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County board of education puts Bullis Charter School on notice for failing to enroll underrepresented students

Lack of low-income, Latino and students with disabilities puts Los Altos school at risk of losing its charter

Bullis Charter School is facing scrutiny for not enrolling enough underserved students. Photo by Magali Gauthier

The Santa Clara County Board of Education voted 6-1 Wednesday to reprimand Bullis Charter School for what it describes as a chronic failure to enroll enough low-income students, Latino students and children with disabilities.

The move will compel the charter school, located in the Los Altos School District, to come up with a plan to adjust its lopsided enrollment to better match the demographics of the district. If the so-called corrective action plan does not work, the county board could choose not to renew Bullis' charter to continue after June next year -- a serious decision that could lead to the closure of the school.

The lopsided enrollment at Bullis Charter School has been a concern for years, flagged as a "continued challenge" by county staff during the charter school's renewal back in 2016. Charter school officials at the time said it had been a struggle to recruit more underserved students and insisted that they were taking action to correct the imbalance. The county board renewed the charter through June 2022 on a 5-0 vote.

But five years later, county education officials say the problem has not been resolved and has gotten even worse. The latest round of enrollment data reportedly shows English language learners, Hispanics, low-income students and students with disabilities all remain underrepresented at the school, raising questions over whether the publicly funded school is serving an exclusive population of wealthy families in the district.

"BCS's enrollment data, as well as the data provided by BCS about the results of its open enrollment process for the 2021-2022 school year, continue to indicate that BCS is not serving all pupils who wish to attend," according to the county report. "The demographic data indicate that the percentage of BCS's enrollment of some pupil groups has actually decreased, rather than increased."

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The Los Altos School District for years has pushed the county to take action on the skewed enrollment at Bullis, penning a scathing letter to the county in 2019 accusing the charter school of discriminatory enrollment practices that seek to serve the wealthiest and least needy families in the district. It later blasted the county office of education for failing to hold Bullis accountable for its demographic imbalance.

At the Wednesday meeting, Los Altos school board president Shali Sirkay said that the formal reprimand is a "critical step in the right direction," and that the district has long urged Bullis Charter School to enroll a more diverse student population reflective of the Los Altos School District -- from which it draws the vast majority of its students. But as the charter school has grown to roughly 1,100 children in recent years, its diversity has not improved.

"The staggering inequity in their enrollment becomes truly intolerable, and of a magnitude that we cannot ignore," Sirkay said. "I personally find it inconceivable and irresponsible that an organization receiving pubic funds can continue practices that have only proven to sustain and exacerbate this exclusivity."

I will not be able to vote for renewal unless Bullis has a population that serves lots more underserved kids than they currently serve.

-Joseph Di Salvo, Santa Clara County Board of Education member

Largely absent from the meeting was the troubling data in question. Though county staff said the school has not enrolled enough underserved students relative to the demographics of the Los Altos School District, none of those figures were available at the Wednesday meeting. In the past, state data has shown that 1.6% of students at the charter school are identified as low-income, compared to 6.2% across the district. Bullis board members have previously described the difference as "relatively minimal."

Thomas Yih, a parent and board member of Bullis Charter School, pushed back against the county's allegations and called it "troubling" that the county has dangled the possibility of nixing the charter altogether over the issue. He said county staff is claiming without evidence that Bullis has enrolled even fewer needy students in recent years when, in fact, those enrollment levels have either been steady or increased. Absent "factual evidence" that Bullis is violating the law, Yih warned that the county is tainting what should be a fair renewal process and running afoul of the charter school's right to due process.

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Bullis, which has been chartered through the county since 2003, has been immensely popular. The school has reported receiving 10 applicants for every available kindergarten spot, prompting an enrollment lottery that gives preference to families residing in the Los Altos School District. Past allegations by school district officials claim that while the lottery itself may be fair, the recruitment efforts are not even-handed and tend to skew toward wealthier families.

Los Altos school board members raised alarms in 2019 that the charter school may be bringing back its so-called "hills" preference (referring to Los Altos Hills), which would give families living in the former boundaries of the Bullis-Purissima Elementary School an advantage when applying to send their children to the school. County Superintendent Mary Ann Dewan sent a letter to Bullis at the time stating that such a preference could potentially violate laws prohibiting charter schools from limiting enrollment access to underserved students, including those with disabilities, English learners, low-income and homeless students. The preference was dropped and permanently discarded last year.

County board members were quick to say that their action Wednesday does not condemn Bullis Charter School or set in motion the nonrenewal of its charter, but instead gets the ball rolling on correcting the demographic inequities at the school. Board member Peter Ortiz said the school is obligated to serve the demographics of the school district, including low-income families, and that they are taking the necessary steps to exercise oversight of the school.

