Credit: Henry de Saussure Copeland / flickr

Dozens and possibly hundreds of the state’s charter schools have adopted policies that illegally require parents to volunteer, the nonprofit law firm Public Advocates charged in a report issued on Thursday.

Some schools give parents the alternative of paying hundreds of dollars in lieu of volunteering and some charters policies threaten to dis-enroll children whose parents don’t comply, the Public Advocates report states (see school by school policies).

Public Advocates examined online documents of 555 of the state’s 1,184 charter schools, including charter petitions, handbooks and letters to parents. It found that 30 percent – 168 schools – imposed volunteer quotas. The report did not say how many of the charters had policies stating students would not be allowed to re-enroll if parents did not volunteer. An appendix summarizes all of the schools’ requirements and conditions.

John Affeldt, Public Advocates’ managing partner, said his firm did not contact any of the schools whose policies were cited to see how the schools enforced the policies and if they followed through with threats to prevent re-enrollment, he said. But, he said, the fact that a school has a policy requiring parents to volunteer is illegal and “discourages people from enrolling in a school who have a right to go there.”

Jed Wallace, the CEO of the California Charter Schools Association, said that Public Advocates’ findings may be a case where charters’ “paperwork has not caught up with their actual practice.” The association has not heard of instances where charters have sanctioned students for their parents’ failure to volunteer. If it had, the association would have spoken out about this, he said.

Public Advocates said that the practice of requiring volunteer quotas violates children’s right under the State Constitution to a “free public school.” The firm also said it violates a 2012 state law banning public schools from demanding parents to provide “money or donations or goods or services.” Such policies discriminate against poor and working families, the report said, noting, “No public school should ever penalize or exclude a student because his or her parent or guardian cannot or chooses not to donate time or labor to the school.”

Wallace agrees. He said Thursday that the association has posted legal advice on the members’ portion of its website stating that “it is not legal or appropriate to take actions against students because of the actions of a parent.” He said that charters should actively encourage parents to volunteer and be flexible in seeking ways to involve families but they must not require it.

“No public school should ever penalize or exclude a student because his or her parent or guardian cannot or chooses not to donate time or labor to the school,” the report said.

Some of the schools Public Advocates reviewed had ambiguous policies or did not post policies online, the report stated. Volunteering requirements ranged from one event per year to one day per week, with 30 hours per year a common amount. Some charters permitted parents to buy back the hours at $5 to $25 per hour.

Public Advocates’ report calls on charter schools to halt the practice immediately and for districts to revoke charters of schools that continue it. Public Advocates also wants the State Board of Education to adopt regulations and the Legislature to amend charter laws to state that a forced donation of services constitutes an illegal fee and to demand that districts and county offices of education monitor for compliance.

Charters are public schools of choice, open to those who apply, that are independently managed – most often by nonprofit boards consisting of educators, parents and community leaders. They are overseen by school districts but are free from many of the regulations that the state Education Code imposes on districts. However, they are not exempt from the prohibition on charging fees and parental volunteer quotas, Public Advocates said.

The report cited the policies of a dozen schools, including Manzanita Charter Middle School, chartered by the West Contra Costa Unified School District. It requires at least 96 hours of parental volunteering per school year and participation in two “mandatory school cleanings” to remain “in good standing.” A family “not in good standing … will not receive priority admission for a sibling the following school year,” the school handbook says.

James Trombley, Manzanita’s executive director, said the 150-student middle school relies on parents to be involved in the classroom and to help with custodial work. The school tries to accommodate scheduling conflicts and medical needs of its mostly low-income families. Those families that do not receive a waiver from the volunteer requirement lose their priority enrollment status but can enter the lottery the next year for admission, he said.

“We’re a distinguished school recognized for our parent partnerships,” he said.

Some confusion may come from a 2006 memo by Michael Hersher, deputy general counsel of the state Department of Education. Hersher wrote that it was his opinion that a charter school proposal “may lawfully include reasonable admission criteria, including a requirement that parents agree to do work for the charter school.” Affeldt said the memo is no longer on the Department of Education website, but at least one law firm serving charter school clients has posted it on its website. He wants the Department of Education to disavow it.

In 2010, the American Civil Liberties Union in California sued the state for permitting dozens of school districts to routinely charge fees, including charges for textbooks, AP exams, lab materials and gym uniforms. That led to the passage of AB 1575, which explicitly prohibits all public schools from charging fees for participating in an educational activity at the school. Public Advocates argues that forced volunteering constitutes a fee.


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  1. Caroline Grannan 2 years ago2 years ago

    I need to correct John before ending this discussion. I do acknowledge, as I've often said, that there are many good charter schools, by all kinds of definitions of "good school." I also think the charter sector is tainted by and shrouded in deceit and misrepresentation, and by its pervasive culture of attacking traditional public schools. As an example, I admire much about the Harlem Children's Zone and worked in the past on a project … Read More

    I need to correct John before ending this discussion. I do acknowledge, as I’ve often said, that there are many good charter schools, by all kinds of definitions of “good school.” I also think the charter sector is tainted by and shrouded in deceit and misrepresentation, and by its pervasive culture of attacking traditional public schools.

