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Original post made
on Nov 5, 2009
The Gardner campus should be off the table of any discussions with Bullis Charter. Both parties should look for alternative locations instead. The Charter should be ashamed of trying to kick out local students from their school to take it over- that was why the Charter was formed in the first place (according to several founding families). Doing so would be hypocritical! The Charter has said it could absorb many of the Gardner students, but those students chose not to pay the over $4000 in yearly "donations" and instead chose to be part of the school district and make Gardner a success. I applaud efforts to normalize the relationship with the Charter but Gardner has to be removed from that equation.
Dang. I sure wish people had a choice when voting for the MVWSD school board. Those are impressive results. I wonder how many people voted and how it compares to MV.
School districts have a certain amount of land and facilities for public school students. It should be divided equally among all those public school students, including those choosing to attend charter schools. That is what Proposition 39 says.
The District can accomplish this in any reasonable manner, and the charter school cannot demand a particular campus. But what the District cannot do is say it is using all its reasonably equivalent campuses for students in district-run programs, and charter students will have to make do with less because it does not have extra land and building space to provide to them. This is not about finding and buying new or extra land or buildings; it is about evenly sharing what the District already has among public school students.
The District's obligation to provide facilities to the charter school is the same whether the charter is independent or becomes chartered by the District, so to say that if it were chartered by the District the District would then provide an equivalent site does not recognize the law. The land and facilities the District holds in trust are for all public school students, not just those in District run programs.
The real fundamental problem is that too many people do not understand that charter schools are PUBLIC schools with just as much of a claim on public facilities as district-run schools. And that does not just mean charter schools serving poor neighborhoods. The LASD demographer herself found that almost all BCS students would otherwise be attending District schools, not private schools. These are your friends and neighbors, and they deserve public school grounds that are just as nice as the ones families enjoy when they choose to send their children to district-run schools.
If we agree on that, then what is the justification for saying charter families should just accept that they are provided with far inferior facilities to all other public school families and stop "making trouble"? What is the justification for saying charter families that pay local parcel taxes and high property taxes should have those funds directed only to district-run schools, so that they have to donate additional large sums of money just to equalize per-student funding at the public school they have chosen to attend?
This has been the District's problem to solve for years and they have refused to do so. Instead they have pretended that a half size campus of portables is equivalent to recently modernized campuses with much more space per student, while whispering to anyone who will listen that BCS is somehow undeserving of equal treatment and that the District is the victim. The District reports in its 2009-10 budget that it is spending $9,442 per student, but it transfers less than $6,000 to the charter school for each district student that choses to attend there. The District keeps all the parcel tax and extra property taxes these families (and families that do not have school children) pay. So for each student that leaves a district school to attend BCS, the district is left with more dollars per student than it had before.
It is no wonder that charter school families are upset, since they are treated as second class citizens but told that they are being "selfish" whenever they ask for equal treatment. Acknowledge that such families deserve an equal share of public facilities and funds, and open discussions without any preconditions, and this problem can be solved and put behind us.
Friends don't sue friends. These families CHOSE to go to the Charter, knowing its location. The Charter has a Site Committee and, apparently, a huge account to fund these lawsuits. Use the committee and the money to think CREATIVELY (isn't that one of the CHarter's claims to fame?) about a location - other charters have done so.
By the way, the Charter did demand the Gardner campus. It's clearly stated in the oral arguments made by the Charter's attorney which are posted on the Charter's website. What a way to make friends.
Lets face it, the people in LA Hills want a publicly funded elementary school that they alone control. More acurately they want a pseudo-private school. LASD board of directors ticked them off by closing the former Bullis school (and long ago the only other LAH elementary school, Eastbrook). So, using the charter as a loop hole they're getting most of what they want - but not quite all (yet).
I thought charter schools were open to everyone in the county yet the Bullis people demand preferential enrollment for LA Hills children. The argument is that the LAH families are funding most of the charter. But doesn't that go against the definition, or least the spirit, of a charter? It's not a private school is it? It's a Santa Clara County public school and they should be taking in students from all over the county on an equal basis. Creating the charter in this situation was simply an abuse of the concept and a way to circumvent LASD. Arguing anything else is just silly. See first sentence.
The bottom line with this mess is that it's good to have deep pockets and lawyers. At some point I suspect a nicely remodeled school (Gardner Bullis) will be cast off to the charter people and LAH will prevail at the expense of LASD. This will only happen of course after much money has been wasted with lawyers.
Not ALL of the Hills folks want the charter. In fact some of the founding families with younger children chose to go to Gardner once it reopened. That was why the charter was started after all, so once they got what they wanted (a public neighborhood school) there was no reason to go to the charter. I also agree that the preference given to the Hills folks in enrollment leaves a bad taste in my mouth - seems like they want an elitist school funded by the district (let's not have folks from the El Camino area here!).
The charter people can have a local school too. All they need to do is enroll in Gardner! If the district (Tim Justus) were to back down and sell Gardner to the charter, they'd have another uprising on their hands - wouldn't that be fun.
I sense a lot of emotion here. I understand people wanting to defend what they currently have but many of these comments simply do not reflect the way our system works. Sure the charter families CHOSE to attend the charter school, but that does not mean they gave up their rights under the law and can be freely discriminated against. If a woman takes a job at a company that has a history of past gender discrimination, does she give up her right to equal treatment? Can male co-workers say they are entitled to keep an unfair share of company pay and benefits just because they are used to it? If someone comes to this country knowing it has a history of discrimination against their race, do they give up their rights under the law? Can we say it is okay to discriminate against people of a certain religion because they choose not to convert to the religion of our choice? For that matter, I can make a stronger argument that parents of an existing District school have no right to expect to continue to be able to attend there. After all, families have CHOSEN to send their kids to those schools knowing the District has closed schools and changed attendance boundaries in the recent past and could do so again. Such action would not violate any law I am aware of.