"The point of this letter, to our understanding, is not to cast a final judgment on Bullis Charter School, but to inform them there are inclusivity issues we are watching very closely and that we want them to rectify," Ortiz said. "We cannot stand idle when we're having these concerns raised."

Board members Grace Mah and Joseph Di Salvo both generally agreed to send Bullis a notice of violation, but questioned why the underlying demographic data prompting the action was not available prior to the vote. Di Salvo, the lone vote in opposition, said he couldn't support the notion on such nebulous terms, but that he fully plans to hold Bullis accountable.

"I will not be able to vote for renewal unless Bullis has a population that serves lots more underserved kids than they currently serve," Di Salvo said.

Charter schools became a central issue in the county school board election last year, with Mah receiving significant campaign support from pro-charter school organizations. The challenger, Melissa Baten Caswell, received large donations from vocal critics of Bullis Charter School.

Though Mah was perceived during the election as more favorable to charter schools and has a track record for approving charters, she was absent during the vote to approve Bullis' charter renewal in 2016 and voted against the renewal in 2011.

Critics of Bullis Charter School rallied behind Baten Caswell during the election following a controversial proposal by the Los Altos School District board to offer the Egan campus to the charter school. Parents attending heated school board meetings at the time suggested that changes in state law and new leadership on the Santa Clara County Board of Education could most effectively hold Bullis accountable.

With the board's approval May 5, county education officials will send a letter to Bullis listing the violations and giving the charter school a "reasonable opportunity" to fix the problems with an action plan submitted to the county. The aim is to give Bullis the letter and provide the school with enough time to correct its demographic problems prior to the critical vote on whether to renew Bullis' charter.

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County board of education puts Bullis Charter School on notice for failing to enroll underrepresented students

Lack of low-income, Latino and students with disabilities puts Los Altos school at risk of losing its charter

by / Mountain View Voice

Uploaded: Thu, May 6, 2021, 10:02 am

The Santa Clara County Board of Education voted 6-1 Wednesday to reprimand Bullis Charter School for what it describes as a chronic failure to enroll enough low-income students, Latino students and children with disabilities.

The move will compel the charter school, located in the Los Altos School District, to come up with a plan to adjust its lopsided enrollment to better match the demographics of the district. If the so-called corrective action plan does not work, the county board could choose not to renew Bullis' charter to continue after June next year -- a serious decision that could lead to the closure of the school.

The lopsided enrollment at Bullis Charter School has been a concern for years, flagged as a "continued challenge" by county staff during the charter school's renewal back in 2016. Charter school officials at the time said it had been a struggle to recruit more underserved students and insisted that they were taking action to correct the imbalance. The county board renewed the charter through June 2022 on a 5-0 vote.

But five years later, county education officials say the problem has not been resolved and has gotten even worse. The latest round of enrollment data reportedly shows English language learners, Hispanics, low-income students and students with disabilities all remain underrepresented at the school, raising questions over whether the publicly funded school is serving an exclusive population of wealthy families in the district.

"BCS's enrollment data, as well as the data provided by BCS about the results of its open enrollment process for the 2021-2022 school year, continue to indicate that BCS is not serving all pupils who wish to attend," according to the county report. "The demographic data indicate that the percentage of BCS's enrollment of some pupil groups has actually decreased, rather than increased."

The Los Altos School District for years has pushed the county to take action on the skewed enrollment at Bullis, penning a scathing letter to the county in 2019 accusing the charter school of discriminatory enrollment practices that seek to serve the wealthiest and least needy families in the district. It later blasted the county office of education for failing to hold Bullis accountable for its demographic imbalance.

At the Wednesday meeting, Los Altos school board president Shali Sirkay said that the formal reprimand is a "critical step in the right direction," and that the district has long urged Bullis Charter School to enroll a more diverse student population reflective of the Los Altos School District -- from which it draws the vast majority of its students. But as the charter school has grown to roughly 1,100 children in recent years, its diversity has not improved.

"The staggering inequity in their enrollment becomes truly intolerable, and of a magnitude that we cannot ignore," Sirkay said. "I personally find it inconceivable and irresponsible that an organization receiving pubic funds can continue practices that have only proven to sustain and exacerbate this exclusivity."

Largely absent from the meeting was the troubling data in question. Though county staff said the school has not enrolled enough underserved students relative to the demographics of the Los Altos School District, none of those figures were available at the Wednesday meeting. In the past, state data has shown that 1.6% of students at the charter school are identified as low-income, compared to 6.2% across the district. Bullis board members have previously described the difference as "relatively minimal."

