California Educator

May / June 2017

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understand or know who is running the school. It's contracted out to a charter management organization which subcontracts to other organizations, and when you ask questions, they will claim that information is proprietary." e taxpayer money used by CMOs to lease, purchase and build their own school buildings results in the overbuilding of charter schools and creates a "significant crisis" for many school districts, according to ITPI. In a time of scarce resources and great needs, public funds are being spent on overbuilding of charter schools that are not needed and not any better than existing neighborhood schools, while draining resources from them. Further, the ITPI report notes that charter schools constructed with conduit bonds (issued by a municipality on behalf of a private entity) become the private property of the charter operator. Even if the charter is revoked, neither the state nor the local school district can take control of the property. Charters constructed or acquired with private funds but whose mortgage payments are reimbursed through the state's Char- ter School Facility Grant Program are typically owned without restriction. If such schools close down, owners can turn the build- ings into condos or retail space, or sell the property at a profit. "Neither the school district nor any other public body is entitled to recoup the public dollars that have gone toward creating the facility," says the report. Parents denounce false promises "Families are caught in the crosshairs of a ver y contentious political battle," says Clarissa Doutherd. "The fact that the cor- poratization and privatization of education is taking money and resources out of public schools is a concern for me." Doutherd, executive direc- tor of Parent Voices Oakland, stands with Kim Davis of Par- ents United for Public Schools o n a s i d e w a l k i n f r o n t o f a chain-link fence surround- i n g t h e re c e n t l y s h u tt e re d C a st l e m o n t P r i m a r y Ac a d - emy. The school, which shared space with the still-operating Castlemont High School, closed abruptly in February, displacing nearly 100 Oakland students. Charters often close — sometimes in the middle of the school year — leaving students and staff stranded. irty-two charters were shuttered last year in California, making the state second in the number of closures nationwide (after Florida with 35), Discipline was an issue at Rocketship, says Ceci Carrasco, who taught STEM classes at Rocketship Los Sueños Academy in San Jose for two years. Some students reacted to the regimented environment by kicking the walls, throwing things and acting out. When she asked administrators for help, they did not respond in a timely manner. Students had reason to be angry. Some classes were three hours long. Nearly 100 students were stuck in a "learning lab" sitting at computers for 1½ hours each day; they had to be quiet most of the time. Bathroom breaks were restricted, and several according to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. And closures mean taxpayers and districts are left with unpaid bills and forced to pick up the pieces. e primary school — along with the Castlemont Junior Acad- emy for teens, which closed in 2016 — was opened in 2015 by the nonprofit Youth UpRising, which ran out of money despite gen- erous funding from the state and private donors, including the Walton family. Taking on additional students after charters close has cost OUSD several hundred thousand dollars at a time when it faces a tremendous shortfall. Neither Davis' nor Doutherd's children attended the closed campuses, but they worry about plans to increase charter schools in their community. In California: CLARISSA DOUTHERD, Parent Voices Oakland We need to build up public education so we're not vulnerable to corporate and private interests. Number of charter schools currently unionized: 250 Number of charter school educators represented by CTA: 7,300 Tax dollars or taxpayer subsidized funds received by charters over the past 15 years: $2.5 billion* *Source: In the Public Interest 28 FEATURE

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