Fact check: Jerry Brown and charter schools

The below television ad promises “more money in the classroom, more charter schools, a chance for change” if Meg Whitman is elected governor of California.

The ad suggests that Whitman’s Democratic opponent, Jerry Brown, wouldn’t support the expansion of independently run charter schools — or school reform, in general — because his campaign has been backed by the California Teachers Association.

What it doesn’t mention is that Brown opened two charter schools while he was Oakland’s mayor — the Oakland Military Institute and the Oakland School for the Arts — a fact he has often touted in his campaign.

Betty Olson-Jones, president of the Oakland teachers union, is no Whitman supporter. But she isn’t singing Brown’s praises, either. In fact, the Oakland Education Association, which is known to weigh in on state elections, chose not to make an endorsement for the governor’s race.

“I’ve told Jerry Brown personally that I have some real issues with some of his policies, particularly with charter schools,” said Olson-Jones, who opposes charters. “He definitely has embraced charter schools.”

Chronicle reporter Carla Marinucci reported last year that Brown had raised nearly $10 million for the two schools since 2006. (Marinucci’s story also noted — as the East Bay Express and the Sacramento Bee have, more recently — the schools’ middling test scores, despite the extra cash. OSA scored a 756 out of a possible 1,000 points on the Academic Performance Index this year, and OMI scored a 728. They scored higher than any of the non-charter schools, but are still shy of the state target of 800.)

That’s not to say that Whitman and Brown line up on the issue. Charter schools seem to be front and center in Whitman’s education platform, while Brown has said he doesn’t see the mass expansion of charter schools as the solution to public education’s ills.

Here’s what Brown has to say about charters in his education plan:

From my experience in starting and running these schools, I have gained first-hand experience in how difficult it is to enable all students to be ready for college and careers. Student outcomes are a complex interaction of student characteristics, teacher competence, instructional materials, and parental support. Any reforms and state educational policies must take into account this complexity and refrain from oversimplifying the problems and solutions.

An Oakland visit: Meg Whitman told the Twittersphere that she visited the Jefferson elementary school campus today in East Oakland, home of Learning Without Limits and Global Family (which aren’t charters, in case you were wondering).

Was anyone there?

Katy Murphy

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

  • oakie

    Whitman or Brown makes no difference. We have single digit competency in math at our high schools! I see no reason to believe it will not be the same in 10 more years, just the enrollment will continue to go down as parents continue to escape the sinking ship. Without real reform, like what Michelle Rhee attempted to do, there will be much ado about nothing. And nothing will really change, and the test scores will prove it.

    Let’s not forget that Obama lost the California primary to Clinton, who was much more in bed with the teacher’s union and their intransigence toward reform. Obama had made it clear he wanted movement toward reform.

    Betty Olson-Jones is the poster child for why we desperately need reform. She is indistinguishable from a Teamster. In no way does she represent an association of real professionals. These bums need to be thrown out. Now. If not, the only solution is dissolution of the district. After all, we’re almost halfway there. When I arrived in Oakland in 1980, there were about 60,000 students in the system. We’re now down to 30,000. My wish is that it goes so low it will be necessary to shut down. I will celebrate that day.

    Well, turn the lights out when you’re done. The world will be a better place, and specifically Oakland will be.

  • Steven Weinberg

    Based on his actions as Oakland’s Mayor, Jerry Brown does not deserve the endorsement of OEA, but sometimes you vote for a candidate you would not endorse, and this is one of them. Meg Whitman’s tax cuts would reduce the amount of money available to all public schools, regular and charter, and no teacher should vote for her. In this close an election it is necessary that all those concerned about public education vote for her prime opponent, Jerry Brown.

    Betty Olson-Jones certainly does not deserve the abuse that the previous poster heaped upon her. I have heard her speak many times at the School Board. She is reasonable, respectful, well-informed, and commited to improving education for the students of Oakland. She has been a voice of moderation within the union, while fulfilling her constitutional role and carrying out the policies of the OEA Representative Council.

  • JR

    Good points, there are two kinds of reform:

    1. Real reform that excises the dead wood inherent in the school system(there is pain involved especially at the district offices)Michelle Rheem, love her or hate her, did the right thing there. Not fair to the adults but very good for the kids in the long run.

    2. “Lipstick on a pig” reform, it looks like something is being done(pain is kept to a minimum,if any).Everyone just goes through the motions and progress is glacier-like. People are so worried about fairness to the adults that what is best for kids is shoved to the side.

    Cuts are necessary in these times for this state and we cant afford to be a jobs bank that hires and retains people regardless of performance. Just because they have bills to pay.

