A child writes on a white board,

Charter school advocates are seeking to double the number of students attending charter schools in California by 2022. One advocacy group is suing state school districts – including Oakland Unified – to be able to use more of their classrooms, even though the districts says they’re strapped for space. In this hour of Forum we’ll get the latest on the fight over charter schools in California.

Growth of Charter Schools in California Leads to Conflict with School Districts 21 March,2016forum

John Fensterwald, editor-at-large, EdSource
Jed Wallace, president and CEO, California Charter Schools Association (CCSA); former COO of a charter school called, "High Tech High"; former elementary school teacher
Alex Caputo-Pearl, president, United Teachers Los Angeles
Antwan Wilson, superintendent, Oakland Unified School District

  • Livegreen

    I am not philisophically opposed to Charters, especially b/c they’re helping keep Oaklanders from moving. However I’ve heard of big problems about their use of public funds:

    -Charters can easily continue even if they’re failing. OUSD has tried to shut down several failing charters and the Alameda County BOE almost always overrules them, often ignoring detailed faces and facts.

    -I have heard State mandated formulas for how much Charters must pay school districts Facilities Mainenance are grossly inadequate and thus a drain on both School Districts and their non-charter public schools. Is this true?

  • Livegreen

    Private funds commonly contribute to charters, but not traditional public schools. This results in one school being poorer in technology than another next to it…sometimes in the very same building.

    If they’re sharing a campus shouldn’t the Charters have an obligation to share their private funds, if the traditional schools are forced to share their public funds? Otherwise it appears to result in separate but unequal funding and education.

  • Jim Mordecai

    Antwan Wilson continues a long line of Broad Foundation trained
    administrators in the philosophy of reforming public education in the
    image of the private sector, a line of administrators that started during the state take-over and
    dictatorship State Administrator Randy Ward.

    Oakland Superintendent Antwan Wilson is on record as being agnostic to charter schools.

    If true, isn’t having such a position a conflict of interest as California public school administrator?

    State charter law makes charters competitor of public school districts? Doesn’t California school district administrators have an obligation to defend their districts against the competition and harm that loss of enrollment to charters creates?

    Doesn’t his initiative such as common enrollment and claiming he has “good relations charter schools conflict with his role of being the chief administrator and advocate of the Oakland “Public Schools”?

    Where does Superintendent Wilson think he should draw the line between serving the interest of the enrolled students in the Oakland Public School district, and a belief that spending scare District public education dollars on creating a competition between public and private sector will benefit Oakland public school students in the long run?

    • Aims Supt

      Charter schools are public schools, not private schools are you suggest. Antwan Wilson is the superintendent of PUBLIC instruction. He is serving all students who attend public schools in Oakland.

      • Jim Mordecai

        Charter schools are publicly funded and privately managed. That is the difference between public schools and charter schools in Oakland and all of California. Public schools and private school are different as defined by the State legislature.

    • TragicRealist

      This is not a coherent critique. Charter schools are legally public schools and they are *authorized by the local school board,* which the superintendent reports to and which is independent and publicly elected. The superintendent is also in charge of the office of charter schools. So of course he should be “agnostic,” neither promoting or opposing them, but doing his job to ensure that they follow the rules and serve children and families well. In the past decade Oakland has closed many charter schools for poor performance or management, often a more dramatic intervention than with district schools, which are typically redesigned and assigned new leadership. This perspective seems to ignore that the tens of thousands of Oakland students in free, public charter schools, students who are more low-income than district school students, freely chose these schools.

      • Jim Mordecai

        Legally State charter school law defines charter schools. And, there is a reason that in non-legal use distinction is made between schools that are public schools and schools that are privately managed charter schools.

        In the struggle to made charter schools acceptable to the public, supporters of charter schools refer to them as public schools. There is really one public school system that contains two distinct subsystems: public school system and the charter school system.

      • Jim Mordecai

        “The superintendent is also in charge of the office of charter schools. So of course he should be “agnostic,” neither promoting or opposing
        them, but doing his job to ensure that they follow the rules and serve
        children and families well.”

        For lack of charter laws providing rigorous oversight and financing of what few laws apply to charter schools, Oakland Charter School Office the Superintendent oversees has little capacity to see that they not only “follow the rules” but see that families are well served.” In Superintendent Wilson remarks, he reference that the Charter School Office “works hard” not that the Charter School Office was effective in seeing that “the rules” are followed.

