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Commentary by Ron Bird
| Monday, Feb 16, 2015

Ron BirdSuperintendent Woodard of Acton-Agua Dulce Unified School District issued a rather long press release on Feb. 6. One bolded heading in the document states, “In certain situations, a charter school may open one site outside of its authorizing district’s boundaries.” I am happy to see AADUSD finally realizes this is the law as codified in the Charter Schools Act. Unfortunately, they do not practice what they preach.

The AADUSD agenda for Feb. 12 12 had an item that approved a name change for one of their charters from Hope Charter Academy to Inspire Charter. This name change actually happened months ago, and it is good to see AADUSD is finally doing their ministerial duties on this matter.

Unfortunately they continue to ignore Inspire’s blatant violation of the Charter law. By their own press release, AADUSD knows a charter like Inspire can have only one site outside of AADUSD’s boundaries, assuming AADUSD made a finding that Inspire’s program cannot be housed within AADUSD boundaries.

According to Inspire’s website, Inspire is operating in Duarte, Buena Park, Glendora, Palmdale and Lancaster. That is five “out of district” sites, not one.

AADUSD will claim that these Inspire schools are not schools at all because they are not classroom-based, but are “resource centers.” True, Inspire is an independent study program, but the Charter School law does not exempt non-classroom resource centers from being considered a school site. Both the judge in the Newhall case and the judge from the San Diego case agree in their rulings. The San Diego judge said it succinctly in his ruling that site location requirements “apply to all charter schools, regardless of whether they are ‘nonclassroom-based,’ ‘blended,’ etc.”

It seems Inspire did not notify AADUSD of these additional sites (wink, wink) or maybe they did, and AADUSD saw no evil.

Here is what the CSA law says: “After receiving approval of its petition, a charter school that proposes to establish operations at one or more additional sites shall request a material revision to its charter and shall notify the authority that granted its charter of those additional locations.” When a law uses the word “shall,” it means “must.”

On Feb. 12, rather than approving a name change for Inspire Charter, AADUSD should have instigated charter revocation proceedings, as this is a major material breach of the charter.

Why is the Charter School law written the way it is, restricting charter school locations? The California School Boards Association advocates for school boards and encourages best practices. The CSBA Charter Schools Manual (page 15) states: “There currently is no statewide charter school agency to which boards or parents/guardians can report problems regarding charter schools. Therefore, it is incumbent upon the local board to hold the charter school accountable for the goals outlined in its charter and those laws as applicable through the Charter Schools Act. The ultimate responsibility for the children’s education and safety rests with the authorizing board.” It is therefore imperative that a local school board hold their charter schools accountable. This is why the Charter Schools Act restricts charter schools to reside within the authorizing district’s boundaries with very limited exceptions. It fosters accountability.

Why is AADUSD ignoring their oversight responsibilities in regard to Inspire? It is all about the money, as AADUSD hopes for profit from Hope-Inspire. It is a classic case of the fox guarding the hen house, and ironically, one of the AADUSD board members is named Fox. This Bird is watching.

AADUSD is also sponsoring the Assurance Learning Academy (aka Learn4Life), which is located less than a mile from Crenshaw High in South Central Los Angeles. It seems many of these charters go by multiple names. Assurance is also a non-classroom resource center. It has no resource center here in Acton, but I bet its whole program could fit in the building that houses our local sushi place. Doubt if they could find enough students up here and hence (wink, wink), this is why AADUSD is illegally allowing this charter to do business in Crenshaw. Just love those charter dollars.

Currently, AADUSD is sponsoring 11 charter schools. I doubt if any of them conform to the Charter Schools Act. AADUSD’s zest for out-of-district charter income is sure to spurn more “cease and desist” letters and more lawsuits if they continue to refuse to comply with the charter laws.

I sure am glad our district continues to provide choice (wink, wink) to the students of Crenshaw, Duarte, Buena Park, Glendora, Palmdale, Lancaster, Santa Clarita and all of the other out-of-district areas for which they have approved charters.