Thomas Yih, a parent and board member of Bullis Charter School, pushed back against the county's allegations and called it "troubling" that the county has dangled the possibility of nixing the charter altogether over the issue. He said county staff is claiming without evidence that Bullis has enrolled even fewer needy students in recent years when, in fact, those enrollment levels have either been steady or increased. Absent "factual evidence" that Bullis is violating the law, Yih warned that the county is tainting what should be a fair renewal process and running afoul of the charter school's right to due process.

Bullis, which has been chartered through the county since 2003, has been immensely popular. The school has reported receiving 10 applicants for every available kindergarten spot, prompting an enrollment lottery that gives preference to families residing in the Los Altos School District. Past allegations by school district officials claim that while the lottery itself may be fair, the recruitment efforts are not even-handed and tend to skew toward wealthier families.

Los Altos school board members raised alarms in 2019 that the charter school may be bringing back its so-called "hills" preference (referring to Los Altos Hills), which would give families living in the former boundaries of the Bullis-Purissima Elementary School an advantage when applying to send their children to the school. County Superintendent Mary Ann Dewan sent a letter to Bullis at the time stating that such a preference could potentially violate laws prohibiting charter schools from limiting enrollment access to underserved students, including those with disabilities, English learners, low-income and homeless students. The preference was dropped and permanently discarded last year.

County board members were quick to say that their action Wednesday does not condemn Bullis Charter School or set in motion the nonrenewal of its charter, but instead gets the ball rolling on correcting the demographic inequities at the school. Board member Peter Ortiz said the school is obligated to serve the demographics of the school district, including low-income families, and that they are taking the necessary steps to exercise oversight of the school.

"The point of this letter, to our understanding, is not to cast a final judgment on Bullis Charter School, but to inform them there are inclusivity issues we are watching very closely and that we want them to rectify," Ortiz said. "We cannot stand idle when we're having these concerns raised."

Board members Grace Mah and Joseph Di Salvo both generally agreed to send Bullis a notice of violation, but questioned why the underlying demographic data prompting the action was not available prior to the vote. Di Salvo, the lone vote in opposition, said he couldn't support the notion on such nebulous terms, but that he fully plans to hold Bullis accountable.

"I will not be able to vote for renewal unless Bullis has a population that serves lots more underserved kids than they currently serve," Di Salvo said.

Charter schools became a central issue in the county school board election last year, with Mah receiving significant campaign support from pro-charter school organizations. The challenger, Melissa Baten Caswell, received large donations from vocal critics of Bullis Charter School.

Though Mah was perceived during the election as more favorable to charter schools and has a track record for approving charters, she was absent during the vote to approve Bullis' charter renewal in 2016 and voted against the renewal in 2011.

Critics of Bullis Charter School rallied behind Baten Caswell during the election following a controversial proposal by the Los Altos School District board to offer the Egan campus to the charter school. Parents attending heated school board meetings at the time suggested that changes in state law and new leadership on the Santa Clara County Board of Education could most effectively hold Bullis accountable.

With the board's approval May 5, county education officials will send a letter to Bullis listing the violations and giving the charter school a "reasonable opportunity" to fix the problems with an action plan submitted to the county. The aim is to give Bullis the letter and provide the school with enough time to correct its demographic problems prior to the critical vote on whether to renew Bullis' charter.

Comments

ML Kyle
Registered user
Monta Loma
on May 6, 2021 at 2:47 pm
ML Kyle, Monta Loma
Registered user
on May 6, 2021 at 2:47 pm

Bullis Charter School is a massive threat to area public schools. They maintain an excellent, high quality education, communicate and collaborate with parents, and were even open during the pandemic--ensuring children have a healthy social outlet during the pandemic, while proving that teachers can be kept safe.

Public Schools and Teachers Unions absolutely *hate* Bullis for all of this. Parents are to be told and scolded, not collaborated with. Parents who were concerned about their children developing depression during the pandemic are selfish, white supremacist grandma killers who hate teachers and should be ashamed for daring to think kids shouldn't be on iPads for hours a day.

Protect Bullis Charter School. Parents have a right to a high quality education for their children.


ML Kyle
Registered user
Monta Loma
on May 6, 2021 at 3:01 pm
ML Kyle, Monta Loma
Registered user
on May 6, 2021 at 3:01 pm

Here's why Bullis Charter School doesn't have low income kids: 1) They're located in Los Altos, which has NIMBY'd low income housing, and 2) No school busses.

The charter system starves them of resources, then blames them when they don't meet an arbitrary standard. It's all part of a deliberate assault on charter schools in California.

Everyone deserves a Bullis-level education for their kids. The real question is, why aren't people getting it? Teachers Unions want to shut Bullis down so we never answer that question.