  • Gail

    All the fawning over Michelle Rhee is a mystery to me, as is why anyone thinks this woman was qualified to run a large public school system after teaching for 3 years. I don’t doubt there were/are teachers in DC who shouldn’t be in a classroom, as there are everywhere, but I have absolutely no confidence in Michelle Rhee’s ability to know which teachers those are! She certainly did become the darling of the rich white boys’ club though–I refer of course to the cabal of Gates, Broad, Walton & their ilk.

    Steven Weinberg, thank you for your consistently thoughtful, insightful, and informative comments on this site.

  • JR

    This “qualified for this” nonsense is beyond ridiculous. There have been plenty of so called “qualified” educational experts who are entrenched throughout our educational system and have managed to boost our childrens educational outcomes to collective mediocrity when compared to the rest of the world. I would rather have a novice someone who takes constructive corrective action than a so called expert who talks a good game but does nothing. Degrees don’t mean anything, if you can’t or wont do what should be done(what is best for kids comes before adults).

  • JR

    We are hitting close to home on what the real concerns of certain people are, not children’s education but the fear of the end of the gravy train as we have known it. No the “rich white boys’ club” isn’t responsible for it, the taxpayers are tired of watching this song and dance decade after decade and nothing changes. Now we taxpayers are going to change things without the unions help.

  • Gaia Ozcun

    Publicly funded yet privately managed – Charter School fraud is an easy concept. Charters can be succesful it depends on the “agenda” of the the managing company. Accountability has not caught up to the growth of the Charter movement. In the USA we have an Islamic Imam – Fethullah Gulen (Gulen Movement) that manages over 130 US Charter schools they have taken over $1 billion in Educational monies in the last 10 years and are growing like rapid fire. California has had their share of Charter School fraud. Gulen’s school in California are Magnolia Science Academy, Pacific Technology and Bay ARea Technology.
    The Gulen schools have a network of foundations and instutitions layered over the schools and much of our educational money is going to non-educational expenses such as: Turkish Olympiads, trips to Turkey for the students and local politicians, H1-b Visas of over 2,000 uncredentialed teachers from Turkey (while American teachers are handed pink slips) this money is to fuel the grand ambition of Fethullah Gulen who lives in exile (for a reason) in the Poconos, PA area with his $25 billion in wealth from inflitration in: education, media, police, poltics and military. Seems the same model works very nicely in the USA. Do your research!!!

  • oakie

    Gail Says: “All the fawning over Michelle Rhee is a mystery to me”

    Not to me. It’s no mystery why the teacher’s union oppose her, though. And it’s not because the teacher’s union has the kids as their highest priority.

    “I don’t doubt there were/are teachers in DC who shouldn’t be in a classroom”

    Partially, that’s past tense. She fired about 10% of the teachers for failing to perform, along with 25% of the principals and a sizable portion of the central office staff. Sure wish this would be done here.

    “but I have absolutely no confidence in Michelle Rhee’s ability to know which teachers those are!”

    I’ve been in the company of teachers when they’re discussing which are the crappy teachers. You can be sure they navigate the system to make sure their kids don’t get stuck in those teacher’s classrooms.

    “She certainly did become the darling of the rich white boys’ club”

    Not sure where this comes from, but it’s a reflection on you, not on Michelle Rhee or anyone who supports what she tried to do. Race is not the issue, and has never been an issue in this. Your comment is borderline racism. It doesn’t belong in a discussion of school reform.

  • JR

    The line about the “rich white boys club” is a manifestation of fear, the fear that for the first time she will be asked to prove herself and stand on her own merit. It kinda reminds me of a scene from that movie “Lean On Me”

    Joe Clark: [getting up and stand before the group] They say one bad apple spoils the bunch.
    [shouts of protest]
    Joe Clark: But what about 300? Rotten to the core! Now, you’re right, Mrs. Barrett. This is a war. It’s a war to save 2700 other students, most of whom don’t have the basic skills to pass the state exam.
    [some applause]
    Joe Clark: Now if you want to help us, fine.
    [coming over to her]
    Joe Clark: Sit down with your kids and make them study at night. Go get your families off welfare.
    Leonna Barrett: [getting up in his face] How dare you talk to these people about welfare!
    Joe Clark: Give our children some pride! Tell them to get their priorities straight!
    [Mrs. Barrett sits down. He walks on down the center of the audience]
    Joe Clark: When Dr. Napier came to me offering this job, I saw the lightning flash. I heard the thunder roll! I felt breakers crashing, swamping my soul!
    Leonna Barrett: [getting up again] We are NOT in church, Mr. Clark!
    Joe Clark: [facing her] I fell down on my knees
    [Mrs. Barrett sits down in exasperation]
    Joe Clark: and I cried “My God, why has thou forsaken me?” and the Lord said “Joe, you’re no damn good. No, I mean this! More than you realize, you’re no earthly good at all unless you take this opportunity and do whatever you have to.” And he didn’t say “Joe, be polite”.
    [the people clap in agreement]
    Joe Clark: Do whatever you have to to transform and transmogrify this school into a special place where the hearts and souls and minds of the young can rise.
    [more clapping in agreement]
    Joe Clark: Where they can grow tall and blossom out from under the shadows of the past. Where the minds of the young are set free. And I gave my word to God, and that’s why I threw those bastards out
    [the crowd starts to shout in both agreement and protest]
    Joe Clark: And that’s all I’m gonna say!
    [He walks out as the audience gets loud and boisterous]

