The Board will be considering a new Board Policy 6006 on Wednesday which will attempt to eliminate the distinction between District and Charter schools and give away resources, including facilities and funds, to charter schools. The idea is to create a “System of Schools” – a “hybrid” district made up of District schools and District-authorized charter schools – and streamline this System of Schools by:
- closing or consolidating schools, and
- reallocating “all OUSD resources, facilities, and assets” from closed/consolidated OUSD schools to this System of Schools, including charter schools.
The Board has very little power under California law to close charter schools (or prevent them from opening, for that matter) to suit this System of Schools. So, at its heart, this is a proposal to close district schools and redirect much needed funds from those District schools to charter schools. The District is already not properly exercising its statutorily required oversight of charter schools, and that failure has hurt district students and charter students alike. District schools have already been heavily impacted by mid-year budget cuts this year and last. Diverting more funds will devastate our District schools and students..
Parents United has written a letter to the Board requesting that they vote NO on this blatant land and money grab by the well-funded backers of charter schools in Oakland and across the country, you can read our letter below.
Join Parents United in opposition to proposed Board Policy 6006 by contacting your school board members TODAY (click for contact information) before this Wednesday’s board meeting. Tell the directors that you expect them to STAND UP for our schools and our students, exercise appropriate OVERSIGHT of charter schools to ensure they are serving all students, and VOTE NO on this blatant attempt to divert much needed resources from our District schools to privately managed and minimally accountable charter schools!
Here is our letter to the Board:
This letter is written regarding proposed Board Policy 6006 put forth by Director Harris entitled “Quality School Development: System of Schools”. The policy is redundant, unenforceable and possibly illegal, and we urge you to vote No on this item.
Director Harris proposes seeking to regulate what he refers to as “OUSD’s hybrid system of schools” which is defined in a prior paragraph as being made up of 122 schools – 87 OUSD district-run schools and 35 OUSD authorized charter schools. Although Director Harris refers in the opening paragraph to Charters authorized by Alameda County, they are not included in the “hybrid” system of schools proposed in this Board Policy.
According to the proposed Policy, a “lack of guidance has left OUSD without a clear framework for 1) how OUSD-run and OUSD-authorized charter schools co-exist, 2) the total number of OUSD-run schools and OUSD-authorized charter schools, 3) the size of elementary, middle, high, and alternative schools, and 4) how schools are introduced to and eliminated from the OUSD system of schools.”
According to Director Harris, if the Superintendent creates a framework for the “reallocation of all OUSD resources, facilities and assets”, creates a decision-making matrix for determining how many and how big schools will be held in this “hybrid” system of schools and then acts “boldly” to expand, merge or close schools (District and charter), these actions will “increase the quality of education across both district and charter sectors and … provide the highest quality education at every school site in each Oakland neighborhood.”
Every child deserves a high quality education, and there are District and Charter schools that both achieve and fall short of that noble goal. The problem with Director Harris’ analysis, however, is that he overlooks the very critical fact that this Board cannot dictate to charter schools authorized by you (and certainly not to those authorized by the County or State) that they take any of the actions that the Board Policy seeks to compel, and therefore is misleading, meaningless and may possibly be in violation of the California Education Code sections 47600 et seq.
Director Harris declared just last year that we needed a “pause” in new charter schools to allow us to work through budget difficulties and the Blueprint process, but charters continue to seek approval (from the District, the County and/or the State) and district “partners” continue to develop new charters to present in the coming years. Even Director Harris has acknowledged there is really nothing that you as a Board can do to change that. The Board is also extremely limited in its ability (or willingness) to close charter schools, and that will continue to be true, even if you adopt this policy.
Board Policy 6005 entitled “Quality School Development” adopted in 2013 already provides that OUSD provides a “continuum of high quality schools” explicitly defined as “including schools that are directly operated by the OUSD; public charter schools authorized by the Oakland Unified School District; and schools funded by, but are not exclusively operated by the Oakland Unified School District.” This proposed Board Policy 6006 is duplicative and redundant to the Quality School Development Policy and is, as demonstrated above, unenforceable as proposed. It would also hurt our kids already suffering from mid-year budget cuts this year and last.
Instead of introducing vague policy that is unenforceable, double-down on your efforts to be a better authorizer, giving the charter office the staffing and tools they need to adequately fulfill their oversight function and hold charter schools to the promises they make to the District and Oakland students. We encourage you to continue to work with our legislators to support common sense accountability measures and to expand your ability to be the only body empowered to determine where and when charter schools should open or close to best serve the needs of all Oakland students. We must ensure that charter schools are accessible to all, serve the needs of all, and are not excluding students with special needs.
We urge you to vote “NO” on proposed Board Policy 6006.
Parents United for Public Schools