Community Divided

Are Charters bad for communities?

Charter School Laws were never meant to be used for successful school districts.  They were meant as a solution to failing schools. However, that hasn't stopped some charters from targeting the most successful school districts in California. They have caused extreme upheaval in many communities by causing school closures.

The attempted closure of several schools in Los Altos, CA to make way for a lawsuit-happy Bullis Charter School has caused bitterness and bad feelings that have divided the community for years. The Charter School there has literally pitted parent against parent creating an "us versus them" environment.

Community upheaval Similarly, a well-performing public school in Orange County was closed to make way for an expanding Charter School.  This created great turmoil in that community.

A takeover of a public school in Escalante, California is creating bad feelings within that city, as well.

All of these episodes involving school closures brought on by Charter Schools have roiled their communities, turning families against families and causing immense pain.

In our own community, the financial loss to the Novato Unified School District of 600 students will result in the closure of one of our elementary schools, teachers will lose their jobs, and it will create bigger class sizes in both elementary and middle schools. The children displaced to a new school will be removed from longstanding friends, family friendships will be torn apart, and beloved teachers will be lost from our district forever. The kind of upset and hurt feelings (dare I say “outrage”) that will result from this loss will probably last for years.

Well, once a Charter School is approved, won’t folks just “get over it?”

Maybe. But there’s a good chance they will not.  You see, by law, Charter Schools have to reapply for a continuation of their petition, typically every three years, to continue as an existing school.  And, I suspect some of the parents in our community, particularly those whose school was closed, will be there to protest the continuation of this school for years and years to come.

Well, maybe the benefits of a new Charter School would outweigh any downside here.

I’m not convinced of that.  You see, this new Charter School proposed for our community was conceived by two non-teachers (one of whom no longer has school-aged children) associated with one of our highest performing elementary schools, API score-wise.  So far, this school has been marketed extensively to some of the most socioeconomically advantaged families in our community. This is NOT by any means a school created to take over a failing school, nor one that is being created to assist some of the most economically disadvantaged children in the community. It is not even an attempt to create an alternative for those children who are failing to succeed in our current public school system, which would reflect the legislative intent of the Charter School Law.

So, what is the intent of this new school?

We leave that for you to decide. But the important question we should be asking ourselves as a community is this:

Is the financial, emotional and educational price that the entire NUSD community will pay to start a new school for a few of the most educationally successful and socioeconomically advantaged students in our community worth it?

Are we willing to put our community through the type of ongoing turmoil and upheaval the closure of a school would cause to benefit just a few?


Take action now BEFORE this proposal turns into a terrible reality.

Photo credit: Ben Beltran

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