In contrast, Ed Code 47614 states that "public school facilities should be shared fairly among all public school pupils, including those in charter schools." All charter school families throughout the State CHOOSE to send their children to those schools by definition. The argument that they therefore collectively waive their right to enforce the law granting them a fair share of facilities would render that law meaningless. The facilities are either reasonably equivalent under the law or they are not, and that is the question. You might notice the school district did not try to argue in the legal case that charter families had somehow waived their rights to reasonably equivalent facilities. You cannot simply say that students in District-run schools are entitled to more than their fair share of public facilities because the other students CHOSE to attend public charter schools rather than the District-run schools.
Likewise, there is no justification for the assertion that BCS families should simply "be creative and buy their own site". The District is not a private landowner. They hold lands in public trust for the use of public schools. When the State chose to create Charter Schools, at first it said Districts need only provide them with facilities if they had extra or vacant land they were not using. That system, which some here seem to fervently wish was still the law, did not work.
The State then CHOSE, via Proposition 39, to change that system to say that public lands held by school districts must be shared equally with public charter schools. The State has the right to tell the District how to legally allocate the land and facilities it holds in trust for the public.
In response to another comment, I absolutely agree that "not all of the Hills folks want the charter." The charter school consists of many folks from the Hills and many from Los Altos, as well as some from elsewhere. All it asks for is a share of land and facilities equal to its share of the in-district population, and to be treated equally as a public school. It is not asking other families of the District, whether from the Hills or elsewhere, to forego their equal share. Nor is the charter school asking those families to go off and buy their own site.
Underlying all these comments is the undercurrent that Charter School families have somehow given up their right to equal treatment, despite what the law says. What you are really saying is it is okay to discriminate against them. These families have not opted out of the public school system - they are fully a part of it. The District's own demographer has found that "It appears that almost all BCS students would attend district schools if the charter didn't exist." It is a myth used to make people feel better about the unequal treatment that these are all private school families in disguise.
Public school choice is a policy our nation is increasingly turning to in an effort to improve the public schools for all parents. President Obama recently said:
"The definition of charter schools is pretty straightforward. And that is that in most states you now have a mechanism where you set up a public school -- so this is not private schools, these are public schools receiving public dollars -- but they have a charter that allows them to experiment and try new things. So, in Chicago, you've got charter schools that are affiliated with a museum, or they're affiliated with an arts program, and they may have a particular focus. It may be a science charter school, or it may be a language academy. They are still going to have to meet all the various requirements of a state-mandated curriculum; they're still subject to the same rules and regulations and accountability. But they've got some flexibility in terms of how they design it. Oftentimes they are getting parents to participate in new ways in the school. So they become laboratories of new and creative learning."
BCS is an example of a new and creative learning environment that is meeting a clear need in our community. Unlike District schools where enrollment is far below that forecast when the decision was made to open a 7th K-6 campus, BCS is growing fast and has a long waiting list of people wanting to attend. To those who keep trying to argue it is exclusive (funny coming from a Gardner Bullis community that probably costs the District about $1 million annually in incremental costs on top of the $14 million in construction costs to serve maybe 100 Hills families), I say why not provide BCS with a larger site so it can enroll more of the families that want to attend it? And if the District is concerned about exclusivity, why is one of its key goals to impose an enrollment cap on BCS and prevent its expansion, as stated in an email to a County Board member produced in the litigation?
First, I do know many current Charter families. Most plan to send their children to Egan. From what they have told me, the Charter Board wants the 7th and 8th grade facilities, not the majority of parents.
Second, Gardner serves more than just the "100 Hills families". Gardner families come from Orange Avenue, Los Altos Avenue, University, and yes, some of the condos in the downtown area. This is not just a "Hills" school. The Charter on the other hand, is actively trying to maintain its status as a Hills school. Otherwise why have the 50% preference for the prior Bullis Purissima area?
Third, Gardner was reopened in response to the demand that it be reopened (yes, by mostly the Charter folks). The district kept its promise and reopened it. The school has about 250 children currently and will have more next year. It is growing as projected and is a thriving community.
Finally, I notice that there is no response to the hypocritical nature of the Charter's demand for Gardner. The Charter was upset that BP was closed down and they were forced to create their own school rather than go to another district school but they fail to see the irony in the fact that they are actively trying to kick out 250 students so they can take over the site. What a great lesson for their children - "it's okay to hurt someone else as long as we get what we deserve/want". Hmmmm, how's that for character building.
David uses an odd parallel about gender discrimination without addressing the previously made point about existing Bullis Charter enrollment discrimination (LA Hills children first!). As I recall the Bullis Charter lawyers went to court to keep/enable this discrimination.
I like the concept of experimentation in public schools - and possibly a magnet school within district with focus on language, science, the arts or something else. I don't like the notion of another government agency (Santa Clara County Board of Ed) co-opting assets of a current, relatively well functioning, agency (LASD) to carve out a special program for the wealthy.
Again, this mess is almost entirely about control; the desire by a few elitists to manipulate the law to create a publicly funded pseudo private school all to themselves.
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