    As an example, I admire much about the Harlem Children’s Zone and worked in the past on a project bringing some of its features (wraparound services for high-need children and families) to San Francisco public schools. But HCZ leader Geoffrey Canada also ejected an entire grade cohort of students for low performance and behavior problems, which taints any claim to superiority; and this shocking, critical fact was acknowledged only in passing by the press (the New York Times’ Paul Tough in his book about HCZ) — Tough mentioned it, so he couldn’t be accused of covering it up, but buried it, in my opinion probably because it didn’t fit the storyline; it messed up his tidy picture. To me, that’s unacceptable. Ejecting the grade cohort might not be unacceptable if it were openly part of the design of the school. Doing it quietly while generally pretending to serve all students is not acceptable; it’s inappropriate and poor journalism for the press to bury such an important fact. That’s my personal view. That doesn’t make the schools not good; it does make them dishonest. In my opinion, which I have a right to.

    There are similar situations with other acclaimed charter schools. It doesn’t make the schools themselves not good. But there are nuances, complexities, asterisks, confounding situations. So I’m correcting John here and adding that the overall obsession with my opinions is silly and pointless.

    Replies

    • John Fensterwald 2 years ago2 years ago

      Thank you for elaborating, Caroline.

    • Don 2 years ago2 years ago

      Caroline, I can't say I have read all your comments here or elsewhere, but imagine my surprise to learn after your steady barrage of anti-charter rhetoric that you now express an appreciation for all the many good charter schools. I guess I could chalk that up as analogous to the heightened media frenzy on failure, but that would not accurately characterize your comments which are not focused on failure in general but charter failure … Read More

      Caroline, I can’t say I have read all your comments here or elsewhere, but imagine my surprise to learn after your steady barrage of anti-charter rhetoric that you now express an appreciation for all the many good charter schools. I guess I could chalk that up as analogous to the heightened media frenzy on failure, but that would not accurately characterize your comments which are not focused on failure in general but charter failure in particular. That said, it isn’t YOUR specific voice that is of issue. It’s all the voices that use the examples of charter failures or excesses as opportunities to bash the WHOLE industry. There are outspoken voices in the industry as there are in every industry. Safeway no more speaks for the mom and pop corner market than Green Dot speaks for Gateway Middle. Standalone charter schools, two-thirds of the industry, are not vassals of some charter school overlords.

      What IS fairly unique is your representation as displaying a journalist’s objectivity. Pouncing on John’s article to proclaim “I told you so”, you forgot to mention in that “objectivity” that less than 1/3 of schools were reported to have some kind of volunteer expectation though you maintain in the same article “the charter sector is tainted by and shrouded in deceit and misrepresentation…”because some journalists propagate this narrative.

      I don’t doubt there’s some truth to what you say about charter excesses and efforts to deceive. But this persistent effort to condemn the entire industry is not a responsible reaction to those issues. It is not unlike the prejudicial thinking that all people, all cultures, all religions are somehow collectively responsible for actions of the individuals. All Moslems are terrorists, so and so forth.

      That is , it is more than a little disingenuous to call out deceit and misrepresentation with more deceit and misrepresentation. If you truly are only interested in leveling the playing field and you accept charter schools in principle why don’t you say so? Your not engaging expose journalism – rooting out of corruption where you see it. Yours is an inquisition.

      Regarding real journalism SFUSD has been claiming for years that it is the highest performing urban school district in California when in actuality it is one of the lowest. After you disaggregate the API scores by ethnicity and adjust for quadruple representation of Asians vs. statewide SFUSD has an abysmal record. There are more than 100 traditional schools in SFUSD and only a handful of charters. Why don’t you point out this very large abuse of the public trust and stop focusing all your expository energy on a little generalized umpiring? I don’t blame you specifically for failing to address this egregious misrepresentation by traditional schools. But you could make an effort at equanimity.

      Misrepresentation abounds.

      • Don 2 years ago2 years ago

        If you look at what Caroline says in her comment above about HCZ compared to what Diane Ravitch says in her blog of May 13, 2013 it is remarkably similar. However Caroline adds that it might be OK (removing kids for behavioral problems) if it was part of the design of the HCZ, which she claims it isn't. However, HCZ schools like many inner city charters (No excuses) have behavioral contracts that … Read More

        If you look at what Caroline says in her comment above about HCZ compared to what Diane Ravitch says in her blog of May 13, 2013 it is remarkably similar. However Caroline adds that it might be OK (removing kids for behavioral problems) if it was part of the design of the HCZ, which she claims it isn’t. However, HCZ schools like many inner city charters (No excuses) have behavioral contracts that DO allow students to be removed. Factoid! That said, Canada is nevertheless overstating his achievement whether students are removed by contract or not. I agree with Ravitch ingeneral and it is shameful for Canada to compare HCZ with surrounding TPS that have no where close to equivalent resources. Clearly, a board of billionaires can trot out a successful school any day of the week. That makes their cheating even more reprehensible. So why does Caroline need to misrepresent the facts?

        Examples of high profile schools like the Promise Academies have highlighted both what schools can do when properly organized, staffed and funded and how boards can pressure schools to look better than they actually are using deceptive practices. HCZ is an example of both, but the point is that it is NOT an example representative of all charter schools as Caroline is inferring when she uses HCZ and then claims deceit and widespread misrepresentation in the charter sector.

