic Schools and I was informed that whoever was in Catholic Schools was acceptable to associate with (regardless of color) and everybody else required prior authorization… Eventually we all learned what the requirements were. Attempts at association outside of the approved list were made very unpleasant.

    Were they trying to protect my cohort from tagging along for an armed robbery or a heroin pickup? Well some (prominent) black families weren’t so picky in Oakland and that’s exactly what their kids got. But they weren’t Catholic – they went to black churches in the first place. Anyway the 1960’s were a lot of fun.

    But my parents bristled at false praise and unearned superlatives. When anybody – especially whites – threw those around my cohorts the parents would fume and worse. Remember, most of them had military experiences and that’s part of where they were first “integrated” into white contacts. The understood paying dues, rank and civil service seniority. They knew false praise when they heard it and what that really meant.

    They themselves generally went to all black schools and lived in all black neighborhoods “back east”. Following the Good War and the mass relocation to CA they tended to hang politically with Catholic and Jewish & Democratic Party (ethnic coalition) interests.

    Compared to the generation present now, this WWII generation were to me tougher and more focused. They were serious about education for their kids, maybe more so than now. And they weren’t very politically correct either.

    I my memories they weren’t so much fleeing the black society as wanting in on the white society goodies. We would have been at the top of the black schools as our parents were. But my parent’s generation decided to use my generation to get what they didn’t have which was mainstream university level education. That means not going to Ghetto High.

    There were some unintended consequences.. the interracial marriages for one.

    I do think each school and program should be brutally honest about who they are for and who they are not for and say openly that each school program is not suitable for every child. And we have got to have different programs for the different kids – while allowing people to move at will (and by being kicked out) when the student & family want to try a different school/program and have the prerequisites.

    I think the private schools do this. The Charters will probably get to this before the Publics will because the Publics cling to the fantasy that all persons are equal when they aren’t.