The Blog at CTA

Why and How Not All California Charter Schools Benefit Students

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Clarissa Doutherd, left, executive director of Parent Voices Oakland, with Kim Davis of Parents United for Public Schools in front of the recently shuttered Casltemont Primary Academy. The charter school, which shared space with Castlemont High School, closed abruptly in February, displacing nearly 100 Oakland students.

In a revealing and timely package of articles, videos and research, the new edition of the CTA California Educator magazine explores why not all charter schools in the state are created equal, the for-profit agenda of many of them, and how some are hurting students and communities by bending rules to the breaking point.

The original intent of the 1992 California Charter Schools Act stressed the importance of these publicly funded schools being developed at the local level with transparency and with all community stakeholders taking part, CTA President Eric C. Heins says in one story. “But corporate, for-profit companies have hijacked the system, and there is no accountability and transparency for how they spend taxpayer money.”

The magazine’s featured charter section is titled, “Let’s Be Clear About Charter Schools” and examines charter waste, fraud and abuses, as well as what’s working. Read text of the main story in the 17-page package here, plus charter school vignettes, how to follow the money and the pro-charter billionaires, and about legislative and union organizing solutions. The complete digital magazine package with sidebars, graphics and photos begins here. Also, watch video interviews with several parents and educators featured in this investigation.

These timely stories about the consequences of California’s proliferating charter school industry come as President Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos are touting the expansion of voucher schemes and charters at the expense of traditional neighborhood schools where 90 percent of the nation’s children are educated.

Our state is at the center of the charter industry growing pains: Already, California has 1,255 charter schools with about 600,000 of the nation’s 3 million charter students. But as charter scandals mount, more schools are shutting down, with 32 shuttered in California in 2016 alone. The 325,000-member California Teachers Association proudly represents about 7,300 charter school educators.

More highlights from the California Educator charter school reporting:

Follow the money: Meet the billionaires who support private corporations profiting from public education. They bankrolled unprecedented political spending by the charter industry to elect pro-charter candidates, including more than $27 million during the 2016 legislative election cycles, and nearly $10 million for the May 2017 school board race in the Los Angeles Unified School District.

 K12 Inc., not making the grade: Read about how teachers say problems persist at California Virtual Academies (CAVA), virtual online schools run by controversial for-profit company K12 Inc., based in Virginia. Union negotiations for a first contract continue at CAVA, to protect students and fix woes not resolved by the California Attorney General’s $168.5 million settlement announced last summer against K12 Inc., for false advertising and other wrongdoings.

Why Helix Charter High School in La Mesa works: In San Diego County, Helix Charter High School in La Mesa is working thanks to transparency, community involvement and a creative environment of mutual respect.

Rocketship chain sputtering in San Jose: Students rebelled against the regimented, computer-driven environment at Los Sueños Academy in San Jose, one of 13 Rocketship Inc., charters in the Bay Area. Test scores plummeted at some schools from cost cutting, such as schools with more than 600 students operating with as few as six overworked teachers.

Unionizing continues at Alliance schools in LA: Despite hardships such as having to obtain a court order to stop administrators from interfering in their union organizing efforts, educators at Alliance College-Ready Public Schools continue to seek a voice in decision-making with this largest operator of charters in Los Angeles – serving 12,500 students in 28 schools. Read why they want to become members of United Teachers Los Angeles.

Legislative accountability solutions are pending: Learn why three CTA-supported bills – AB 1478, AB 1360 and SB 808 – will require charter schools to be transparent, accountable and equally accessible to all students, and legislate local school board control of charter growth.

Education is about kids, not profits: Instead of subsidizing corporate charter schools run by for-profit companies with taxpayer dollars, public money should go to strengthening neighborhood public schools for all California children. Read about how a coalition of educators, parents and community groups called Kids Not Profits is urgently raising awareness about charter issues at www.KidsNotProfits.com.

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