I recently posted Carol Burris’s analysis of a court decision in California that blocked the sneaky expansion of charters into districts outside the one where they were authorized; the new charters called themselves “resource centers” and were infiltrating districts that did not want them.
Here is a report by the San Diego Union-Tribune on the same decision.
California’s booming satellite charter school industry that has persevered through lawsuits, scandals and turf wars suffered a blow this past week when a state appellate court ruled hundreds of the campuses are illegally operating outside their districts.
At issue now is how 150,000 California students — including 25,000 in San Diego County — will continue their education. The court decision also puts at stake millions of dollars in revenue generated by the charters for privately run organizations.
The 3rd District Court of Appeal overturned a lower court decision in a lawsuit filed by the Anderson Union High School District near Redding claiming the Shasta Secondary Home School (now Shasta Charter Academy) illegally opened satellite charter campus, which are officially called resource centers, in its jurisdiction.
Filed Monday and set to go into effect Nov. 16, the appellate decision reverses the lower court ruling, which sided with the charter that was authorized by the nearby Shasta Union High School District. The lower court said it was legal to operate a resource center, as such schools are officially called, in the neighboring Anderson district to give its independent-study students who live there a chance to use computers, receive tutoring and work on assignments in a classroom setting.
Of the state’s 1,200 charter schools, 275 are “resource centers,” many of them storefronts where students show up from time to time. That means that unless this decision is overturned by the state’s Supreme Court, more than 20% of California’s charter schools will cease to operate or seek some other option to survive.
San Diego public schools will welcome the return of the students in these “non-classroom-based” charters:
Andra Donovan, general counsel for the San Diego Unified School District, offers another option: Returning to district and its expanded catalog of independent-study programs.
San Diego Unified “is fully prepared and has sufficient capacity to absorb those students currently attending these charter schools, with fully robust, higher quality independent study and online learning programs as well as traditional and blended programs,” Donovan said. “Our graduation rate far exceeds that of many of these them and our district provides integrated support not available from these charters.”
These “resource centers” are locations intended to coordinate online instruction, which has repeatedly been shown to be a farce, educationally, an easy way to collect credits without getting an education.
Some districts opened resource centers because it was easy money.
Online instruction offers flexibility to students who want an alternative to traditional schools, and big revenue to charter organizations and authorizers. Districts that approve the charters receive up to 3 percent of their revenue for oversight and other services.
The Julian Union district opened its first charter in 1999, and now enrolls some 4,000 students in its charter resource centers across the region. Fewer then 400 local students attend Julian’s district schools.
The tiny rural two-campus district earned nearly $800,000 in revenue from its Julian and Diego Valley charters in the 2014-15 year, when its total revenue was $6.2 million.
Former Julian Superintendent Kevin Ogden helped establish the district’s first charter school, which took in $18 million in revenue last year, and operates 14 programs in eleven facilities.
Ogden helped usher in Diego Valley and Harbor Springs charters, both of which operate resource centers in other districts through independent study programs that offer as much as four days a week of classroom instruction or as little as a few teacher meetings. The Grossmont lawsuit targets Diego Valley.
Ogden retired about two years ago to take a top job at the Lancaster-based Learn4Life, an organization that includes Diego Valley, its Diego Plus Education Corporation and other charters throughout the state.
Following Julian’s lead, dozens of far-flung charters and resource centers have been authorized by other small East County districts, including some that acknowledged the arrangements were forged mostly for the money.
Does anyone seriously believe that the students who receive diplomas from these sham institutions are getting a high-quality education? Is this the way the U.S. will compete in the global economy? Hey, reformers, this is a farce.