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Tom Torlakson, the outgoing state superintendent of public instruction in California, has created a task force to review the charter school laws in the state.

California has more charter schools than any other state. The California Charter School Association is the richest, most powerful lobby in the state and has been able to stymie any overhaul of the law. The CCSA has staunchly opposed any revision of the law that might require accountability or transparency from charter schools and that would, for example, bar conflicts of interest or for-profit charters.

Governor Jerry Brown, who has been a progressive leader on so many major issues, has been a faithful defender of charter schools, vetoing any legislative efforts to update the law.

But, it now appears that the new governor will be Gavin Newsom, and he has no debts to the CCSSA, which directed millions of dollars to Antonio Villairaigosa in the primaries, who ran a distant third.

Given the reshuffling at the top, it is time to fix the conditions that allow frauds and scandals to go undetected in the charter sector.

Responsible members of the charter industry should work diligently to remove the fraudsters and grifters from their sector, as should everyone.

Charters should not have the ability to appeal from the district board to the county board to the state board, where they are certain to win approval, no matter how ill-qualified their staff.

At present, given the lack of any accountability for the expenditure of public money by charters, the state has experienced many scandals. To learn more about the woeful state of California’s charter industry, read Carol Burris’s carefully researched “Charters and Consequences.”

The Torlakson commission has the chance to get the law right, which would benefit both public schools and charter schools.

Network for Public Education endorses Tom Torlakson for California State Superintendent

Network for Public Education is proud to endorse public education champion Tom Torlakson for California State Superintendent. NPE Board president Diane Ravitch says, “I hope that the voters choose Tom Torlakson, a veteran educator who will truly fight for the kids, their teachers, and their public schools.” The race in California is a test of democracy and a referendum on public education. Can the voters be hoodwinked by Big Lies and Big Money?

The 2014 election receiving staggering contributions from Big Outside Money is the State Superintendent race between the incumbent, former teacher and legislator Tom Torlakson and the challenger, former Wall Street and charter school executive Marshall Tuck. It’s no surprise that corporate reform heav y weights have come out in droves in support of the candidate with ties to Wall Street and charters.

The race has been flooded with more than 25 million dollars, with Tuck raising approximately $3.5 million more than Torlakson at latest count. Much of the corporate reform money for Tuck is flowing through a PAC deceptively named “Parents and Teachers for Tuck for State Superintendent 2014.”

Familiar corporate-ed reform philanthropists top the list of donors, including Eli Broad ($1,375,000); Walton daughters and heirs, Alice ($450,000) and Carrie ($500,000); Julian Robertson of the Robertson Foundation ($1,000,000) and Doris Fisher of the Donald and Doris Fisher Fund ($950,000). Ex NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg contributed $250,000, as did Houston billionaire and DFER friend John Arnold and San Francisco venture capitalist and TFA Board member Arthur Rock.

Why so much money in this particular race?


Torlakson released a definitive statement within hours of the decision, and has appealed the ruling that could decimate tenure laws in California and beyond.

“All children deserve great teachers. Attracting, training, and nurturing talented and dedicated educators are among the most important tasks facing every school district, tasks that require the right mix of tools, resources, and expertise. Today’s ruling may inadvertently make this critical work even more challenging than it already is.

“While I have no direct jurisdiction over the statutes challenged in this case, I am always ready to assist the Legislature and Governor in their work to provide high-quality teachers for all of our students. Teachers are not the problem in our schools, they are the solution.”

Tuck not only supports the ruling, the plaintiffs in the case have endorsed his candidacy. Tuck offered his whole-hearted support for the decision at an event he recently attended with the Vergara plaintiffs.

“For too long, we have defended a broken system that fails to put the needs of our kids first. As State Superintendent, I will be an advocate for our students in Sacramento. I will immediately push to stop the defense of the onerous laws challenged by Vergara and will work with any and all stakeholders who are interested in building a better education future for our state. We owe it to our kids, and they deserve nothing less.”

Torlakson holds the slightest of leads among likely voters over Tuck, but with a third of the electorate still undecided, it’s anyone’s race. A field poll last week found an even tighter margin, with the candidates even at 28% and 44% of voters undecided!

Public education activist Robert Skeels says, “Tom Torlakson, AALA-endorsed candidate for California’s Superintendent of Public Instruction, will fight to increase education funding, fight to restore funding for science, social studies, art, music, drama and sports and fight to reduce class size.”

