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By Gabriella Landeros

When members of the Napa Valley Educators Association (NVEA) got word in September about a petition for a new 336-student charter school in Napa County, they quickly organized with parents and education support professionals to fight for their students against the unsound education plan the petitioners were proposing.

In large part because of their efforts, which included a community petition, meetings with the local school board members, letters to the editor, and an op-ed in the local newspaper, the school board unanimously voted to deny Mayacamas Charter Middle School in December. However, the petitioners have appealed to the Napa County Office of Education, which is expected to make a decision by this spring.

“Our students need more resources in our public schools, not fewer. The approval of this charter would have only exacerbated already existing issues within NVUSD.”

—Gayle Young, Napa Valley Educators Association president

If the plan were to move forward, it would reduce the enrollment of the Napa Valley Unified School District (NVUSD) by over 300 pupils. The charter school would receive public dollars, which would have a negative impact on the district’s 17,000 students, including cuts to staffing, services and programs at the middle school level and beyond. The charter’s proposed student population represents a 2 percent enrollment decrease for NVUSD, and an 8 percent enrollment decrease for NVUSD’s middle school programs. The district is already down 300 students, and if it lost another 300 students, it would experience at least 14 educator layoffs beyond the current layoff expectations.

“Our students need more resources in our public schools, not fewer. The approval of this charter would have only exacerbated already existing issues within NVUSD,” says NVEA President Gayle Young.

The charter proposal did not tailor any of its educational programs to the pupils of NVUSD and instead copied and pasted text from a petition submitted by different petitioners for a school in Compton, in Los Angeles County, failing to meet the most basic threshold of the law. NVEA member Michael Alger, in a Napa Valley Register opinion piece, pointed out the charter’s “complete lack of meaningful support for English language learners or special education students.”

The charter might be a dream come true for the privileged students who could attend, wrote Alger, but “for everyone else, including the 17,000 NVUSD students who will not attend their school, it will be a nightmare.”

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