        When Caroline needs to come up with an example of volunteerism abuse in a charter school in SFUSD she uses an example from when? 2002. If your going to claim widespread abuse back it up. Maybe something in the last decade?

  2. Roxana 2 years ago2 years ago

    Thank you for your reporting on this, John. I just added your piece to the collection, "Charter Schools & Choice: A Closer Look": http://bit.ly/chart_look . Many of the schools in violation of the Ed code in Santa Clara County are featured in the recent IPS report pitching "charter reform" as a "solution" to low-performing schools (report is also based on flawed API measures). Will there be any attempt to connect these two reports … Read More

    Thank you for your reporting on this, John. I just added your piece to the collection, “Charter Schools & Choice: A Closer Look”: http://bit.ly/chart_look . Many of the schools in violation of the Ed code in Santa Clara County are featured in the recent IPS report pitching “charter reform” as a “solution” to low-performing schools (report is also based on flawed API measures). Will there be any attempt to connect these two reports or to nullify the recommendations of IPS based on illegal/discriminatory practices that are currently occurring at so many of the “recommended” charter schools? Thanks again.

    Replies

    • John Fensterwald 2 years ago2 years ago

      Roxana: I believe you are referring to the Innovate Public Schools report on the lowest performing district schools in Silicon Valley, based on past state standardized tests. I don't see where the information on required volunteering by itself negates the scores of high-performing charter schools in that report. Public Advocates did not follow up to see if there were consequences for those parents who did not fulfill their obligation, like preventing them from enrolling the … Read More

      Roxana: I believe you are referring to the Innovate Public Schools report on the lowest performing district schools in Silicon Valley, based on past state standardized tests. I don’t see where the information on required volunteering by itself negates the scores of high-performing charter schools in that report. Public Advocates did not follow up to see if there were consequences for those parents who did not fulfill their obligation, like preventing them from enrolling the next year.

      You certainly could make the case that requiring volunteer hours serves as a filter that discourages parents who aren’t active in their kids’ schooling from applying, which then could affect the charter schools’ test results. My observation of the better charters, including those with long lottery lists, is that they do an excellent job of engaging parents in their kids’schools in welcoming ways that many parents have not experienced before. I agree that banning a mandatory volunteering policy would even the field and eliminate the argument that some charters do better mainly because they attract the most engaged parents.

      • Don 2 years ago2 years ago

        John, isn’t the title of this piece inflammatory? You could easily have entitled it, “Most Charter School Parents Not Forced to Volunteer” based on the findings which say that only 30% have expressed volunteer/donation expectations.

        • TheMorrigan 2 years ago2 years ago

          You are right, Don. John could have left off “alleges” to better smoke your bias flame.

          • Don 2 years ago2 years ago

            The other day I received a letter from my other son’s teacher at a traditional school asking for donations to the department. With classroom teacher doing the fundraising outreach and also giving my child a class grade, is this not also undue pressure to donate? Who wants to be on a list of parents who didn’t donate?

            TheMorrigan, it isn’t necessary to be a jerk. You’re only flaming yourself.

          • TheMorrigan 2 years ago2 years ago

            Don,

            Have some integrity. Notice how you treated Caroline. You were a jerk. It wasn’t necessary.

            If you can’t take it, don’t engage in it. Be the better man.

          • Don 2 years ago2 years ago

            Give an example of poor treatment based on what I actually said to Caroline.

            -Certainly nothing close to “You are right, Don. John could have left off “alleges” to better smoke your bias flame.”

            How old are you?16?

          • TheMorrigan 2 years ago2 years ago

            Navigio already pointed it out for you below, Don. She just did it in a way that was much more polite than I. Or your comments to Gary. Or the psychoanalysis of Floyd's repetitions, for instance. Or how you label posters as falling into one camp or the other and missing the point entirely. Or how EdSource could phrase its titles so as not to be biased. Kinda wish I was 16, though. If it … Read More

            Navigio already pointed it out for you below, Don. She just did it in a way that was much more polite than I.

            Or your comments to Gary.

            Or the psychoanalysis of Floyd’s repetitions, for instance.

            Or how you label posters as falling into one camp or the other and missing the point entirely.

            Or how EdSource could phrase its titles so as not to be biased.

            Kinda wish I was 16, though. If it makes you feel better to think that you are conversing with a sixteen-year old, then I will be whatever age that helps you define your own sense of self.

          • Don 2 years ago2 years ago

            I'm still waiting for the supposed "poor treatment" comments I made of Caroline. Well, as Jon Voight said in updated Manchurian Candidate " ...the internet, the sacred sanctuary of idiots and nutters" I'll speak my mind and wait for your next reaction. Forget it, Jake.It's Chinatown. Read More

            I’m still waiting for the supposed “poor treatment” comments I made of Caroline.

            Well, as Jon Voight said in updated Manchurian Candidate ” …the internet, the sacred sanctuary of idiots and nutters”

            I’ll speak my mind and wait for your next reaction.

            Forget it, Jake.It’s Chinatown.

            • John Fensterwald 2 years ago2 years ago

              Just read and reflect, Don.
              No need to prolong this thread of discussion.