This race is crucial. We simply cannot allow Big Outside Money to install a Wall Street and charter executive in the California State Superintendent’s seat. We simply cannot allow Big Outside Money to spread the Vergara verdict across the country.

Re-electing Tom Torlakson will send a powerful message to those that seek to privatize public education and undermine our nation’s teachers. It will send the message that our schools are not for sale.

Support The Network for Public Education

The Network for Public Education is an advocacy group whose goal is to fight to protect, preserve and strengthen our public school system, an essential institution in a democratic society.

Over the past year, donations to The Network for Public Education helped us put on our first National Conference, and the first PUBLIC Education Nation. In the coming year, we will hold more events, webinars, and work on the issues that our members and donors care about the most!

To become a Member or to Make a Donation, go to the NPE website and click on the PayPal link. We accept donations using PayPal, the most trusted site used to make on-line payments.

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Steve Zimmer is a member of the Los Angeles Unified School Board. He began his career in education with Teach for America, then stayed as a classroom teacher in Los Angeles for 17 years. When he ran for re-election, corporate reformers amassed a huge campaign chest to defeat him. He was outspent 4-1, but he won.

Zimmer is known as a thoughtful board member who cares about children, class size, and the quality of education for all children.

He posted the following on his Facebook page:


It is less than 24 hours until Election Day.

I never imagined the right wing billionaires that tried to take me out of my school board seat in 2013 could donate more and distort the truth greater than they did against me. But that time has come. In tomorrow’s election for California State Superintendent of Public Instruction, the billionaires have outdone themselves, pouring over 11 million dollars into Charter School Operator Marshall Tuck’s campaign to unseat former teacher Tom Torlakson. This incredible cast of characters represents a who’s who of the corporate school privatization movement. Just take a look at who is on Marshall Tuck’s 500,000+ donor list. Each and every one of these donors has supported Republican campaigns, efforts to deregulate almost every major industry, gut workers rights and fight every sensible Obama initiative. And now several of the​m​ are among the largest donors to the Republican effort to take the U.S. Senate. Here are just a few:

Julian Robertson 1,000,000
Eli Broad $1,000,000
Michael Bloomberg $1,000,000
Bill Bloomfield $1,000,000
AliceWalton $1,000,000
Carrie Penner Walton $500,000
John Douglas Arnold $500,000

The billionaires have distorted Tom Torlakson’s moderate, successful record during his first term. They ignore the substantial improvements in all measurable areas throughout the state that have culminated in our first ever 80% statewide graduation rate. Because they mostly opposed Proposition 30, they want us forget that Tom Torlakson led they way towards rescuing our and fighting for all forms of local control. And in Marshall Tuck they have found the perfect private sector candidate. I’ve worked directly with Marshall. He is not a bad person and he is not trying to ruin our schools. But he fundamentally believes schools should be run as a business. He slashed classified jobs and promoted cut throat competition between schools as a charter school leader. As a candidate he has raised the ugly flag of demonizing teachers and has promised to drop t​he appeal of the Vergara lawsuit. He has also promised to force all California districts to have teacher evaluation systems directly linked to student’s standardized test scores.

We can’t let this happen. Tomorrow we have to show that public education in California is not for sale. Tomorrow we have to show that we can transform outcomes for students by working together not blaming those who have dedicated their lives to our schools. We can’t let these modern day​ robber​ barons steal this crucial election.

I ask you to do everything you can in the next 24 hours to turn out every progressive, every democrat, every person who care​s​ about our schools and every person who cares about democracy to vote for Tom Torlakson. The ultra rich controlling our democracy is not a new story. But the consequences if they are successful tomorrow will be unprecedented. I still believe we are more powerful than money. Let us all​,​ in California and throughout our nation, show the power of the people. Thank you for doing all you can.


Tom Torlakson, State Superintendent of Schools in California, issued a statement today declaring his decision to seek appellate review of the Vergara decision. Torlakson is a veteran educator. His opponent Marshall Tuck immediately attacked Torlakson. Tuck, a former investment banker, was active in the charter school movement. Tenure is not the only or the most important issue that divides them. Tuck’s penchant for privatization would undermine public education across the state.

I know Tom Torlakson well. He is humble, knowledgeable, and understands schooling. I hope the voters of California are wise enough to re-elect him.

Tom Torlakson said today:


Earlier today I issued a statement regarding my decision to seek appellate review of the Vergara case, which has drawn considerable public attention in recent weeks.