        My comment critical of an agnostic attitude not serving the interest of enrolled Oakland students was not in relation to the operation of Oakland’s Charter School Office. It was in relation to inviting private sector to present plans to manage targeted schools in the District. It was in being critical of the idea of common enrollment that has been associated with the growth of charter schools in other cities.

        I still contend that a school district’s superintendent in promoting competition between public schools and charter schools is not serving the interest of the enrolled students of a school district.

      • Jim Mordecai

        In reply to the following quote: “This perspective seems to ignore that the tens of thousands of Oakland
        students in free, public charter schools, students who are more
        low-income than district school students, freely chose these schools.”

        During the State take-over Broad Foundation State Administrator Randy Ward and his Assistant Superintendent engineered the conversion of two Oakland Elementary Schools to charter school status. The charter law gives no parents a choice when 50% of the permanent teaching staff sign a petition converting a public school to a charter school. That the administers downtown and at the school organized the effort to convert to a charter was wrong. Four other public schools were converted to charter schools with the support of the teachers and their administrators.

        So much for myth of the grass roots movement for charter schools in Oakland being all about parent choice and freely choosing charter schools.

        And, in this posting you are trying to create a new myth contending that charter school students are “more low-income” than district school students? Really?

        What about Oakland School for the Arts Charter School the most racially and economically segregated charter with a lack-luster academic performance? This is Governor’s tax loophole financed charter school, with its White middle class sifted by performance audition, located downtown near Lafayette Elementary, an elementary school whose enrollment is low-income and English as a second language speaking and has disabled students? And, they don’t count in your myth making!

        • TragicRealist

          OSA is 60% students of color and 99% graduate with A-G UC/CSU eligibility. It’s a magnet school and a unique case. As for all charters, the data is not in dispute that charters serve a lower-income population in OUSD, that’s CDE data. The Ward-era charters are like any other – parents have to chose them, if parents didn’t want the school, they could go elsewhere. Have you seen the data on school enrollment in OUSD? Families are traveling to find the best school for their kids, they want choices. You would impose the decades of failure district bureaucracy-run schools on everyone, but that has already had its chance and failed. Show me when district schools were so great before charters. Charters are not a magic bullet, but it’s a reasonable response to dead-end schools.

      • Inkd’Up

        Not all charter schools are authorized by the local school district. California is a “multi-authorizer” state. That means that a charter can go to the county board if the local school board does not grant charter. Then, if county board does not authorize the charter can go to the state (a group of unelected officials). This is the opposite of local control, the new way in which our schools are now funded and organized (LCAP). The system is rigged to favor charters. There is now going to be a bill presented that would allow any authorizer in the state to grant a charter no matter how far away the school will be located!

        • TragicRealist

          Yes I’m aware. And 35 charters in OUSD are authorized by the district, while 7 are authorized by the county. I have seen several school board sessions where the charter has to demonstrate that they are serving students and families well, and in several cases they have been shut down. Whereas a school like Castlemont can fail for decades and it is not shut down. The system is rigged but not for charters, it is rigged against low-income communities of color. Sometimes charters are the only way out of a terrible local school that has failed for years. Charters are a response to decades of district school failure, not a cause of it.

          • Jim Mordecai

            Charters was an idea about improving the public education system but became a failed experiment because it was captured by right wing wanting to privatize and replace public education.

            Mixed in to the charter schools changing public education story is the outcome reform movement wrongheadedly making the argument the that closing bad schools, and inviting public sector to replace bad schools, will reform public education for the better.

            After 12 years the record shows that it doesn’t work. It doesn’t work because closing neighborhood schools is disruptive to students and the neighborhood. It makes conditions in the public schools charter school students leave behind worse. And, it doesn’t work because closing any school, including charter schools is politically unpopular.

            Yes. Some have benefited from opportunities charters provided but as usual those with less have been hurt the most by the charter school reform movement.

            Charter schools are not public schools but an alternative form of public schools that does damage to the public schools in the districts where they are located and provide in an less regulated environment greater opportunity for financial abuse and abuse of the children enrolled.

  • Charter proliferation is a critically important issue to follow locally, statewide, and nationally with mirroring trends at all levels. The following collection includes over 100 articles and updates: Charter Schools & “Choice”: A Closer Look: http://bit.ly/chart_look.

