My letter submitted today to members of the
Dear Community and Board Members,
I’ve recently discovered an unusually revealing document about the massive overhauling of
The report was issued in September 2007 by The Center for Education Reform, a national organization with the mission to drive “… the creation of better educational opportunities for all children by leading parents, policymakers and the media in boldly advocating for school choice, advancing the charter school movement, and challenging the education establishment.”
As OUSD moves forward under local control once again, it is extremely important for
Both Randy Ward (an early graduate from the
The document reveals that, “A group of Oakland small school creators, activists, technocrats, and philanthropists decided that the conditions were indeed ripe to try something big.” They had been waiting for a “politics free zone” to push their agenda; it was created once the state obtained control of the district. The speed at which they worked is evident today, as our district is, quite frankly, in a state of disarray. The morale of parents and OUSD staff has been deeply affected. In combination with the demands of NCLB, relief from the stress is desperately needed.
The report states: “Speed was important,” said Hall, who noted that all of the conditions that were in place in
It is bluntly revealed in this document that OUSD was a test case for the pro-charter movement, so much so, that OUSD worked with the New Schools Venture Fund to create a charter management organization which specialized in converting schools in need of Program Improvement to charter schools. Today this organization is Education for Change (http://www.efcps.org/) located on
The CDE lists 79 schools for OUSD during the 1998-99 school year when the enrollment was 54,256. Several of the elementary schools were enormous and had to operate on year-round schedules. Our local small schools movement was created 1. to remedy that situation, and 2. because it was felt that even older kids would benefit from a smaller school community. With the support of then Superintendent Chaconas, additional OUSD schools were opened to relieve the overcrowding. By 2003-04 (the school year immediately before Randy Ward’s first) OUSD had 117 schools. At that time, none of the original schools had yet been closed.
The 79 schools for 54,256 students in 1998-99 contrasts with 2007-08 school year, when the CDE lists 145 OUSD schools for 46,431 students. Of those 145 schools, 32 are charter schools which enroll 16% of OUSD's students (= 7,845). This is far more than most any other community. A June 2007 demographic report stated, “…between 2000 and 2004, 37 percent of the District’s enrollment loss was due to the growth of charter enrollments, and between 2004 and 2006, the percentage grew to 58.” (www.urbanstrategies.org/programs/schools/documents/DemographicupdateforOUSD6.18.07.pdf)
Since the state takeover, approximately forty OUSD schools have been closed. Most have been reopened as new, different schools. On the campuses of six original comprehensive middle and high schools are now 15 small schools. On the campuses of seventeen [closed] original elementary schools are nearly as many new elementary schools, including charter schools. Approximately 12 of the “new” schools that had opened since 1999 have now been closed.
This is the legacy of the Broad-originated operation in OUSD. The CER report concludes that there are lessons the charter school movement could learn from what was done in
Undeterred, the pro-charter forces have recently deployed a piece of propaganda to keep pushing their agenda and this is what the article in the Oakland Tribune today is all about. Of course, there is no reason to trust a pro-charter report issued by the California Charter Schools Association.
After being subjected to years of turmoil at the hands of the State Administrators, I urge members of the school board to declare a moratorium on granting new charters and proceed to determine a tolerable and fair charter school cap. I urge the district to focus on restoring stability, and to channel the energy into improving the schools we now have, rather than subjecting the community to the emotional pain and expense of closing and reopening more schools.
OUSD Parent (Skyline HS)
Even if you plant them slowly, if you keep planting petunia after petunia in your garden you’ll end up with a garden full of petunias. Are you sure that's the only flower you’ll ever want?