Here is the complete text of my public statement:

“The people who dedicate their lives to the teaching profession deserve our admiration and support. Instead, this ruling lays the failings of our education system at their feet.

“We do not fault doctors when the emergency room is full. We do not criticize the firefighter whose supply of water runs dry. Yet while we crowd our classrooms and fail to properly equip them with adequate resources, those who filed and support this case shamelessly seek to blame teachers who step forward every day to make a difference for our children.

“No teacher is perfect. A very few are not worthy of the job. School districts have always had the power to dismiss those who do not measure up, and this year I helped pass a new law that streamlined the dismissal process, while protecting the rights of both teachers and students. It is disappointing that the Court refused to even consider this important reform.

“In a cruel irony, this final ruling comes as many California teachers spend countless unpaid hours preparing to start the new school year in hopes of better serving the very students this case purportedly seeks to help.

“While the statutes in this case are not under my jurisdiction as state Superintendent, it is clear that the Court’s ruling is not supported by the facts or the law. Its vagueness provides no guidance about how the Legislature could successfully alter the challenged statutes to satisfy the Court. Accordingly, I will ask the Attorney General to seek appellate review.”

Best regards,


A teacher in California sent this letter to State Superintendent Tom Torlakson. California recently announced that it was prepared to spend $1 billion implementing Common Core, although the state’s public schools have not recovered from the billions of dollars cut during the Schwarzenegger era.

Here is the letter:

August 1, 2013

Dear Superintendent Torlakson,

Thank you for your commitment to increasing funding for California’s six million public school students, working tirelessly to improve education in the Golden State, and for being an uncompromising advocate for teachers.

Your efforts have not gone unnoticed: last year, esteemed education historian Diane Ravitch wrote in her blog, “California has another great asset in its State Superintendent Tom Torlakson… He is one of the most enlightened–if not THE most enlightened state education chiefs in the nation. He understands that rebuilding the public system is a high priority.”

I am a high school English teacher at Edgewood High School in West Covina where I teach in our school’s International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme and serve as our IB Diploma Programme Coordinator. My involvement with the IB curriculum reinforces the core pedagogical beliefs I acquired while earning my MA at Claremont Graduate School twenty one years ago: children learn best when they are given the latitude and guidance to discuss and discover ideas and experiment via engaging learning activities. Deep learning is achieved via authentic, teacher-designed assessments.

While I admire the performance-based nature of the Common Core State Standards, and while the SBAC assessments do indeed require students to engage in performance-based tasks, I am gravely concerned by the exponential increase in high stakes testing that will no doubt accompany the SBAC assessments. I am alarmed by the developmental inappropriateness of the CCSS, particularly at the elementary level.

I suggest that you and your staff personally take the SBAC practice tests that can be accessed online. I believe that the length of the tests and their developmentally inappropriate demands will more than give you pause– you will become as fearful for our students’ wellbeing as I am.

Additionally, I am highly concerned about the significant cost of preparing for and administering the SBAC tests. Doug McRae, a retired executive in the testing field, projects the final cost of Smarter Balanced tests at close to $40 per student– triple what California is currently paying. It is no secret that many districts lack the bandwidth and hardware required to administer the SBAC assessments. As a result, cash strapped districts will be forced to divert funding that would otherwise be spent on students into upgrading their infrastructure to prepare for this next incarnation of high stakes testing.

Lastly, and most importantly, nearly one in four children in California live in poverty. It is well documented that the real crisis in education is the pernicious effects of poverty—socioeconomic status and school and test performance are inextricably entwined. The money spent on this brave new world of SBAC high stakes testing will make it impossible to provide the wraparound services that we know will improve the lives of poor children and therefore improve their educational experiences and outcomes: food security, health services, counselors, quality before and after school daycare, well-stocked and staffed libraries. The list goes on and on.

Last May, I proudly accompanied a group of my colleagues to the ceremony where you celebrated our recognition as a California Distinguished School. In your address, you fondly reminisced about your experiences as a science teacher, taking your students on field trips. At another point, you received enthusiastic cheers when you asked, “Who would like to see the arts back in California classrooms?” Unshackling our schools from the overwhelming financial burden of SBAC assessments will once again allow field trips, music and the arts to become a reality in California public schools.

In closing, I ask you to secure your legacy as a principled State Superintendent who unwaveringly advocates for that which is best for children. Please follow the lead of other State Superintendents who have chosen to withdraw from SBAC and PARCC assessments, and let’s allow the money our taxpayers opted to allocate to public schools go to those who are most deserving: our children.