@roaksinri
Registered user
Waverly Park
on May 6, 2021 at 3:44 pm
@roaksinri, Waverly Park
Registered user
on May 6, 2021 at 3:44 pm

@ML Kyle, if your arguments are an example of the kind of education available at Bullis, yikes.

The article was clear in the second paragraph that Bullis is not even enrolling the same proportion of needy children as actually exist in Los Altos demographics.


Los Altos Observer
Registered user
another community
on May 6, 2021 at 4:19 pm
Los Altos Observer, another community
Registered user
on May 6, 2021 at 4:19 pm

Under CA State law, the Los Altos School District is required to provide "reasonably equivalent" facilities to BCS. For 15+ years LASD has refused to allocate on-site child care facilities to BCS, even though all LASD schools have these facilities. How do you attract low income families to a school without after school child care? LASD's board could resolve this issue by allocating this additional space but instead they choose to vocally complain to the County Board.


Gerard Shonk
Registered user
Cuesta Park
on May 6, 2021 at 7:03 pm
Gerard Shonk, Cuesta Park
Registered user
on May 6, 2021 at 7:03 pm

Lol. This is the least surprising news ever. If they get revoked, they’ll get exactly what they have long deserved.


equityforallstudents
Registered user
another community
on May 6, 2021 at 8:08 pm
equityforallstudents, another community
Registered user
on May 6, 2021 at 8:08 pm

If LASD wishes for BCS to die, enjoy figuring out what to do with 1000 in district students! Sounds like fun.


Community Minded
Registered user
another community
on May 6, 2021 at 10:01 pm
Community Minded, another community
Registered user
on May 6, 2021 at 10:01 pm

Good for SCCBOE for holding BCS accountable under state law and its own charter. Public schools educate ALL students. Putting up monetary barriers like requests for large donations to its educational foundation and requiring students to pay their own expenses on costly international trips linked to school curriculum definitely gets the message across that students without funds are so not welcome that they shouldn’t even apply. BCS is successful in using this and other methods to get the easy-to-educate student population they want (and which performs no better than the more diverse student population in LASD’s excellent schools — you figure out what this says about the relative quality of BCS and LASD schools), but it’s not public education.

Like the pro-BCS posters on this thread, BCS can whine, blame others (favorite boogeyman is LASD, of course), and be snarky, but it doesn’t change the facts that we can all see. Looking forward to understanding the story better as the investigation proceeds and we see more data — BCS is fighting this because they know the data won’t have anything good for them.


Barry Austin
Registered user
The Crossings
on May 7, 2021 at 6:33 pm
Barry Austin, The Crossings
Registered user
on May 7, 2021 at 6:33 pm

To be clear about where I'm coming from, it's my absolute expectation that BCS fully support and strive for diversity, equity and inclusion as a moral necessity and foundation of excellence.

I would hope that decisions on this topic will be informed by true facts, evidence and good-faith debate, not by political warfare or palace intrigue.

A few long time anti-BCS activists have had semi-private meetings with Dr. Dewan and certain County Board members pressing claims of discrimination and demanding harsh oversight. This appears to be a continuation of that campaign.

In this case, the claim of concern is framed in a way that coincides with real, systemic biases and injustices in our broader public education system (inclusive of BCS).

Take for example the combination of attendance boundaries and enrollment limits, which I believe were originally invented on purpose to soft-segregate school communities, with the ability to plausibly deny such a goal.

You live in Mountain View Whisman and want to attend a Los Altos school? The answer will be no (unless you have a special needs kid for LASD to import).

Within LASD, the attendance areas of Santa Rita and Covington are three blocks apart yet their demographics are very different. Does that mean Covington is run by a bunch of evil discriminators? No, attendance boundaries and enrollment limits are enough to explain the discrepancy. The inequity is systemic.

Let's find and fix the systemic issues and root causes of inequity, wherever the facts and evidence lead. Let's not indulge the BCS-haters and discover five years later that inequity remains unsolved because the pitchfork mob attacked the wrong target.


LongResident
Registered user
another community
on May 8, 2021 at 6:26 pm
LongResident, another community
Registered user
on May 8, 2021 at 6:26 pm

What exactly was the point of having a vote far in advance of the issue of renewal WITHOUT having the data on which the vote was allegedly based?

One thing to consider is that there is little doubt that with the pandemic the proportion of low income students in Los Altos School District has changed. It sounds like the county staff are basing their recommendation on ACTUAL data about the charter (through an odd process) compared to OLD data about LASD. I think that's why they didn't present the actual numbers.