          • Don 2 years ago2 years ago

            John, for the benefit of insight, every person should reflect - you as well as I. I call it like I see it. Even mild pro-charter voices like my own are very much disdained and repeatedly subjected to contempt on this blog. Excuse me If I don't like having the school that my son attends thrown indiscriminately in the anti-charter incinerator. Therefore, I find it necessary to point out false arguments when I … Read More

            John, for the benefit of insight, every person should reflect – you as well as I.

            I call it like I see it. Even mild pro-charter voices like my own are very much disdained and repeatedly subjected to contempt on this blog. Excuse me If I don’t like having the school that my son attends thrown indiscriminately in the anti-charter incinerator. Therefore, I find it necessary to point out false arguments when I see them, especially from the more rabid anti-charter voices.

            If I get your comment right apparently it is OK for the anti-charter voices to swell, but not the moderate ones like mine or the vehemently pro-charter ones like Floyd’s. My child is actually in a charter and I have a right to speak out to protect the future of his education from die-hard union people who would have his school closed today if they could. They make every effort to portray charter schools in a negative light, even when its unwarranted.

            I’m probably the most moderate person here when it comes to charters. I have repeatedly stated charters ought to be accountable on a level playing field and I have personally gone after my son’s charter in an effort to correct the school and make it better. That is not a comfortable place to put oneself, but as a charter proponent I recognize that it is my responsibility to do what I can to keep the school in line. I could spend my time trashing traditional schools in line with the same destructive tactics used by charter school opponents. I find that unacceptable.

            As you can see from my very first comment I applauded the efforts of Public Advocates. Contrast that with the views of others here who use your article to pile on their agenda or claim that I’m smoking my flame bias, can’t produce any such comments from me but can elicit cautionary statements from you.

          • navigio 2 years ago2 years ago

            Excuse me If I don’t like having the school that my son attends thrown indiscriminately in the anti-tps incinerator. Therefore, I find it necessary to point out false arguments when I see them, especially from the more rabid anti-tps voices. My child is actually in a tps and I have a right to speak out to protect the future of his education from die-hard privatization people who would have his school closed today if they could. … Read More

            Excuse me If I don’t like having the school that my son attends thrown indiscriminately in the anti-tps incinerator. Therefore, I find it necessary to point out false arguments when I see them, especially from the more rabid anti-tps voices.

            My child is actually in a tps and I have a right to speak out to protect the future of his education from die-hard privatization people who would have his school closed today if they could. They make every effort to portray tps’s in a negative light, even when its unwarranted.

            I have personally gone after my son’s tps in an effort to correct the school and make it better. That is not a comfortable place to put oneself, but as a tps proponent I recognize that it is my responsibility to do what I can to keep the school in line.

          • Don 2 years ago2 years ago

            God forbid, I mean NEA and AFT forbid, American school children who can’t afford private school have any school choice.

          • navigio 2 years ago2 years ago

            heaven forbid anyone should find the ad-hominem fallacy objectionable

  3. Andrew 2 years ago2 years ago

    Charter schools violating the law in question might be legally financially liable for reimbursing parents for the value of their labor, if the parents were illegally required to do work. A good reason for all charters to follow and not ignore the law. Since most charter schools are incorporated as corporations, they are more vulnerable to such liabilities than conventional public schools which have some governmental immunities. One parent could bring a … Read More

    Charter schools violating the law in question might be legally financially liable for reimbursing parents for the value of their labor, if the parents were illegally required to do work. A good reason for all charters to follow and not ignore the law.

    Since most charter schools are incorporated as corporations, they are more vulnerable to such liabilities than conventional public schools which have some governmental immunities. One parent could bring a class action lawsuit on behalf of all parents who don’t opt out.

    I have to agree with the preface in the very useful Stanford book, “California School Law”: “As a Harvard law professor wrote many years ago, an institution that prepares students for living in a democracy is more likely to accomplish its mission when it follows the law itself.”

  4. Don 2 years ago2 years ago

    Caroline, 2002? I want to reiterate that your attempt to characterize the charter sector as though it speaks and acts with one mind is not reality. I can pick an issue out of the hat and provide multiple examples of how traditional schools break Ed Code based on my own personal experiences. Not to condone this practice by SOME charters schools, but let's add some perspective. Navigio, OK I get it, … Read More

    Caroline, 2002? I want to reiterate that your attempt to characterize the charter sector as though it speaks and acts with one mind is not reality. I can pick an issue out of the hat and provide multiple examples of how traditional schools break Ed Code based on my own personal experiences. Not to condone this practice by SOME charters schools, but let’s add some perspective.

    Navigio, OK I get it, however I believe you’re mistaken. This is compulsion, not persuasion in origin, based upon my personal understanding. Likely, IMHO, at least superficially, caused of frustration with ineffectiveness – not an uncommon feeling among those who sees themselves in battle with “the system.” and amplified by anonymity and online communication but existent in person as well. In this case it might include a deficit or lesser problem – the need to gain respect which is closer to the root psychology of repetition in lieu of dementia and differentiated from repetitive storytelling in the elderly as a tool of retrospection. (Subject not elderly) Repetition of this magnitude is definitely outside the range, though my citation of the death-drive was sarcasm. I hate it when that happens. I hate when that happens. I hate it when that happens.