Trivia question of the day: Where is the Mosaica Online Academy of Los Angeles located? Answer: Temecula. Who is their sponsor? AADUSD, of course. It is the district of choice for your local Temecula student.

My GPS says I can get there in just over two hours, provided there is no traffic. I, for whatever reason, choose not to do that.

 

Ron Bird is a former school board member in the Acton-Agua Dulce Unified School District.

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6 Comments

  1. Bart Joseph says:

    Dear Ron,

    I’m not sure why you are a former board member, but based on the organization of this article I am gathering you either quit or were voted out. Your statement and support are inconsistent and doesn’t even touch on the real problem within society. Ethics.

    Your point, or problem statement (in the opening paragraph), I believe is that they do not practice what they preach. Then you go on about how the charter organizations are to blame. Hello?

    Then you go on about a School Board Union best practice manual and how there is no escalation process. OK, so that proves the unions manual is inconsistent with state law, since state law dictates the escalation process. Not a shock that a union would not support a competitor to their monopoly. How does that have anything to do with the current board practicing what they preach?

    Then you’re back to slamming the individual organizations they approved. Where is the logical organization of your thoughts? It must be where you start making assumptions on their compliance with state law. Very honorable for you to make claims as your conclusion and recapitulation of your problem statement. How are assumptions supporting your argument?

    Maybe if the name of the article was “Unethical charters are creating a negative opinion of our community” the article would make sense. However it seems to add to the problem prior boards created.

    If I lived in your area and had to vote on incurring indebtedness on the community with a communicator like this, I would not grant that organization with the authority of millions of dollars. I would be like the majority of the community and put the school district in the same place it is today.

    Hopefully the community sees they are attempting to use their expertise in management so in the future, the community members will have the confidence to vote in further indebtedness and bring their children back into the community to learn. I don’t blame the current board for trying…Its so hard to determine the future from a charter application. If ethics were more prevalent we wouldn’t need labor unions.

  2. Bart Joseph says:

    I believe the board is doing the right thing to create a long term positive solution to a very difficult situation. How can a school district provide a solution when the distrust of the previous administrations for so many years has put them in a situation they can not dig themselves out of without a major change? The answer is creating the ability to raise funds without issuing long term bonds. That answer is the charter school system.

    Every charter school system is unique. Some focus on the arts, some on music, some on academics, and some on special needs. There are many to choose from and they all have their own unique methods and tools. How does an organization evaluate them from the outside? I think we have all had jobs or associations with groups that once we were an insider we found them to be different. Some of us have purchased things on recommendations only to find out they are not what they hoped for. How about going to a show or restaurant others found wonderful only to be disappointing. Evaluation requires a hands on approach in almost everything we do.

    I applaud the management to not jumping into a system without kicking the tires first. Lots of successful systems like ILead or EALAS have a number of school districts courting them, and end up with multiple locations (all of which are independent) similar to a franchise. The foundation provides a system, and the community based school implements and manages the system. The mentor district or charter approval is to help by monitoring and auditing the community school. Its the only way to be assured the system is the correct one for the community.

    Many of the top schools in the nation like Granada Hills High and El Camino High (who have won multiple academic decathlons) saw the same opportunity to improve their situation by converting from the LA School District to a Charter school based program. They were not having financial issues, or issues with employees and staff… They wanted to improve and even more success, just like every parent wants for their children.

    Now that charter schools are approaching 10% of all students in California, the unions see afraid they are losing the controls that put them in this situation to begin with and are fighting in the courts and legislation to attempt to outlaw what the public wants.
    California was the nations top schools prior to the union influence. We are now 47th in the nation. Even Jerry Brown who supported the unionization has recently stated that the budgetary impact of education in this state is the largest concern.

    The bold moves to create change and bring to the community a system that they will be supportive of and will not require more long term debt should be encouraged and supported by the community and not criticized.

  3. Ann says:

    Bart Joseph,

    CSBA is not a union. Perhaps you might like to try Google.

