Re: Dbyates on CA Charter Schools

Dbyates@aol.com
Sun, 2 Feb 1997 14:44:13 -0500 (EST)

In a message dated 2/1/97 1:33:25 PM, MBYeager@aol.com wrote:

>Don Yates writes of the requirements for a charter in California: << The
>second requires a definition of the outcomes from the school. The third asks
>how these are to be measured. >>
>
>Implicit in the notions of "outcomes" and "measurements" is testing; testing
>has to have a basis; does this not almost certainly imply a "curriculum"?

I believe that implicit in doing anything is the idea of outcome. Certainly
SVS has outcomes in mind, and they have written about them. They are
different outcomes. Also SVS has tried to see what kinds of outcomes have
resulted - they undertook an extensive study and wrote a whole book about it.
That is measurement, just not a testing measurement around a curriculum. The
California law does not specify in any way what kinds of outcomes or what
kinds of outcomes are acceptable. The idea of a "charter" is that it is a
contract between the grantor and the grantee. So it is a negotiation between
them.

>Friends who are in public education administration (and who are supportive
of
>the SVS-model) have explained clearly to me that in any instance where
public
>education funds are spent, there will be required an accountability, a
>determination by a public agency, that those funds are being spent on said
>"education" as defined by the state codes. Therefore it seems that this
>would go beyond the determination of the local district, right up to the
>state, and that the Charter, if initially granted, would not be renewed in
>the absence of testing (CLAS or otherwise).

Under the California law this is determined by the district, the grantor, of
the charter. The law does call for a reveiew and renewal after five years,
but the state is not involved in this. It is true the state could change the
charter law, but I am talking about the one currently in existence.
>
>Dale also writes: <<If your board approves and a certain percentage of
>teachers in the district approve having a charter - not this particular
>charter (and it is written to make it easy to get this percentage) the
school
>is in business. ... Once they have this, the school is exempt from ALL
>requirements of school districts. That means curriculum, bargaining, even
>earthquake safety requirements.>>
>
>Does this take subterfuge to some extent? Are licensing requirements (#
>adults per # children, square footage, handicapped access) also voided?

Yes, they are voided as far as the state education code covers them. The law
does not, as it cannot, void Federal regulations which cover such things as
handicapped access. Some other requirements regarding building laws and such
are also outside the education code. But SVS or any other institution has to
deal with these requirements.

>Do Staff members of Charter schools have to be credentialed teachers/union
>members for the charter to be approved by the critical percentage of the
>district's teachers?

This again is a matter of the particular law in the particular state. Some
states require all the same conditions that currently exist. In California
some charter schools have written their charters to include certified,
credentialed teachers and union agreements. Others have opened it up. San
Carlos, for instance, has no such requirements because it makes it possible
for them to bring into the school people with all sorts of other
qualifications. The law here says that the petition must be signed by ten
percent of the teachers in the district or fifty percent of the teachers in
*a* school. The *a* is important because if you are converting a current
school the signatures do not have to come from that school. Also if you had a
small school in the district you could go to it to get your fifty percent.

There really is no surbterfuge. The state union has certainly made this issue
quite visible and have made it so that no charter group could hide what they
are trying to do. I doubt if any charter has gotten signatures without those
signing having read the proposed charter. This law was definitely written to
make this part easy. It is amazing in some ways that the law passed. However,
it came in while the unions were focusing all their attention on beating down
a voucher initiative. Now that it is in they have not really tried to get it
thrown out, although they have successfully kept it from being extended very
much. For instance the current law limits the number of schools to 100,
although the state board can go beyond that and has. The unions have so far
been able to keep that limit from being raised or removed as some people are
trying to do.

California's law is the most lenient that I know about. I have not kept up
with the spread across the country so there may be others as open. In some
states the union has either kept the law out or have made them almost
meaningless. The question of testing and standards is different in different
states also. I am not in any way arguing that the charter movement any kind
of true answer. It does, however, provide opportunities, often limited, for
breaking out of the straight jacket. But you first must want to get out of
the straight jacket!

Don Yates