    Replies

    • navigio 2 years ago2 years ago

      🙂 🙂 🙂

    • CarolineSF 2 years ago2 years ago

      My point is that this has been going on for years and years. People are surprised?

  5. Don 2 years ago2 years ago

    I'm in total agreement with the goal of Public Advocates to highlight this kind of abuse and my opinion is that of a person who, in general, supports the charter school phenomenon. I have no reason to conclude that PA would put its reputation on the line by issuing a biased review and, from what I have read, I also believe John Affeldt holds himself to high standards. Therefore, I have to conclude that the … Read More

    I’m in total agreement with the goal of Public Advocates to highlight this kind of abuse and my opinion is that of a person who, in general, supports the charter school phenomenon. I have no reason to conclude that PA would put its reputation on the line by issuing a biased review and, from what I have read, I also believe John Affeldt holds himself to high standards. Therefore, I have to conclude that the report is accurate and that this kind of abuse occurs more or less frequently though I have not experienced it whatsoever at my own son’s charter school in SF. Quite the opposite.

    Caroline, I realize that you actively search out reasons to criticize charter schools and I have no problem with that. It is called accountability and you are performing the role of a watchdog. However, you should be careful not to place blame where it isn’t due, undermining your own efforts. 2/3 of charters are not engaging in this practice – to PA’s knowledge. At the same time, did PA look into how many traditional schools use similar tactics? I have repeatedly been asked to pay for things as part of instruction and I had no problem with reasonable requests,though I totally understand that some people might not be able to pay.At the same time, when teachers do this it puts parents in a bad situation. They are often afraid to rock the boat for fear of some kind of blowback to their child.

    Then there the issue of charter authorizer oversight. If a traditional school does something unwarranted, the district office supervisor steps in. In the case of charters, who oversees the schools when they don’t abide by the charter or the law? The district liaison is paid to do that job. Is it being done? Here in SFUSD I can personally testify throw my own experience that the district does not provide the full oversight for which it is collecting a 1% fee of the school budget. So authorizers share some of the blame when they fail to provide what is required of them.

    As for the comment @ 12:40am : From Wiki redarding Repetition Compulsion:

    The fourth (version of Repetition Compulsion) was the so-called “destiny neurosis”, manifested in ‘the life-histories of men and women…[as] an essential character-trait which remains always the same and which is compelled to find expression in a repetition of the same experience’.

    All such activities appeared to Freud to contradict the organism’s search for pleasure, and therefore ‘to justify the hypothesis of a compulsion to repeat — something that seems more primitive, more elementary, more instinctual than the pleasure principle which it over-rides’:[9] ‘a demonic character’,[10] likely alluding to the Latin motto (“to err is human, to persist [in committing errors longer available] is of the devil”). Following this line of thought, he would come to stress that ‘ an instinct is an urge inherent in organic life to restore an earlier state of things ‘;[11] and so to arrive eventually at his concept of the death drive.

    Replies

    • navigio 2 years ago2 years ago

      I expect it’s more a sales technique: the truth-effect via an appeal to cognitive fluency.

      • Don 2 years ago2 years ago

        what is a sales technique?

    • CarolineSF 2 years ago2 years ago

      Perhaps charter-sector critics’ opinions have been shaped by their observations about the charter sector. For my part, I’ve been observing it closely since 2001. I’ll just say the sector offers a bushel of low-hanging fruit for investigative reporters — no active searching required.

      • Don 2 years ago2 years ago

        Caroline, you've made your views very clear over the years. You're politically or philosophically opposed to any choice outside the union-dominated traditional school model of public education and you search for any reason to fault the inroads into it. If your opinion was "journalistic" I assume by that you mean objective as opposed to editorialized. However, you continue to fault the industry at large even while you use for your purposes the above … Read More

        Caroline, you’ve made your views very clear over the years. You’re politically or philosophically opposed to any choice outside the union-dominated traditional school model of public education and you search for any reason to fault the inroads into it. If your opinion was “journalistic” I assume by that you mean objective as opposed to editorialized. However, you continue to fault the industry at large even while you use for your purposes the above report which does NOT fault the industry at large.

        Education is the largest single sector of government. It has enjoyed no competition for more than a 100 years until the last 15 of them. The strong charter school growth is anathema to the forces that want to keep the government employee monopoly of public education. Stop playing as if you’re just the objective reporter on the beat. Your intention is to paint the industry as badly as you possibly can.

        • CarolineSF 2 years ago2 years ago

          Just to note since Don seems highly obsessed with my motivations: I've never claimed to be objective about charter schools. I used to blog and actively criticized much about the charter sector. However, I started out without such views -- like everyone, I started out without knowing a thing about charters. I developed my views as I learned more. I originally learned about charter schools and the "reform" movement when I did a freelance job for … Read More

          Just to note since Don seems highly obsessed with my motivations: I’ve never claimed to be objective about charter schools. I used to blog and actively criticized much about the charter sector.

          However, I started out without such views — like everyone, I started out without knowing a thing about charters. I developed my views as I learned more. I originally learned about charter schools and the “reform” movement when I did a freelance job for the Hoover Institution in the late ’90s, so my original information came from the pro-“reform” side.

          (I am admittedly a skeptic and an outer of scams by nature, though.)