The enrollment in LASD has markedly declined during the pandemic. The county board didn't even comment on that. Has the enrollment in the charter school also declined? It seems like a material point of comparison. Poor kids couldn't attend LASD when it was in remote mode. That excluded them. The proportion of students in LASD is so low that LASD got away without addressing the lack of technology access for the low income students, thereby disenrolling them effectively. The charter school is much smaller than the district as a whole, only equal to 20% of the district. The low income student situation is very unequal from school to school within LASD. I'd like to see a report on how the pandemic affected the low income enrollment at the various LASD schools and then compared THAT to the situation at the charter.



Santa Rita Mom
Registered user
The Crossings
on May 9, 2021 at 12:10 pm
Santa Rita Mom, The Crossings
Registered user
on May 9, 2021 at 12:10 pm

This is LONG overdue.

BCS has spent decades avoiding (in subtle and not so subtle ways) educating children who can't pay the thousands of dollars in "ask" that BCS makes every year plus international trips that the actual public schools couldn't possibly afford to even consider.

They have also refused to deal with the Special Needs population, up to and including telling parents that they need to take their children back to LASD because they "don't have the ability" to properly accommodate them. They certainly never considered the possibility of NOT taking trips to China and Costa Rica so they could afford to pay for the same teachers LASD is REQUIRED to provide. After all, those pesky special needs kids tend to lower the test scores that BCS uses to sell parents on the quality of their program and we can't have that lowered from its statistically insignificant position above the LASD scores.

The facility discussions have been specious on the part of BCS for years. They have plenty of space. What they haven't gotten is what they wanted all along - to take a neighborhood school away from the children who currently attend it. The childcare facility excuse is just that - an excuse. There is no reason they can't use the same one as the district children. They just want to use the issue to claim they are somehow being abused when nothing of the kind is true.

It is long past time to pull the charter from BCS. If they have to play by the same rules as the district is REQUIRED to follow and provide for ALL children despite their difficulties, I think we will find that they are not providing a better education than the district does.

Charters were created to help poor districts provide a better education for children who wouldn't be able to get one otherwise. BCS is using the law to provide a private school with public money to kids who would be getting a superior education ANYWAY if they simply attended their neighborhood school. It shouldn't go on.


LongResident
Registered user
another community
on May 9, 2021 at 1:48 pm
LongResident, another community
Registered user
on May 9, 2021 at 1:48 pm

To me this is much like the lie that the election was stolen. LASD Trustees have been on this false narrative for years, and the county board has made resolutions like this before. With the pandemic, gauging disadvantaged student enrollment became much more difficult or even impossible. Perfect time for LASD to try to get away with the lie. No doubt the disadvantaged enrollment at Santa Rita dropped off in the pandemic, but does LASD even have the numbers? The primary way they used to count someone as disadvantaged economically was free school lunches. I don't know but I can just bet that LASD didn't give out any lunchtime food to their low income students during the pandemic. Some districts did this but LASD has a tiny fraction of the county average low income component. Half of the schools have fewer than 10 students getting the free lunches in normal times. I don't think LASD did anything for them with the remote learning in terms of feeding them.

Most importantly, some of these low income students just disappeared from enrollment,. LASD enrollment was down 10% in the pandemic. A lot of that had to be the low income students. LASD proportion of low income students dropped off.


SRB
Registered user
St. Francis Acres
on May 10, 2021 at 9:58 am
SRB, St. Francis Acres
Registered user
on May 10, 2021 at 9:58 am

Deja vu all over again.

Instead of tackling the issue raised by the oversight agency (County Office of Education), BCS supporters will at the same time deny the problem exists AND blame the Los Altos School District for that allegedly inexistent problem. Go figure!

re: "I don't know but I can just bet that LASD didn't give out any lunchtime food to their low income students during the pandemic."

Poster clearly doesn't know but also places bad bets :)

see : Web Link


Barry Austin
Registered user
The Crossings
on May 10, 2021 at 11:42 am
Barry Austin, The Crossings
Registered user
on May 10, 2021 at 11:42 am

Let's look at one topic that my family has personal experience with, ELL programs. Here are two hypothetical ELL programs to compare:

ELL Program "A"
* Goal: maximize ELL numbers (for evidence of diversity and more funding)
* Aggressively classify incoming students as ELL
* Discourage graduation from ELL until 3rd grade

ELL Program "B"
* Goal: maximize English language proficiency
* Use the ELL program as guidance for tailored instruction, not as a metric to maximize
* Give students the ability to graduate from ELL when they are ready, even in Kinder, while continuing tailored instruction

What happens when you compare ELL statistics between Program "A" and Program "B" - are the numbers apples-to-apples? If the ELL numbers in Program "B" are lower than "A" is that evidence of discrimination and wrongdoing? Do we have enough information to know who is doing a better job of helping English language learners (hint: No)?