Thank you for your consideration—

Warm regards,

Jeanne Berrong

This comment just arrived in response to the post about California having the nerve to defy all-wise, all-powerful Arne Duncan:

“State Superintendent Tom Torlakson is a former teacher. When he gathered a group of educators to hammer out the blueprint for the future of CA schools, he wisely selected classroom teachers to be on the task force. I was honored to be co-chair of the Teacher Evaluation committee.

“We believed then and do now that evaluating a teacher via an algorithm is a poor and cheap way to do the hard and time-consuming work of evaluating a teacher effectively. Students deserve more.

“I am proud to call Tom Torlakson my leader.

Martha Infante
Los Angeles

The Network for Public Education Action Fund endorses Tony Thurmond for Superintendent of Public Institution in California!

California is a mess because of the intrusion of billionaires into education, billionaires who do not send their own children to public schools but want to control and privatize them. They pour millions into school board races, and they are now pouring millions into the state superintendent race, in hopes of capturing that important position.

Tony Thurmond’s opponent, Marshall Tuck, has a long history in the charter industry. Although he claims to be a Democrat (as in DFER), Tuck was endorsed by the California Republican party. Thurmond won the support of 95% of the delegates to the California Democratic party convention. Tuck was also endorsed by Arne Duncan, and Duncan’s endorsement means support of charter schools, high-stakes testing, and misuse of test scores to evaluate teachers.

California desperately needs accountability and transparency for its unregulated charter sector, not a fox in charge of the henhouse.

Please help Tony Thurmond. He is wildly outspent by the candidate of the billionaires, including Eli Broad, Reed Hastings, Arthur Rock, and the Walton family.

This is the NPE Action statement:

The Network for Public Education Action proudly endorsed East Bay Assemblyman, Tony Thurmond, for California State Superintendent of Public Instruction.

We are writing today to remind you just how important your support for Tony Thurmond is.

Marshall Tuck, a corporate reformer, is gaining ground thanks to millions supplied to his campaign by the California Charter School Association and its allies.

Here is what one of the state’s leading public school advocates Professor Julian Vasquez Heilig had to say about this race:

“Marshall Tuck would clearly be an important ally for the Donald Trump and Betsy DeVos education agenda in California. In contrast, Tony Thurmond has vowed to lead the resistance against their education agenda. Marshall Tuck has millions of campaign dollars given to him by his billionaire allies and others lobbying to privately control and privatize public education in California. While Tuck has millions, Thurmond has people power. As Superintendent of Public Instruction he would be our champion for community-based solutions and better funding for education across our state.”

It is no wonder that Tuck is the darling of the charter-school backing billionaires.

Tuck is a former charter school executive and CEO. In 2014, Tuck ran an unsuccessful campaign for State Superintendent, losing to incumbent Tom Torlakson. Tuck was heavily funded by outside money from national charter advocates, including Michael Bloomberg, Eli Broad, the Waltons, Laurene Powell Jobs, Arthur Rock and John Arnold. Thurmond stated that, “California’s voters don’t want this election to be bought by the Walton family, Eli Broad, and other billionaires who want to privatize public education.”

Thurmond is passionate about improving public schools. His public school education prepared him for a 20-year career in social work, where he ran after-school programs and taught life skills and career training. Those years of experience provided him with a unique perspective into the lives of California’s youth.

Thurmond has vowed to “lead the resistance against Donald Trump and Betsy DeVos and their agenda to undermine and defund our public education system,” promising that he will not support policies that seek to divert taxpayer dollars from public education to private schools.

Thurmond has already received numerous endorsements, including the endorsement of Superintendent of Public Instruction, Tom Torlakson. Thurmond will be on the general election ballot on November 6th. NPE Action urges our over 21,000 supporters in California to educate and inform your friends, family, neighbors and colleagues about Thurmond’s campaign and the importance of this election for the future of public education in California.

Best news of the day!

The charter-friendly State Board of Education turned down Rocketship expansion plan, after 25 speakers denounce it. Chair of board voted to support.

“In a 9-1 vote, the board agreed with the California Department of Education’s recommendation to deny the charter organization’s petition to establish a new school in San Pablo near Richmond, which the West Contra Costa Unified school board and Contra Costa County board of education had also denied. Citing concerns about the charter school’s financial and educational plans, some board members said Rocketship – which operates 10 schools in San Jose, one in Antioch, one in Concord and one in Redwood City where the company is headquartered – may be trying to expand beyond its capacity. Board President Michael Kirst voted against denying the appeal.