          • FloydThursby1941 2 years ago2 years ago

            You are biased towards seniority and tenure as your husband is a teacher. You are biased towards LIFO and don’t want people pressured to work harder, which is one way schools could improve. You discount any evidence that LIFO and tenure isn’t best for kids out of hand. Automatically, like a robot.

          • navigio 2 years ago2 years ago

            c'mon floyd, stop it. don was a teacher, is he biased toward lifo as well? can you guys stop picking on people here and stick to the issues? even if someone does display a particular opinion, what's the point in calling that out as a personal slight? i believe the earth is more or less round. i'll continue to claim that in spite of any arguments to the contrary. i'll even repeat it ad … Read More

            c’mon floyd, stop it. don was a teacher, is he biased toward lifo as well? can you guys stop picking on people here and stick to the issues? even if someone does display a particular opinion, what’s the point in calling that out as a personal slight? i believe the earth is more or less round. i’ll continue to claim that in spite of any arguments to the contrary. i’ll even repeat it ad nauseum if the question keeps getting challenged. that doesnt mean i am biased toward that view in a way that makes my reason for believing it invalid. please already?

          • Don 2 years ago2 years ago

            Caroline, obsessed? No. Curious as to how a serious journalist can paint a whole industry with a broad brush? Yes. Those motivations interest me because it is always more interesting and useful to understand the motivations of those that disagree with me than those that agree. So correct me if I'm wrong as to your position. Are all charter schools scams because the law itself is a scam, because the charter schools … Read More

            Caroline, obsessed? No. Curious as to how a serious journalist can paint a whole industry with a broad brush? Yes. Those motivations interest me because it is always more interesting and useful to understand the motivations of those that disagree with me than those that agree. So correct me if I’m wrong as to your position. Are all charter schools scams because the law itself is a scam, because the charter schools themselves are each individually scams or is it something else? Once you begin to sound like a conspiracy theorist it is time to either make the conspiracy clear or you sound like a crank as you do now.

            I have to say, as a self-proclaimed “outer” of scams, you seem to pick and choose them. Prop 30 was a scam as the California Budget Project revealed. Were you against that? LCFF finance formula is a scam because it rewrites the California Constitution’s definition of equal educational opportunity. The LCAP portion of the LCFF law is a scam because an unenforced law is no law at all. The willful defiance ban is a scam because it doesn’t account for what will happen to student who are still ejected from the classroom but can’t be sent home. Common Core is a scam because it was foisted on us in an undemocratic and educationally unsound manner by your friend, Bill Gates. The SB tests are a scam because they cannot test Common Core until such is implemented.

            I can go on, but my point is that I never hear you speak out about these issues all of which are very much known to you. But every time there is an article on charter schools I can be 100% sure you will take the information in that article and twist it to fit your world view of public education, which is one in which the unions and not the people control public education.

            • John Fensterwald 2 years ago2 years ago

              San Franciscans, you know what they say about familiarity. Go easy on your neighbors. Caroline’s views on charters are consistent (I too can’t recall her acknowledging any of them are any good.). Don, scam is a term of art. Let’s not imply hypocrisy because someone disagrees.

          • navigio 2 years ago2 years ago

            don there is a difference between against a policy and being against its incarnation. im not speaking for caroline but when people speak against a policy people generally interpret it as being against every specific example of it. for example, i think charter policy is destructive, in that it does more harm than good. that doesnt mean i want to see any specific charter school fail. there are children in them after all. i dont … Read More

            don there is a difference between against a policy and being against its incarnation. im not speaking for caroline but when people speak against a policy people generally interpret it as being against every specific example of it. for example, i think charter policy is destructive, in that it does more harm than good. that doesnt mean i want to see any specific charter school fail. there are children in them after all. i dont know why people cannot grasp that distinction, but there it is..

          • Don 2 years ago2 years ago

            Point taken regarding policy, but it doesn't apply in this instance. I have communicated with her for many years on this issue, not just here on EdSource. She is against all charters all the time and never has a good thing to say about any of them. That is of course her rightful opinion. While she has a history of vehemently condemning the entire charter industry for these practices and seems to think some one … Read More

            Point taken regarding policy, but it doesn’t apply in this instance. I have communicated with her for many years on this issue, not just here on EdSource. She is against all charters all the time and never has a good thing to say about any of them. That is of course her rightful opinion. While she has a history of vehemently condemning the entire charter industry for these practices and seems to think some one entity is pulling all the strings, the reported claim in this article is to the contrary of what she maintains though she’s proclaiming -I told you so!. More than 2/3 don’t engage in this practice if the report is accurate. That is not to make light of the ones that do and 1/3 still represents a substantial problem, unless you’re in Floyd’s camp which is to say that he doesn’t care if charters lie about it as long as they insist on making parents work at the school or pay for the privilege not to – a wholly unsupportable and unethical stance, IME. And such practices give charters an unfair advantage. If charter operators want to compete for public education dollars, it is entirely appropriate that they do so on a level playing field. I have said so before and I’ll say it again,I’m all for leveling that field, whether it is unfair “volunteerism” or fixing charter real estate issues.

