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Plutocracy and the Santa Clara Board of Education

Original post made by Serge Bonte, Cuesta Park, on Dec 7, 2007

On November 26, the Santa Clara County Board of Education allowed the Bullis Charter School (BCS) to amend its enrollment procedure to favor a portion of Los Altos Hills (known as the former Bullis Purissima attendance area) over the rest of the Los Altos School District (LASD).

The Board of Education seems oblivious to a host of facts:

- BCS in effect already triage its applicants by suggesting a 3,500 dollars annual contribution per child!!!
- BCS is a public charter school not a neighborhood school (in fact, it is not even located in the geographic area it will favor)
- The geographical area BCS gives preference to is the LASD area that LEAST needs extra academic help (median house price in excess of USD 3M)
- This new enrollment procedure severely reduces opportunities for minorities.
- At the same time, LASD is about to open a newly refurbished neighborhood public school for the very same neighborhood BCS is now officially favoring.
- In order to open that neighborhood school in Los Altos Hills, LASD voted on new attendance boundaries displacing in excess of 500 children (most of them out of their own neighborhood schools).

The Santa Clara Board of Education, BCS and its backers, are showing a very poor display of responsible citizenship.

Even more immediately upsetting than this blatant social injustice, however, is that the LASD board still plans to go ahead with their boundary decision for reasons that now demand serious reexamination:

- The boundary decisions were predicated on attendance projections that are now invalid thanks to the new BCS attendance preference.

- With these new numbers, certain schools will likely be outside their capacity guidelines again within a year or two.

- In conjunction with their boundary decision, the board passed an extremely rigid policy denying grandfathering privileges to most affected students, SOLELY for the purpose of filling up the Bullis Purisimma site as a K-6 school by 2008. They decried any "gentler" means of implementing the new boundaries simply because a phased matriculation --as recommended by LASD's own superintendent-- would not fill the classrooms at BP fast enough to appease Los Altos Hills. Yet, because of BCS siphoning its attendance, that same school might not even reach the minimal District attendance guidelines.

- Students in the northern part of the district stand to be ripped abruptly from their schools in fall 2008, and possibly again in the near future, all in an attempt to fill this school in a neighborhood that will also soon be reaping most of the benefits from another district housed public school, BCS.

- There will now be TWO "neighborhood" schools serving the sparsely populated Bullis Purissima area while the 500 displaced children won't even have as much as one.

- In an effort to fill up Bullis Purissima, LASD is also offering multi-year inter district transfers (not to anybody only to residents of Los Altos Hills attached to Palo Alto Unified District). In the same time, LASD residents have to re-apply every year for an intra-district transfer even to the very same Bullis Purissima school.

It is really time for LASD, BCS, Santa Clara Board of Education and their respective cities to sort that mess once and for all.

While that happens, I urge the Los Altos School District to immediately put a moratorium on both reopening the Bullis Purissima school in K-6 configuration and implementing the new boundaries. Or at least mitigate the impact on the scores of children being displaced by moving to a phased matriculation or a more generous grandfathering policy.

Finally, while I want my 4th grade son to develop a large and diverse vocabulary, I'd prefer he starts with words like democracy, equality, and justice, rather than "plutocracy". Can someone in one of these esteemed educational organizations please help me out?

Serge Bonte
Lloyd Way, Mountain View

Comments (6)

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Posted by Mountain View Mom
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Dec 7, 2007 at 6:05 pm

What bothers me most is that the district's children are the victims in this obvious power struggle between the distict, Los Altos Hills and now Santa Clara county.


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Posted by Parent
a resident of another community
on Dec 11, 2007 at 11:27 am

Sounds like a good reason for a lawsuit. Charter Law in the California Ed code says:

(2) (A) A charter school shall admit all pupils who wish to attend
the school.
(B) However, if the number of pupils who wish to attend the
charter school exceeds the school's capacity, attendance, except for
existing pupils of the charter school, shall be determined by a
public random drawing. Preference shall be extended to pupils
currently attending the charter school and pupils who reside in the
district except as provided for in Section 47614.5. Other preferences
may be permitted by the chartering authority on an individual school
basis and only if consistent with the law.

I would imagine that if a preference rule is granted that creates a protective bubble around a socio-economic class or creates racial preference selection bias, then that could be challenged as inconsistent with federal equal education opportunity law.

Any lawyers out there that want to help the 'little guy' who wants the ability to send his kid to quality charter schools across the state - as the law intended?


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Posted by Matt Raschke
a resident of The Crossings
on Dec 14, 2007 at 12:13 pm

Serge, thanks for writing this. I fully agree with your conclusion: Los Altos School District should immediately put a moratorium on both reopening the Bullis Purissima school in K-6 configuration

Parent,

Are there any laws that are designed to prevent segregation along socio-economic class boundaries? I don't think that is explicitly part of the current anti-discrimination code. I'm not a lawyer.

I heard that LASD intends to sue BCS over this, however. I think it will be a difficult case to win. LASD is ignoring their heavily populated area in the northern end of the district.

LASD should move BCS to Bullis-Purissima and open a new "overflow" elementary school beside Egan Middle School where BCS is currently housed. Geographically, that is where additional school capacity is needed.



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Posted by Paul Mockapetris
a resident of another community
on Dec 20, 2007 at 11:41 am

I send my kids to BCS, but I live in an unincorporated part of Los Altos, not in the preferred Bullis area. The ironies here are amazing:

BCS seeks donations as mentioned in the article, but designates many of its families as second class citizens by the preference, and doesn't have a coach fare.

I'm sure LASD has some complicated rationale about how they have a objective here other than wearing down Bullis and making it go away.

Many Bullis kids will rejoin LASD in higher grades, so there's really no permanent rivalry.

Voters need a way to tell the bureaucrats to stop the lunacy of this battle and get back to better education. There's still room for improvement in both Bullis and LASD.








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Posted by LASD parent
a resident of another community
on Jan 8, 2008 at 3:10 pm

I agree that it makes no sense to have two schools serve a neighborhood (LAH) that is having trouble filling up even one school, especially when other schools are over capacity.

This is happening because:

1. LAH has shown that is willing and able to act against the district when its demands are not met - i.e. start BCS when BP was closed, and threaten to form its own district when BP remains closed.

2. LASD seems to act against BCS at any cost. They could have allowed BCS to move to the old BP site and avoid the cost of reopening another school. Instead, they are spending millions to reopen and renovate BP, while at the same time suing BCS.

It's clear that the squeaky wheel gets the oil, especially when you can back up your threats with action. What can those of us unhappy with this situation do to make the district listen to us?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Parent
a resident of another community
on Jan 9, 2008 at 8:45 am

The reasons you're providing over look a few nuances:

- BCS via its new preference has some responsibility in that situation. Arguably, they could have refrained from proposing that preference and there would have been only 1 neighborhood school for LAH and 1 charter for all in the district.
- I don't know that the LASD Board driving factor is solely its will to arm BCS. They also seem intent on following LAH/PEC's lead on decision. One such example being Mr. Pefley's constant efforts to favor LAH residents in PAUD over LASD residents when it comes to attendance to Bullis Purrissima and terms of transfers.

This said, I agree that this is an un-tainable situation. The LASD Board seems to act as ostriches in every crisis situation so it might take an earthquake to get their heads out of the sand :)

More seriously, it's likely the LASD Board will have to ask for money soon (parcel tax increase, bond measure...); it will be a very opportune time to not sign them another blank check.


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