The point of this is not to be harsh on Program "A" above - let's assume the educators involved are doing an excellent job of teaching ELL students. The point is that using a simplistic comparison of ELL numbers to be harsh on Program "B" would be misguided and morally wrong.


LongResident
Registered user
another community
on May 10, 2021 at 3:01 pm
LongResident, another community
Registered user
on May 10, 2021 at 3:01 pm

There is not a large association with ELL status in LASD and being hard to educate. LASD is very comprehensive in designating students as ELL. BCS has only been slight behind LASD and it really doesn't matter. These are mostly children of high SES parents who are well supported and will do fine in school, LASD or BCS.

LASD only has 230 out of 4000 students receiving free or reduced price lunches. Both numbers have been dropping lately. LASD lost students to BCS which is now over 20% of the district, but even so LASD had fewer Low income students as of 2019-2020. That's why having accurate data is important. If you don't really KNOW what the current low income presence is in LASD, how can you chide BCS for not "matching" it? With the pandemic, it has dropped. All the enrollment numbers dropped. It's really bad time to guess on the numbers. The schools tried to give out lunches but that doesn't yield accurate data. Some won't pick them up, some pick up extras. It's a guess as to the number and which school they came from.

It sounds to me like the county staff are comparing the 2019-2020 numbers from LASD to projected enrollment at BCS for 2021-2022. Really means nothing if the numbers are declining in LASD as they have been, even before the pandemic. Plus across 10 schools in LASD counting BCS if the number is 240 total, that's about 24 per school. It's a small number to begin with.


Here's your answer
Registered user
Bailey Park
on May 11, 2021 at 12:20 pm
Here's your answer, Bailey Park
Registered user
on May 11, 2021 at 12:20 pm

Bullis is popular BECAUSE it under enrolls "those kinds" of students


lan
Registered user
Monta Loma
on May 12, 2021 at 1:09 pm
lan, Monta Loma
Registered user
on May 12, 2021 at 1:09 pm

Title on the front page is : "County board of education puts Bullis Charter School on notice for failing to enroll needy students."

These 'needy' students they are referring to are low-income students, Latino students and children with disabilities.

Under-represented? Yes. A right to equal access to quality education? Yes. But needy?

Perhaps what's in need here is a bit of training at MV-Voice on how to use language that is respectful, inclusive, and doesn't throw certain populations under the bus.


LongResident
Registered user
another community
on May 12, 2021 at 2:10 pm
LongResident, another community
Registered user
on May 12, 2021 at 2:10 pm

The situation in LASD is very different from the situation in MVWSD. LASD has very few "needy" students by any definition. They have less than 6% kids enrolled in free and reduced price lunch and the 2020-2021 ELL numbers are 338 out of 3576 students, or 9.4% plus 9 TBD. These numbers have been falling recently. ELL was 11% the previous year.

Bullis Charter has 73 out of 1093 students ELL and 68 TBD. This works out to 6.7% up to 12.9% depending on the TBD. It was 5.7% the year before, contrary to the vague charge from the county staff that the number was falling.

LASD has repeatedly advanced arguments that some of its students are "harder to educate" than others. They argued against opening a new local elementary school in Mountain View because the attendees there would be 'harder to educate' than in the average LASD school. They contend that Bullis has an easier time of it because the ELL numbers are lower than at LASD. Not all ELL student populations are the same, but with LASD only having 9% and the county having 20% overall, LASD obviously has less of an issue than the typical district. Many of the LASD ELL students do come from very well off families compared to the situation county-wide.

Using the ELL numbers doesn't provide any obvious problem with Bullis and its ELL population. It looks like the numbers at Bullis are over 7% and the LASD number is 9%. That's not much of a difference. Note that BUllis does offer Mandarin instruction to all grade levels and Spanish instruction to many grade levels. LASD doesn't have as much language learning and with that being part of Bullis program there might be a programmatic reason why some ELL families prefer LASD. It's not clear if claims of discrimination can be made since it is allowed to have a language emphasis at a charter school.

I do agree that LASD's ELL students are not "needy".


Santa Rita Mom
Registered user
The Crossings
on May 16, 2021 at 1:55 am
Santa Rita Mom, The Crossings
Registered user
on May 16, 2021 at 1:55 am

It would be great if LR would recognize that one of the most expensive parts of the system is the Special Needs education and THAT is the part that Bullis has NEVER even begun to come close to dealing with.

Bullis has VERY few Special Needs children and they ROUTINELY discourage parents of these children from enrolling at Bullis. I have had two friends whose children were admitted, only to have the Bullis administration tell them that their child would be "better suited" to the LASD programs because they don't have the ability to "deal with" them.

LASD educational statistics are excellent. The only reason Bullis has better numbers is that they refuse to accept children that actually take effort to educate and those who can't meet their $5000/year "ask".