            Last, I’d like to point out that districts are culpable for not exercising their proper oversight. You can’t expect any kind of entity not to have excesses when the law or the practice of its enforcement is lacking. I know for a fact that SFUSD turns a blind eye to what charters are doing. Then, after pocketing the fees,they are shocked about the gambling to use an overused analogy.

            It comes down to this. Whether the law is beneficial or destructive The state is not going

          • Don 2 years ago2 years ago

            Continued . the state is not going to be getting rid of charters so it is best to move on to accountability and leave the existential debate for the theoreticians.

          • CarolineSF 2 years ago2 years ago

            My husband is a substitute teacher; LIFO and tenure are irrelevant in his case.

          • CarolineSF 2 years ago2 years ago

            And what a lot of obsessiveness with my opinions! (For newcomers, I used to blog about education issues, so that’s what all this is based on. Glad my commentaries were so riveting and unforgettable!)

          • navigio 2 years ago2 years ago

            well, when people complain about a process that is 'common' (eg and/or enabled by policy) then i think its fair to see that as a criticism of policy, even if its not stated that way explicitly. again, i wont speak for caroline, but i just wanted to point that out. thanks for recognizing it. and in my own experience, districts spend more time than they get paid for 'overseeing' charters. that doesnt mean what they … Read More

            well, when people complain about a process that is ‘common’ (eg and/or enabled by policy) then i think its fair to see that as a criticism of policy, even if its not stated that way explicitly. again, i wont speak for caroline, but i just wanted to point that out. thanks for recognizing it.
            and in my own experience, districts spend more time than they get paid for ‘overseeing’ charters. that doesnt mean what they do is sufficient (i agree with you that it generally is not, and sometimes even egregiously not), but it does mean its often unrealistic to expect even more oversight given that that would have to come at the expense of tps duties.
            normally i might agree with you on the ‘moving on since nothing will change in policy’ idea, however, in this case, part of the supposed value of charters lies in the very freedom that they have, so i also dont think its realistic to assume we could make things better or their existence more logical merely with less freedom (eg more oversight or making them more like tps).

          • FloydThursby1941 2 years ago2 years ago

            Being forced to volunteer is not like a TPS, typical public school. You can still get an education, but charters are supposed to be special. Don't ban charters from doing this. No one has to go to a charter school. If you want in, you have to make a sacrifice. Otherwise go to a traditional public school where teachers can be bad and last 30 years and even earn more … Read More

            Being forced to volunteer is not like a TPS, typical public school. You can still get an education, but charters are supposed to be special. Don’t ban charters from doing this. No one has to go to a charter school. If you want in, you have to make a sacrifice. Otherwise go to a traditional public school where teachers can be bad and last 30 years and even earn more than younger good teachers. It’s far more fair to let kids in whose parents are willing to give time and effort and promise to raise their kids well and be involved than to do it by lottery. Clearly everyone has a chance, because if you absolutely work a gazillion hours you have some extra money and can buy your way out. Maybe any parent who refuses can take a lie detector test and if they can state definitively that they didn’t spend that much time watching TV, playing games or doing something else recreational in the past year and can’t make ends meet without working every hour, and pass, then they can get a waiver. I think most parents who opt out are hardly noble as these law firms are making them out to be but are fully capable of volunteering and choose not to because it is not convenient. I highly doubt these parents are victims the way these law firms are making them out to be based on this technicality. Let charters not be like other schools. Let’s try this experiment and see if schools are better if parents are required to help. Give the lie detector test opt out. I doubt a single parent will get out of it based on it, but just provide it to prove they aren’t victims. Then the law firm won’t be able to say anything. Their whole argument is ridiculous!

          • Don 2 years ago2 years ago

            Floyd, I'm going to try a Hail Mary. Currently by law public schools cannot charge parents or require work, which is of course something very different than accepting donations and volunteers without strings attached. Without a law of this kind, it is easy to imagine what would happen. Schools could make demands of families and only those families that could meet those demands would be accepted or allowed to remain: ergo, the constitutionally protected concept … Read More

            Floyd, I’m going to try a Hail Mary.

            Currently by law public schools cannot charge parents or require work, which is of course something very different than accepting donations and volunteers without strings attached. Without a law of this kind, it is easy to imagine what would happen. Schools could make demands of families and only those families that could meet those demands would be accepted or allowed to remain: ergo, the constitutionally protected concept of equal educational opportunity that is the soul of public education would be abandoned.

            John, these charter school discussions do get heated between the San Francisco folks, myself included. I don’t recall implying that Caroline is hypocritical. In fact, I appreciate when people expose charter school excesses. I was pointing out her predilection flies in the face of fact. To back up her long standing claim that charters roundly use creaming techniques, strangely she is citing a report that demonstrates to the contrary. The large majority of schools don’t engage in the practice. It seemed worth pointing out, especially when she uses the aura of objectivity to lend credence to her opinion.

            Regarding the charter school excesses, CCSA should take an active role reigning in schools that are out of compliance with the 2012 law. It isn’t enough to say they were unaware. That’s a cop out. CCSA seems to be taking a more active watchdog role with underperforming charters. It should expand that role to keep the in line. The future of the charter movement is dependent upon responsible internal leadership given the lack of accountability written into the charter school law. If widespread abuse becomes the norm, the industry will suffer.

