A vote for plutocracy
Hills residents now have two neighborhood schools — while others have none
On Nov. 26, the Santa Clara County Board of Education allowed the Bullis Charter School to amend its enrollment procedure to favor a portion of Los Altos Hills — the former Bullis-Purissima attendance area — over the rest of the Los Altos School District, which includes parts of Mountain View.
In this, the county board, and Bullis and its backers, are showing a very poor display of responsible citizenship. Even more upsetting than this blatant social injustice, however, is that the LASD board still plans to go ahead with its earlier boundary decision for reasons that now demand serious reexamination.
Here are some facts relevant to this issue:
• Bullis is already sifting its applicants by suggesting a $3,500 annual contribution per child.
• Bullis 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 favored by Bullis is the LASD area that least needs extra academic help, with a median house price in excess of $3 million.
• LASD is about to open a newly refurbished public school for the very same Los Altos Hills neighborhood Bullis is now favoring.
• In order to open that neighborhood school, LASD approved new attendance boundaries displacing in excess of 500 children, with most of them being removed from their own neighborhood schools.
Obviously, Bullis' new enrollment procedure severely reduces opportunities for minorities. But it also renders those recent boundary decisions by LASD, which were made in the face of tremendous outrage and acrimony, unnecessary.
That's because the boundary changes were predicated on attendance projections that are now invalid. Now, thanks to the new Bullis attendance preference, certain schools will likely be outside their capacity guidelines again within a year or two.
Let me put it another way: The LASD board's sole intention with the boundary changes was to fill up the Bullis-Purissima site as a K-6 school by 2008. The board rejected any "gentler" means of implementing the new boundaries simply because a phased boundary change — as recommended by LASD's own superintendent — would not fill the classrooms at Bullis-Purissima fast enough to appease Los Altos Hills. Yet now, because of Bullis siphoning its attendance, that same school still might not even reach the minimal district attendance guidelines.
As it is, students in the northern part of the school district stand to be ripped abruptly from their schools in fall 2008 — and we may see a repeat in the near future — all in an attempt to fill this school in a neighborhood that will also be reaping most of the benefits from another district-housed public school, Bullis.
Two "neighborhood" schools will serve the sparsely populated Bullis-Purissima area, while the 500 displaced children won't even have one.
It is really time for LASD, Bullis, the Board of Education and their respective cities to sort out this mess once and for all. While that happens, the Los Altos School District should immediately put a moratorium on both reopening the Bullis-Purissima School and on implementing the new boundaries.
While I want my fourth grade son to develop a large and diverse vocabulary, I'd prefer he starts with words like "democracy," "equality" and "justice," rather than "plutocracy."
Serge Bonte lives on Lloyd Way.