  • And

    My daughter went to a charter K-8 school in Livermore, Livermore Valley Charter School which has since grown to include a high school. The school was formed by parents in response to the district closing two open enrollment magnet schools to save money. The school thrived, mostly because the student body was made up of high socio-economic kids who could commute across town to the school. But the administration of the school and it’s board and involved parents were extremely factious, changing principals, policies, curriculum, books, teachers and mission frequently. Two principals and several teachers were fired in the first couple years, merely because they disagreed with the board about achievement goals and requirements. One principal was fired because he would not fire teachers for no cause. Now the high school is in trouble with the state for charging tuition to students recruited from China, a kind of “visas for sale” program.

  • Tonedeezy

    The CCSA is the largest single-donor to the PAC that funded the campaigns of 5 of the 7 board members who hired Antwan Wilson to come to Oakland to proliferate charter schools in a community that is obviously already oversaturated with them. Is the fact that District officials are being sued by the people who put them in power in the first place a case of political chicanery, or is this a unique brand of incompetence that got them sued by the people who asked them to do what they have been doing?

    • Aims Supt

      Perhaps you should read the lawsuit. It’s my understanding that the lawsuit was filed over non-compliance with Prop 39. One of the provisions requires school districts to provide room for charter schools. OUSD has been trying to do that, but the proposals often require the charters to operate out of multiple locations. American Indian is one such school. Our ninth and tenth graders are in one location; juniors and seniors in another. I don’t know what lengths CCSA went to avoid court, all I can say is that we need to hold high school in one location.

      • Tonedeezy

        I have read the lawsuit. The difference between me and you is that I am speaking from the heart, as an Oakland parent. I’m not getting paid to post in here, and thus I can speak the truth instead of parroting some corporate line. Are there high school campuses just sitting around being unused? Nice try attempting to distract attention away from the main points of my post.

        • Aims Supt

          I think one of the main issues here is the vitriolic level of discourse. There is no need for insults. AIMS is hardly a corporation in the way in which you mean. And let’s not suggest you are bias free from your own beliefs concerning “traditional” public schools. Instead lets work together where we can to improve the quality of education for all kids.

  • Jim Mordecai

    Difficult to understand how a superintendent that is agnostic to charters can effectively deal with the charter school Benedict Arnolds that have been employed by the Oakland Public Schools. I’m referring to Oakland Schools history of employing administrators that took an active role in using charter law to convert four Oakland schools to charter schools. The District administrations both facilitated the conversions and did nothing about principals that were authorizing petitions to convert the public schools where they were working to charter schools by soliciting their teachers to sign to convert their schools. Something wrong in principals being allowed to solicit their teachers to convert their schools to charter school status.

  • Mark SF

    Charter schools have been shown no better than public schools. Even the Charter Schools in the study that showed better than public schools in LA urban did not show they could close the gap with school in more high economic area public/charter school. One small study nor cherry picking makes a trend.

    Charter schools are basically redundant, unless they really go about tackling the education problems of economic difference in schools and the need for special education.

    I think we need to fix our public schools and everyone should be rowing in the same dirrection.

  • 1PeterDuMont2STARALLIANCE8

    A guest stated that charter schools pay a “1-to-3% fee.” Of what? To whom? For what purpose? Please be more specific!

    • Jim Mordecai


      1% of state income goes to oversight. If a district that issued charter school’s charter provides housing for a charter school it then can charge 3% for oversight and additionally to the 3% charge square foot rent to charters..

      I think this 3% was put in to the charter law as an incentive to school districts to grow charters knowing a district could pay for greater oversight.

      When the charter law was drafted, at that time there were no examples to test if this oversight figures of 1% or 3% was fair to the charter and the districts with oversight responsibility. Both percentages were arbitrary.

      The charter school model of deregulation propaganda asserted that providing parent choice would mean that shady charters would be closed down by parents and costly regulation of charters wouldn’t therefore be necessary..

  • Mark SF

    Did not the idea of charter schools come from conservatives trying to shrink goverment and undermine the social net for all?

    “No place epitomizes this situation more than North Carolina, once known as the South’s most progressive state. In Altered State: How 5 years of Conservative Rule Have Redefined North Carolina,
    NC Policy Watch chronicles the collapse the state’s fiscal capacity as
    legislators sought “to unravel the social safety net in pursuit of their
    aim to shrink the government they disdain and slash taxes on
    corporations and the wealthy.” “(T)he ideological shift left few areas
    of state policy untouched. People who were already struggling have been
    hurt the most—low-wage workers, single mothers, people of color and
    immigrants… Nowhere have the cuts hit harder than in public schools,
    where rankings in teacher pay and per pupil funding have spiraled toward
    the bottom of the 50 states.” At the same time, the state of North
    Carolina has encouraged “new for-profit companies that run charter
    schools, private and religious academies that now receive taxpayer
    funding, and sketchy online institutions that are raking in state

  • Kristilinamarie

    Charter schools are fracturing our community; kids are going all over town (Oakland in this case) instead of their neighborhood school where people get to know each other and work together. Charter schools have replaced community neighborhood schools that take all kids, and the charter schools are drawing kids from all over the county and other counties even, but OUSD is on the hook to provide oversight and facilities.