    Re. your union bogeyman, CTA was founded in 1863, prior to the union-sponsored 1866 law that made a free public education even available in CA. Perhaps you are referring to the Rodda Act that allowed for collective bargaining, but let’s look at the real reason for the decline in CA public school performance after the 70’s. According to the 2005 Rand Report on the matter, “California’s demography presents public education with extraordinary challenges. To effectively meet these challenges, the state’s K–12 system is likely to require funding levels that are relatively high compared to funding in most other states. However, California school districts have experienced comparatively low levels of funding, and schools have been further stressed by extreme fluctuations in real spending per pupil. These relatively low funding levels for California’s
    K–12 public schools reflect comparatively low “effort” relative to the state’s capacity.” Unions are not cited as a reason for decline AT ALL. Another thing that IS mentioned is our high poverty rate and even when we were 20-1, the highest class sizes in the nation.

    You are aware that Granada Hills and El Camino are union shops, right? And actually, you’re wrong about finances not being a reason. Many LAUSD schools, El Camino and Granada Hills included, converted in order to gain funding to the tune of about $1000 per student. You see, under LAUSD’s blended k-12 formula, high schools were particularly hard hit by the budget cuts during the recession. As charters, they were also free from a lot of the restrictions regarding how funds could be spent.

    Perhaps the answer to improving public education might be to lessen the restrictions on the existing public schools and properly fund them, rather than giving taxpayer money to a whole second school system. Because LAUSD schools (and others) should not HAVE to convert to charters to stay fiscally solvent and to try new academic ideas.

    By the way, Bart, how’s that non-union thing working over at AEA? Teacher turnover much?

  4. Bart Joseph says:

    Ann,
    Sorry, anyone who does a little research will find your arguements are incorrect.

    First, The CSBA is a membership organization with the primary purpose for legal representation. http://www.csba.org/About/AboutCSBA/MissionAndVision.aspx

    Second, your rational for conversion and employment status can be found on the ECR website http://www.ecrchs.net/ecr-board/charter-document/

    There you will find the reason for conversion: “We at ECR would like to convert to charter to further develop academic standards and opportunities on campus for all learners at varied levels. We would like to have more control over governance and curriculum so that students may find more opportunities to excel in academics, athletics, and extracurricular activities. We desire that they gain skills that will prepare them for post-secondary college and career options. We want to operate efficiently and be responsible to our unique student body and parents. We want to introduce more technology into the curriculum and school site so that communication is efficient and seamless. In order to achieve such enhancement and give our students more individual support we shall lower classes sizes and increase our support staff. We would like to promote the six pillars of character in our students encouraging civic responsibility and personal growth.” Nowhere does it talk about it having more money per child. Everyone knows Chartes recieve less per child, and can not force the public indebtness on the majority.
    On the site it also shows the conversion process for teachers who were covered by the unions(lausd -utla) but choose to stay and not be covered by the union and what happens to their seniority when they go back to LAUSD…

    Governing Law: A description of the rights of any employee of the school district upon leaving the employment of the school district to work in a charter school, and of any rights of return to the school district after employment at a charter school. Education Code Section 47605(b)(5)(M).

    Current staff members will be considered employees of ECRCHS. Current permanent staff members will be considered permanent employees of ECRCHS, though all employees may opt-
    out of employment at El Camino Real Charter High School.

    A permanent employee who was represented by UTLA prior to employment at ECRCHS may

    request to transfer to another position within the District as outlined in the LAUSD-UTLA

    Collective Bargaining Agreement. Such a transfer may be granted at the sole discretion of the LAUSD.

    Lastly, I support teachers for their choices. Some need unions, others do not. Some need constant development, others come prepared. Some like being told what and how to do things, others like some freedom of materials, methods and tools. Both have their place in society and in any large community. Each child is unique and parents need choices to allow their child to reach their full potential.

    Of course none of this has anything to do with how AADSD did not comply with the law or practice what they preach similar to the article itself. Just more inaccurate viscous attacks on freedom of choice.

    Wow REally SCVNews? You have not heard anyone complain about law enforcement? Even the POTUS has made comments about them. The real question should be why do government workers need labor unions if the government complies with its own labor laws?

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