It would be really nice if the county would recognize that Bullis is abusing the charter laws in order to provide a publicly-subsidized private school to the children of those who could pay for a real private school if they chose. I, for one, am not please that my tax dollars are diverted to a school that doesn't serve the community equally.


Christopher Chiang
Registered user
North Bayshore
on May 16, 2021 at 9:35 am
Christopher Chiang, North Bayshore
Registered user
on May 16, 2021 at 9:35 am

If members of the Bullis community and leadership read this, I hope they see they are missing a big opportunity. 16 years of teaching, I know in my core that Bullis' instructional approach: whole child and design thinking school culture, personalized learning, project-based learning, hands-on STEAM (Web Link have been/can be a powerful force in the lives of vulnerable children in Los Altos attendance boundaries. It's on Bullis to prove through more diverse enrollment that its uniqueness is its pedagogy, and not its privilege. There are other charters very successfully doing progressive education in non-affluent communities, see High Tech (K-12 charter): Web Link or more broadly, members of League of Innovative Schools Web Link Bullis needs to not deflect, not get defensive but rather rise to the challenge.


Community Minded
Registered user
another community
on May 16, 2021 at 10:31 am
Community Minded, another community
Registered user
on May 16, 2021 at 10:31 am

Christopher Chiang, your request that BCS rise to the challenge of educating ALL students in the district, including those “vulnerable” (as you say) groups named by the county as being underserved, is appropriate and welcome. The instructional model that you describe for BCS is not unique and could easily describe LASD’s model and the model of a number of other high-performing public districts. BCS does not have any “secret sauce” despite its secrecy. LASD gets excellent results with its model and its long-tenured, happy teachers — while serving all students.


LongResident
Registered user
another community
on May 16, 2021 at 3:02 pm
LongResident, another community
Registered user
on May 16, 2021 at 3:02 pm

The average per pupil revenue for LASD is over $19,000 per year now. Bullis receives under $10,000 per year. Santa Rita Mom doesn't understand where the special education budget in Los Altos goes. Of the total special education budget half goes to under 70 kids who have the most intense needs. LASD pays to send some of them outside the district to private schools. Some of LASD's special day class students come from other districts where that district pays LASD to include them in its classes. LASD has a dozen or so very small classes specializing in specific types of special needs. LASD's total budget may be 20% for special education but half of that goes to kids who are absolutely EQUALLY represented at Bullis Charter. It's only these intense needs kids in the special day classes who are not found at Bullis, because Bullis is not a big district with all the resources of LASD. LASD uniquely spends way more on its special day classes than nearby districts like MVWSD. This is not a trivial thing to compare like SR Mom alleges. Automatically with a random lottery even if all students in LASD were entered, the selection would result in breaking up the Special Day Class students losing the potential for specialized groupings (within SDC). That's why LASD sends some of its kids outside the district and takes in kids from outside and even pays for private education for some high needs special ed students. Charter schools can't legally do that, and you're back to the fact that the charter only gets HALF the revenues available to LASD.

It's just a criticism based in ignorance to say there is some cheating going on by Bullis on special education students. Those at issue are about 1% of the LASD enrollment and LASD provides them with exceptional services far above the norm for public schools in California. That does not excuse LASD from offering the benefits of a charter school within the district. Bullis's special ed program serves many. Check numbers.


Barry Austin
Registered user
The Crossings
on May 18, 2021 at 12:21 am
Barry Austin, The Crossings
Registered user
on May 18, 2021 at 12:21 am

The only way forward for BCS is through excellence in serving all students, especially those in underrepresented groups or in greater need. Period.

The debate is about what story to tell. And holy popcorn does a certain group want to tell the spicy version.

Which story will be top of mind, at the key moments when political power is applied to BCS?

Evil supremacist cabal is exposed and must be destroyed in infamy? Horribly misguided organization will be reformed by the righteous power of the community? Or will it turn out that BCS has done good progressive work after all, the accusations having been smears, but good to shine light on the topic anyway, everyone can do better?

Well that last one would be sooo not spicy.

Facts. I would like to see them. All of them, not just the ones convenient to a particular story or side. In full context with verifiable provenance. No more Big Lie election stolen storytelling full of emotional button-pushing but without substance in the end.

Repeating for emphasis, the only way forward for BCS is through excellence in serving all students, especially those in underrepresented groups or in greater need. Period.


Community Minded
Registered user
another community
on May 18, 2021 at 10:00 am
Community Minded, another community
Registered user
on May 18, 2021 at 10:00 am

The facts from the Santa Clara County Board of Education are that:
—BCS is not admitting certain groups (English language learners, socioeconomically disadvantaged students, students in special education, and Hispanics) in proportions similar to those present in LASD.
—BCS is required by law and its own charter to do so.
—BCS has been on a “behavior plan” from the SCCBOE to improve its performance, but has actually been doing worse.