“Board members said they were especially concerned about problems associated with the Rocketship Futuro Academy charter school, which opened in Concord two years ago, with the State Board’s approval. The California Department of Education has sent six letters of concern to the school, which is located in the Mt. Diablo district, related to finances and other issues. Rocketship said they expected new philanthropic support which would improve the school’s finances.

“Chief Deputy Superintendent Glen Price, who was sitting in for State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, said the California Department of Education was concerned about the lack of students with disabilities in Rocketship schools, lack of information about its English learner program, high suspension rates among some student groups, and its governance model, which includes charter school board meetings held in San Jose. Price, who lives in Contra Costa County, said meetings that far away were “counter to all of our objectives for parent and stakeholder engagement.””

Even with the billionaires’ support, charter schools are becoming toxic.

Resistance works.

Charter schools divert money from public schools.

If you like high-stakes testing and charter schools, you will love “Democrats for Education Reform.”

DFER, as it is known, was condemned by resolution by the Democratic party conferences in Colorado and California for using the word “Democrat” to promote a corporate agenda that is hostile to public schools. DFER is also hostile to public school teachers and unions, but loves TFA and merit pay. All the usual Corporate Reform failures. Real Democrats, like the parties in Colorado and California think that DFERs are Republicans pretending to be Democrats.

Democrats for Education Reform is a group funded by Wall Street hedge fund managers who despise public schools. They never support candidates who are opposed to privatization or those who are fully committed to public schools. They only support candidates who want to siphon money away from public schools to support charter schools. They support candidates who love high-stakes testing. They never look at evidence that shows the damage that charters do to public schools or the evidence that shows the total failure of high-stakes testing to make any difference other than demoralizing students and teachers. They don’t care that a decade of their policies driven by the U.S. Department of Education has led to stagnation of NAEP scores.

In New York State, hedge funders supporting charter schools are pouring millions of dollars into races for the State Senate, both to support the charter school industry and to make sure that Republicans retain control of the State Senate, thus fending off higher taxes and protecting charter schools. Another DFERite dumping big money into New York State campaigns is Paul Tudor Jones, who gave $150,000 to something called “Parents Vote,” which seems to be controlled by StudentsFirst (hard to tell the Astroturf organizations apart). The treasurer of “Parents Vote” is the attorney for StudentsFirst. Jones may be a parent, but he lives in Connecticut, not New York, and you can bet your bottom dollar that he does not send his own children to public schools or charter schools. This outpouring of money is meant to keep the State Senate firmly under GOP management, to make sure that charters continue to operate without oversight and do their own thing.

You may or may not remember that Paul Tudor Jones is one of the nine billionaires who determined that it was up to them to remake the public schools of New York, although no one elected them to do so.

Just five years ago, Forbes ran a big article about Paul Tudor Jones and his plan to “save American education.” While busy saving American education, Jones also served on the board of Harvey Weinstein’s company and fought to save Harvey’s battered reputation.

Please note that the following story misidentifies DFER and treats them as a legitimate “reform” group when DFER acts only in the interest of Corporate Reform, high-stakes testing and privatization. The story also errs in not acknowledging that many DFER members are not Democrats.

From Politico:

FIRST LOOK: EDUCATION REFORM GROUP BETS BIG ON GOVERNOR’S RACES: Democrats for Education Reform plans to spend $4 million on campaign contributions and advertising this election cycle, boosting Democratic candidates who want to support public schools but are open to reform-minded ways of improving them.

— The organization — which advocates for a host of school reform policies nationwide like strong test-based accountability and high-quality public charter schools — through its political action committee is prioritizing gubernatorial races in Colorado, Connecticut and New York, in addition to the California state superintendent’s race and some state legislative races. DFER exclusively detailed its spending and campaign plans with Morning Education in an interview late last month. Asked the source of the $4 million, a spokeswoman the figure comes from their “supporters” and “contributors.”

— In Colorado’s battle for governor, DFER is backing Rep. Jared Polis, a House education committee Democrat who’s running against state Treasurer Walker Stapleton, a Republican.

— The race to replace term-limited Gov. John Hickenlooper has proven divisive for Colorado Democrats — the state teachers union backed another Democrat, Cary Kennedy, during the primary. Allies of Kennedy sought to tie Polis to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and her support for private school vouchers. Polis founded two charter schools, but hasn’t shown support for vouchers or federally funded private schools in Congress. When Kennedy lost to Polis, the state teachers union released a statement that didn’t even mention Polis’ name.