  • JR

    It never ceases to amaze me for being such learned people educators can’t grasp the fact that “if” the education system were doing it’s job well the reformers, big business, and any other profiteers would not even be able to get their foot in the door of the schools. Simple! Additionally anyone not teaching the kids for free is technically a profiteer, are they not?

  • Ms. J.

    Hey Oakie and JR, why don’t you swap email addresses–then you can exchange your mutually self-congratulatory, sarcastic and negative comments in private!

  • JR

    If I did that you wouldn’t get the pleasure of the anticipation of my next response. And only Oakie knows what he thinks about it.

  • harold

    re:post #7

    That is scandalous. I would love to read a response from one of the charter school advocates.

    I can’t believe this is condoned by the folks in charge at the district office.

  • Gail

    Oakie, post #8: I agree that in most cases experienced teachers know which teachers shouldn’t be there. What I said was that I didn’t think Michelle Rhee knew.
    Broad, Gates, and Walton are largely driving education policy these days, and they’re rich, white, and male. What’s the problem with saying that? Frankly I find the idea that because you have a gazillion dollars you get to control education policy to be very scary. Knowing how to make a profit is not the same thing as knowing how to educate children.

    JR, post no. 9: I don’t know what all that stuff about Joe Clark is, but you seem to assume I’m a teacher. I’m not. Nor do I always support teachers’ unions; I think they often shoot themselves in the foot. But I AM a passionate believer in public schools and mom of 2 OUSD graduates.

  • JR

    If and when you blame others for things that are in large measure personal responsibility issues(such as education, or lifestyle), it ensures that things will take eons to fix if ever. Michelle Rhee did what should have been done long ago, and Oakland could use the same kind of cleaning out right now. To all the teachers that complain about pay, working conditions and so forth, there isn’t any more money, were tapped out. If you don’t want the job find another occupation(the kids wont do any worse than they are doing right now). We really need a multi track system one for kids who want to learn and put forth the effort, and another boot camp style arrangement for kids who are hard to handle and don’t get the idea that education is the key to possibly improving your life legally and without consequences.

  • JR

    Take a good look at the multi-generation thugs this welfare system are producing:


    Then just get back to me and tell me how more money and more welfare are going to fix it.

  • Jim Mordecai


    Most of what Enron did was within the then deregulated rules. What Imam Gulen does also is most likely to be within the current rules governing charter schools in most other states and in California.

    The need to regulate charter schools carries with implementation increasing cost of oversight. Deregulation doesn’t work as demonstrated by Uprep but regulation is costly. I believe current public school system provides better transparency and oversight of public money than transparency and oversight provided under present charter law. And, I believe that if charter school law was rewritten to provide reasonable oversight charter schools would be too costly to be competitive with public schools.

    Some say that charter schools are here to stay; but, I believe in the long term charter schools will be as failed a reform as small schools. Both reforms, I believe, are not economically sustainable in the long run.

    Jim Mordecai

  • Lillian Lopez

    Am I the only one who is outraged that Noel Gallo exploited the children he was elected to represent by taking Meg Whitman to the Jefferson campus for a press conference? What a slap in the face to the families the Jefferson campus serves!

  • Wondering

    Not only did Noel Gallo exploit the children, he misused the power of his office to muscle his way in. What’s more, Whitman then used footage from the press conference — during which Brian Rogers and Noel Gallo endorsed her — to make a television ad. Did I mention that he/she/they neglected to tell the adults involved about the ad, and didn’t get clearance to use the faces of the children!?

  • Sue

    Luck for eMeg and crew that they didn’t go to my kid’s school. I can spell: L A W S U I T. And our family’s attorney would be quite happy to put some of her campaign warchest into his pocket, and my kid’s college fund.