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

Original post made on May 6, 2021

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.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Thursday, May 6, 2021, 10:02 AM

Comments (26)

Posted by ML Kyle
a resident of Monta Loma
on May 6, 2021 at 2:47 pm

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[Post removed due to disrespectful comment or offensive language]

Posted by ML Kyle
a resident of Monta Loma
on May 6, 2021 at 3:01 pm

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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.

Posted by @roaksinri
a resident of Waverly Park
on May 6, 2021 at 3:44 pm

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@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.

Posted by Los Altos Observer
a resident of another community
on May 6, 2021 at 4:19 pm

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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.

Posted by Gerard Shonk
a resident of Cuesta Park
on May 6, 2021 at 7:03 pm

Gerard Shonk is a registered user.

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

Posted by equityforallstudents
a resident of another community
on May 6, 2021 at 8:08 pm

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

Posted by Community Minded
a resident of another community
on May 6, 2021 at 10:01 pm

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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.

Posted by Barry Austin
a resident of The Crossings
on May 7, 2021 at 6:33 pm

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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.

Posted by LongResident
a resident of another community
on May 8, 2021 at 6:26 pm

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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.

Posted by Santa Rita Mom
a resident of The Crossings
on May 9, 2021 at 12:10 pm

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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.

Posted by LongResident
a resident of another community
on May 9, 2021 at 1:48 pm

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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.

Posted by SRB
a resident of St. Francis Acres
on May 10, 2021 at 9:58 am

SRB is a registered user.

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

Posted by Barry Austin
a resident of The Crossings
on May 10, 2021 at 11:42 am

Barry Austin is a registered user.

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.

Posted by LongResident
a resident of another community
on May 10, 2021 at 3:01 pm

LongResident is a registered user.

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.

Posted by Here's your answer
a resident of Bailey Park
on May 11, 2021 at 12:20 pm

Here's your answer is a registered user.

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

Posted by lan
a resident of Monta Loma
on May 12, 2021 at 1:09 pm

lan is a registered user.

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.

Posted by LongResident
a resident of another community
on May 12, 2021 at 2:10 pm

LongResident is a registered user.

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".

Posted by Santa Rita Mom
a resident of The Crossings
on May 16, 2021 at 1:55 am

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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.

Posted by Christopher Chiang
a resident of North Bayshore
on May 16, 2021 at 9:35 am

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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): 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.

Posted by Community Minded
a resident of another community
on May 16, 2021 at 10:31 am

Community Minded is a registered user.

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.

Posted by LongResident
a resident of another community
on May 16, 2021 at 3:02 pm

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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.

Posted by Barry Austin
a resident of The Crossings
on May 18, 2021 at 12:21 am

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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.

Posted by Community Minded
a resident of another community
on May 18, 2021 at 10:00 am

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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.

Posted by LongResident
a resident of another community
on May 18, 2021 at 2:14 pm

LongResident is a registered user.

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!

Posted by Barry Austin
a resident of The Crossings
on May 20, 2021 at 3:17 pm

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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.

Posted by LongResident
a resident of another community
on May 21, 2021 at 1:05 am

LongResident is a registered user.

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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