— In Connecticut, DFER is supporting Ned Lamont, the Democratic hopeful looking to replace Gov. Dannel Malloy, who’s not seeking reelection. And the organization is pushing for Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s reelection in New York.

— In California, DFER wants to lift Marshall Tuck to victory as state schools superintendent. Tuck is an education reform advocate who has run both charter schools and district schools in Los Angeles. In 2014, he narrowly lost a bid for state schools chief to Tom Torlakson, the current superintendent, who had the support of teachers unions. Tuck will face another Democrat, state Assemblyman Tony Thurmond, in the general election this fall.

— DFER in addition is launching a social media campaignon what it means to be an “education progressive.” The group defines that term as fighting to spend more money on public education while embracing “new ideas” to bring about faster improvement. Some of those ideas, like stronger test-based accountability measures, have faced staunch opposition from progressive groups like teachers unions. But DFER is pushing new polling results that President Shavar Jeffries says illustrate strong support. More on that polling here.

— Jeffries, who recently sat down with Morning Education, stressed that more than half of Democratic primary voters, African American voters and Hispanic voters don’t think public schools are changing or improving fast enough. The poll also found broad support for public school choice — a divisive issue for the Democratic Party — and more equitable funding for public schools, particularly disadvantaged ones. The results stem from two nationwide phone polls of more than 1,000 voters each between May and July of this year. The poll was conducted by consulting firms Benenson Strategy Group and 270 Strategies.

Would it be asking too much to hope that Caitlin Emma and the crack reporters on the Politico team might consider interviewing a critic of billionaire “Reformers.” Maybe a teacher? Say, someone like Steven Singer or Peter Greene or Mark Weber, or other well-informed critics of the intrusion of billionaire know-nothings into education policymaking? Maybe Carol Burris of the Network for Public Education?

Tom Ultican has been documenting the advance of the Destroy Public Education Movement in different cities. Now, he shows, they are pushing into rural areas, into California’s San Joaquin Valley.

“Efforts to privatize public schools in the San Joaquin (pronounced: whah-keen) Valley are accelerating. Five disparate yet mutually reinforcing groups are leading this destroy public education (DPE) movement. For school year 2017-2018, Taxpayers sent $11.5 billion to educate K-12 students in the valley and a full $1 billion of that money was siphoned off to charter schools. This meant that education funding for 92% of students attending public schools has been significantly reduced on a per student basis.

“In July 2017, California’s State Superintendent of Education, Tom Torlakson, announced that the revised 2017-2018 budget for K-12 education totaled $92.5 billion. Dividing this number by the total of students enrolled statewide provides an average spending per enrolled student ($14,870). The spending numbers reported above were found by multiplying $14,870 by the number of students enrolled.

“The five groups motivating the privatization of public schools are:

“People who want taxpayer supported religious schools.

“Groups who want segregated schools.

“Entrepreneurs profiting from school management and school real estate deals.

“The technology industry using wealth and lobbying power to place products into schools and support technology driven charter schools.

“Ideologues who fervently believe that market-based solutions are always superior.

“The Big Valley

“The San Joaquin Valley is America’s top agricultural producing region, sometimes called “the nation’s salad bowl” for the great array of fruits and vegetables grown in its fertile soil. Starting near the port of Stockton, the valley is 250 miles long and is bordered on the west by coastal mountain ranges. Its eastern boundary is part of the southern two-thirds of the Sierra bioregion, which features Yosemite, Kings Canyon, and Sequoia National Parks. The valley ends at the San Gabriel Mountains in the south.

“Seven counties (Stanislaus, San Joaquin, Merced, Tulare, Kings, Fresno and Kern) govern the valley. Its three major cities are Fresno (population 525,000), Stockton (population 310,000) and Bakersfield (population 380,000). The entire valley has a population of more than 4 million with 845,369 K-12 students enrolled for the 2017-2018 school year….

“In her 2017 report on California’s out of control charter school system, Carol Burris made a point about the unsavory nature of the independent study charter school. She pointed out that these schools have poor attendance, and terrible graduation rates. Unfortunately, they are easy to set up and very profitable. Of all the independent study charters, the virtual charters have the worst performance data and are widely seen as fraudulent. About one-third of the valley’s charters are independent study and half of those are virtual.”