    And, it’s not free. Parents at local popular charter schools are expected to donate and fundraise in order to keep the school afloat. Privileged kids whose parents advocate for them get into good charter schools, which boosts performance. Language barriers and lack of education prevents low-socioeconomic families from getting their kids into charter school lotteries.

    • LenasTeapot

      But not all neighborhoods are good communities. My sister and I found very toxic environments in our local high schools, and switched to a charter school in order to get away from that. It wasn’t that the public high schools were performing badly, they were fine, but the social atmosphere among students and teachers was a detriment to our education. Shouldn’t there be an option to escape from schools where the local environment is harmful?

    • Emily

      Charter schools are free. Otherwise they couldn’t be funded by the state. They do ask for voluntary donations and fundraise, but so do district neighborhood schools. In both cases, it’s not mandatory to donate or fundraise to keep your kids in the school.

    • Spectator

      It is low performing district schools that fracture the community. Low performing district schools should be aggressively shut down. Low performing teachers should be let go. Our children are too important to wait.

      • Ozgur Cengiz

        Same can be said for your franchise – style “for profit” charter schools who are siphoning off money for big salaries to their “appointed administrators” Having any credentials in education isn’t necessary, just a good background in marketing, Public Relations and advertising as most Charters schools have false advertising “5,000 on waiting list” “100% college acceptance” “high test schools”, Low pay to teachers who don’t even have to be fully licensed in credentialed. Great slight of hand for these charter schools who are making off with millions in taxpayers money. Low Performing charter schools who mismanage money should be closed down and not allowed to file injunctive relief. Especially after several warnings, and cool it on the captial cronyism hiring friends, or those from your same religious group. Charter schools have permission to steal – carte blanche with far too little oversight.

        • Jeremy Fennelly

          That isn’t an accurate depiction.

  • LenasTeapot

    I am wondering if those studies sited earlier – saying there was no difference in achievement – took into account the fact that often the students in a charter school are not representative of the same population as public schools. I attended a charter school along with my sister during our high school years, we both really loved and benefited from it. While there though, it was obvious (and officially recorded) that our school served the highest- and lowest- achieving students from the area. Half of us were because the public school couldn’t keep up with our needs (high achievers who were too bored in school, or focusing on a specific subject already), and the other half seemed to be there as a last resort (whether they had been expelled form other public schools or were having more severe problems disrupting their education which the public school could not address).
    Do those studies take into account that charter school might be serving less center-bell-curve students, and more students on the extreme?

  • Virginia Tibbetts
  • Jim Mordecai

    I think the topic of charter schools was too broad and too complicated to cover much ground in just a bit less than one hour. I think it would have been more interesting radio if you had stuck to the controversy over the lawsuit brought by California Charter Schools Association (CCSA) and the Superintendent Antwan Wilson was involved in the issue of Prop 39 as part of a panel and not allowed to just speak and run.

    But, perhaps he had been warned by his Counsel, that with a lawsuit pending, not to engage as anything he says could be used in court.

    • LenasTeapot

      I think that’s a fair assessment. I am a supporter, and product, of charter schools, but that doesn’t mean the system is perfect. It would have been more productive to stick to one topic; performance, or Prop 39, for example… but so many issues and aspects of the whole topic were brought in a way that nothing really got discussed so much as passingly mentioned….

  • A concerned OUSD parent

    UCLA Civil Rights Project: “Study Finds Many Charter Schools Feeding ‘School-to-Prison Pipeline'”

  • Jim Mordecai

    For my part as an listen to form I would like Superintendent Antwan Wilson’s position that he is agnostic on charters to be brought to Forum.

    I would like to see a Forum discussion from a balanced panel of academics, CCSA, labor, and district officials discuss the role conflict a “public” school district official has when he or she makes a decision of benefit to charter schools, such as Oakland Superintendent Antwan Wilson’s common enrollment initiative.

  • Spectator

    If low quality district schools cause conflict shouldn’t we just get rid of them in favor of high performing charter schools?

