A San Bernardino County charter school failed for the second time this year to win approval to open a campus in North County. Carlsbad school district trustees voted unanimously last week to reject the Oxford Preparatory Academy’s charter proposal. In January the Oceanside school board took the same action on OPA’s bid for a school there.
Charter school supporters often claim school district opposition is driven more by union and administrative protectionism than what’s best for students. On December 6 the newly politicized version of the North County Times, for example, reported the charter school proposal had been turned down mostly because it contained overly-optimistic enrollment and budget projections and a lack of interest shown by local teachers.
But closer look at the facts shows how rejecting the school’s proposal was clearly in the best interests of Carlsbad students. It was not a matter of school district protectionism. In fact, a review of OPA’s curriculum and the students it already serves at its Chino and Capistrano campuses reveals how the school fails to live up to the legislative intent of California’s 1992 Charter School Act. Carlsbad and Oceanside school officials were right to give it a failing grade.I’m no expert in school budgeting, but there’s little doubt OPA’s projection of an enrollment of 864 students on opening day next fall was wildly optimistic. Responses to a parent survey found just 53 of 685 surveyed saying “Yes” to their intent to enroll their child in the charter school.
But even more important than pie in the sky enrollment projections was the district’s finding that the school’s proposal meets only half of the 16 elements required of charter schools by California’s Education Code.
Here are some of the major deficiencies:
1. School policies will “promote a disparate impact on the parents of minority students, low income students, students with disabilities, and English learners.”
2. The students attracted to the school will not reflect the racial and ethnic balance of the Carlsbad School District. In the Capistrano school district, for example, 62 percent of students are white. But OPA’s Capistrano campus enrollment is 72 percent white. In Carlsbad it’s 58 percent.
3. Enrollment data from existing campuses do not reflect the student population of the chartering districts. The Chino Unified School District’s enrollment includes 14 percent who are English Learners. It’s just 4 percent on the Chino OPA campus. It’s 9 percent in Carlsbad.
4. The school does not plan to participate in the National School Lunch Program or to provide for daily breakfasts or lunches.
5. The school’s plan is for a 170 day school year compared to Carlsbad’s a 177 day school year.
6. The OPA Governing Board is in Chino, 80 miles away. It meets only quarterly and does not require a single board member to be a Carlsbad resident.
The legislative intent of California’s Charter School Act of 1992 calls for charter schools to “Increase learning opportunities for all pupils, with special emphasis on expanded learning experiences for pupils who are identified as academically low achieving.”
I am a supporter of charter schools that meet this intent. An excellent example is Vista’s North County Trade Tech High, which enrolls students who’ve had problems succeeding in a traditional public school because of unusually high absenteeism. In June the school graduated its first class of 20 students. Thirteen will enroll in local colleges, five have been hired as apprentices in local building and trade companies, and two have joined the military. It’s a school that changes lives.
I’m also a supporter of private education, proud of the excellent instruction I received from Dominican Sisters in grade school and Benedictine monks at a small liberal arts college.
But Oxford Preparatory Academy appears to be a place for the white and well-to-do to give their children a college prep private school education at taxpayer expense.
Good for the Carlsbad and Oceanside school officials for recognizing that.
Richard Riehl writes from La Costa. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org