People can draw their own conclusions about how or why BCS has gotten to this point, but what the community needs is real change and solid results: BCS is required to serve all students. BCS is not allowed to take public money to establish itself as a private school that can admit only the students it wants.

There’s a lot of distraction in this thread about wild stories, and even assertions that some people are lying (about what? Linking posters to lies about Trump winning the presidency? Huh?). These posters are the ones with wild stories.

The facts don’t lie. The SCCBOE is acting to get more facts, and then, for the sake of our community, we can only hope they will take further action to get real change and solid results. Public schools serve all students.


LongResident
Registered user
another community
on May 18, 2021 at 2:14 pm
LongResident, another community
Registered user
on May 18, 2021 at 2:14 pm

Cutting to the chase, one thing that LASD could do would be to allow Bullis to present itself as an option to the enrollment meetings it holds at Santa Rita and Almond schools which are the only schools that have significant numbers of the types of students that the SCCBOE is targeting. That would likely help. The other thing that SCCBOE could do would be to order LASD to allow BCS to enroll such students from outside the LASD district. The problem is that right now LASD actively works to discourage enrollment at BCS by some of the target groups. This permission to go outside the district would address LASD's incentive to do that.

But there is still an overall problem with the SCCBOE position that BCS must match percent for percent the enrollment makeup of LASD. It's problematic because it is at odds with state laws that say the admission to BCS must be unbiased and not give absolute preference to any particular group. For example, it is against the law for charters to have a quota and to reject say White students once they get to a certain level of participation in the charter. It doesn't take too much imagination to see why this is so.

When one looks closer at the SCCBOE allegations, they are plagued by other tinges of racism as well. BCS happens to enroll about 20% of a category labeled as "mixed race". How does SCCBOE propose that makeups be compared when there is that large a category that defies matching? This has obvious and subtle factors. For example, if BCS has 20% "mixed race" and the target for say Hispanic is 10%, then shouldn't that really be viewed as 10% out of 80% hence 12.5% for purposes of comparison? Or is the mixed race category a "wildcard" which can be used to match any other category? There is a reason why the state laws DO NOT actually require a match of the ethnic or racial makeup, but rather just outreach to try to gain more applications from underrepresented groups.

Plus, the data that SCCBOE alludes to is not yet in!


Barry Austin
Registered user
The Crossings
on May 20, 2021 at 3:17 pm
Barry Austin, The Crossings
Registered user
on May 20, 2021 at 3:17 pm

Spotlighting just one of the topics where facts are in short supply: special needs.

LASD runs enhanced magnet-like special needs programs that serve the region including other nearby school districts that don't have the same programs available. In other words LASD "imports" special needs students from outside the LASD boundary.

We can verify this basic claim because the nearby districts send funding to LASD specifically to serve these students.

But further facts and details are missing.

How many of LASD's special needs students are from outside the district?

What are the particulars that distinguish LASD's expanded program from a typical district program? What are the qualifying criteria? What is the minimum age (I've heard LASD has accepted pre-K and TK kids for special needs)?

BCS partners with the County for special needs services in what is a standard program as far as I can tell (happy to hear more). It would be fantastic for the County to expand the scope of its special needs partnership with BCS to also be a regional magnet-like program similar to LASD's (with appropriate funding).

Without such an expansion, a simple numeric comparison between BCS and LASD would be apples-to-oranges. There would continue to be situations where LASD can accept a student but the BCS/County program cannot because of legitimate programmatic or geographic limits.

If we want the programs to be comparable there would need to be more information from LASD about its programs, metrics and funding starting with the questions above.

Facts. I would like to see them.


LongResident
Registered user
another community
on May 21, 2021 at 1:05 am
LongResident, another community
Registered user
on May 21, 2021 at 1:05 am

I found data that shows special education enrollment (which some might debate as to whether they are all special needs but certainly virtually all special needs kids use IEP's and hence special education). This data is broken down by either district of service or district of residence. It's on CDE's dataquest portal.

LASD last year had 17 more kids receiving special education services than it had in residence within its boundaries. Consdering that some resident students are served
outside the district, you can only say that AT LEAST 17 kids receiving special education services in LASD are from outside the district. It also appears likely that many of these students are receiving the more expensive type of special day classes (of which there are about 70 total in all of LASD), but it's possible they are Allen Act students allowed to register for attendance at LASD as children of district teachers.

It's more revealing to consider that several LASD schools themselves have no special day classes and that even if a given school has SDC services, kids resident within that school's attendance boundaries are often assigned to SDC classes at a different school.


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