    • Emily

      I agree. One thing I noticed in our community when a charter school opened is that the school district had to amp its game in order to compete with the large numbers of students leaving the district for the charter. In response to this, the district started two specialized K-8 schools who now compete with the charter. In my opinion it’s a win win for everyone. Now we have three high-performing specialized K-8 schools where before the charter opened, we had none. If the districts want students back, they have to get better.

  • Jim Mordecai

    I found it interesting that Antwan Wilson’s position as a charter school agnostic is he opposes CCSA’s goal to double charter schools because he is for quality and not quantity. His Pontius Pilate position stated on Forum is that charters are fine if they are quality or as he state: “great schools”.

    There are number of problems that arise with public officials acting on an agnostic view of charters. I mentioned that a public school official has a role conflict in acting on an agnostic view of charter schools.

    I also believe, that public school district officials in diverting a district’s public funding to support competition between public and private management, works against the interest of the district’s enrolled students and the interest of the public.

    It should not be acceptable for school boards and their administrations to remain passive while Benedict Arnold administrators running off with a district’s schools convert them to privately managed charters just because current charter law authorizes such action.

    But, the Oakland School Board and Administration did while five Oakland Schools were converted to charters lead by their school administrators.

    An unintended, and ironic, consequence of the State charter law that allows 50% of a school’s faculty to convert any public school to a charter school resulted in Oakland of a total lack of choice for Oakland parents and community when their neighborhood school was converted into a charters by the local school’s principal and teachers.

    With the agnostic view of charters being taken by many California public school officials and school board members, shouldn’t the agnostic view of charter schools by public officials be discussed on Forum?

  • Ozgur Cengiz

    Public Schools want the same amount of funding and accessibility to resources but they don’t want to play by the same rules of transparency. Their laws and regulations are flimsy with very little oversight. California has had to close many down due to fraud: California Charter Academy, Ivy Academia, Gateway Academy (operated by a radical religious group) and more. California needs to put the brakes on before they open any more and get CCSA (the greed machine) under control with their aggressive lobbying and hold their feet to the fire when one of their “member associates” fouls up they should be the first to not enable this behavior. Playing bully and lawfare won’t win this organization any favors from the taxpayers of California nor the officials at local school districts that they seem to disrespect, by bypassing them and attempting to go over their head to the County or State. CCSA’s ex CEO was Caprice Young, she has a jagged resume with no time actually in front of the class rooms as a teacher. These days the ext LAUSD board president, CCSA’s ex CEO, ex aide to Rioden is now a 6-figure salaried Superintendent for a troubled group of charter schools operated by followers of the Gulen Movement cult. They want to privatize public education and stick wads of cash in their pockets diverting it away from local classrooms to the fat cats at CCSA and administrators of the schools who in most cases have no credentials or education suited for administrative educational duties.

    • A Different Perspective

      Follow the money.

  • Tonedeezy

    wow tim at the end of the show though…asking for a child to get on the microphone…wow…

  • turquoisewaters

    As long as charter schools are not held to exactly the same standards and have to play by exactly the same rules, academic comparisons are not valid. It is my experience from conversations with charter school students that they are being placed for extended amounts of time in front of a computer, and that there is an excessive focus on obedience, drill, and test scores. I don’t see the well-to-do sending their own children to these environments, and I believe there is a good reason for that.

  • TrippTripp

    Whatever is said about money or politics on this issue, charter schools work in closing the achievement gap: http://www.educationequalityindex.org/data/#state=California&city=Los%20Angeles

    • turquoisewaters

      If this is done by charter schools taking the stronger students and leaving public schools to deal with the majority of special ed students and discipline problems, it is really not an accomplishment. Publish school outcomes have actually been consistently improving over the last 30 years according to NAEP studies http://www.nationsreportcard.gov

  • Jeremy Fennelly

    I listen to this show yesterday, it was so disappointing to hear the guest and many callers find charter schools as a threat to traditional schools. They cited a variety of bad experiences, all anecdotal. Unfortunately short of data, it’s hard to make a conclusion about the program as a whole. Our daughter left public school last year and we can’t say enough good about the charter school that she’s in. Is it perfect? No. However in contrast to the environment she left, Heritage Digital academy provided a significant upgrade on the educational experience. The students feel safe, free from ridicule or bullying, the teachers are top notch, and our daughter has thrived. One of the big differences as well was the student to teacher ratio went from 36 to 24. If nothing else, investing in charter schools, creating more classrooms and distributing more students across those classrooms is one way to expand our education system as a whole. In a country where we sorely underfunded education, I say the more schools the better.

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