            Navigio mentioned that his district (LAUSD?) already spends too much effort on charter oversight. Here in SFUSD, it’s the opposite. Once the district authorizes the charter it practically washes its hands of any involvement, with the obvious exception of the SELPA partnership.

        • FloydThursby1941 2 years ago2 years ago

          Caroline, I've never seen you say anything positive about any Charter School, even the Harlem Zone. Also, if you want all schools to improve, why don't you support Vergara which seeks to take one of the good things about charters and spread them to all schools, control over one's workforce? Communism didn't consider human nature, and neither do you. You act as if being able to call in sick with no questions … Read More

          Caroline, I’ve never seen you say anything positive about any Charter School, even the Harlem Zone. Also, if you want all schools to improve, why don’t you support Vergara which seeks to take one of the good things about charters and spread them to all schools, control over one’s workforce? Communism didn’t consider human nature, and neither do you. You act as if being able to call in sick with no questions asked will never lead someone to call in sick who could have worked. You act as if having a guaranteed job for life doesn’t make anyone work less hard. You may be a successful parent and intellectual, but you are a horrible economist. You never acknowledge human nature. You think people work just as hard with a seniority system as with a system in which performance is evaluated, and you do oppose any evaluation. You even wrote that principals were wrong to observe teachers and that it violated some union rule. Do you think Apple or Google would have gotten as far as they did if they tried to hire great grads, but then did all promotions, lay offs and pay based on seniority? Do you think people would work as hard with no chance of being fired? Why do you think teachers are any different? Do they have some unknown gene which makes them 100% honest and hard working based on intrinsic characteristics and put children first? This has not been my observation at all and I think you have seen this as well and are in denial for some weird reason. I can’t believe you raised kids in SF and never observed teachers slacking off or faking illness or not doing their best and never observed a young teacher who was better and far more popular than an older teacher. You care way more about teachers than children, and that is at the root of your biased “reporting” on charters.

  6. Paul Muench 2 years ago2 years ago

    Volunteers in public schools are problematic. Being forced to volunteer explicitly is problematic. Thinking you have to volunteer to garner favor for your children is problematic even if I your child gets no favor. If your child actually gets favor then that is even more problematic. From the children's point of view this is even worse as they will easily perceive favoritism at school when other children's parents provide such services … Read More

    Volunteers in public schools are problematic. Being forced to volunteer explicitly is problematic. Thinking you have to volunteer to garner favor for your children is problematic even if I your child gets no favor. If your child actually gets favor then that is even more problematic. From the children’s point of view this is even worse as they will easily perceive favoritism at school when other children’s parents provide such services as playground discipline. The favoritism doesn’t even have to happen to cause children to behave differently. For example, they may just keep quiet instead of speak up for themselves or a fellow student. In some ways volunteers are really one of the travesties of not properly funding all schools.

  7. Caroline Grannan 2 years ago2 years ago

    The issue here is that this practice aggressively screens for students with motivated, supportive families. That's not a bad thing in and of itself, but the charter sector steadily, vigorously denies engaging in practices that screen for students with motivated, supportive families (as well as other practices that screen for motivated, compliant students). "Floyd," do you think the charter sector should be honest about engaging in such practices or is it OK to do it … Read More

    The issue here is that this practice aggressively screens for students with motivated, supportive families.

    That’s not a bad thing in and of itself, but the charter sector steadily, vigorously denies engaging in practices that screen for students with motivated, supportive families (as well as other practices that screen for motivated, compliant students).

    “Floyd,” do you think the charter sector should be honest about engaging in such practices or is it OK to do it while vigorously denying it, as has been the case for the entire existence of the charter sector?

    And if screening for motivated, compliant students with motivated, supportive families helps a school and its students succeed (although in fact charters aren’t overall more successful than public schools, as amply demonstrated by many studies), what percentage of the success (where it exists) is accounted for by that screening, and couldn’t any public school do that? What would be the outcome if any public school could choose to implement the same requirements? Discuss among yourselves.”

    A flattering March 8, 2002, San Francisco Chronicle article on the San Francisco charter school Leadership High said flatly: “Parents must commit to 30 hours of volunteer work at the school each year.” (Posting links here delays the post forever and a day, so I won’t.) That’s an example of how open and obvious these practices have been, and for how long.

  8. navigio 2 years ago2 years ago

    Cool, we don’t need to increase funding to schools. We can just have parents work for free instead. Now that that’s settled..

    Replies

    • FloydThursby1941 2 years ago2 years ago

      I agree we ought to increase funding to schools but if we could get parents involved as well, really involved, we could double the impact. Why does one limit the other? We always hear from teachers that because of bad parenting and low funding we shouldn't change the law so it's easier to fire bad teachers and reward good ones for performance. I agree that that change is smaller than changing parenting, … Read More

      I agree we ought to increase funding to schools but if we could get parents involved as well, really involved, we could double the impact. Why does one limit the other? We always hear from teachers that because of bad parenting and low funding we shouldn’t change the law so it’s easier to fire bad teachers and reward good ones for performance. I agree that that change is smaller than changing parenting, though maybe equal to funding as DC spends tons but has a huge number of bad teachers and gets no results, but also has some of the worst parenting in the nation. Why should we not change seniority because something else would be even more substantial? Parenting has been used as a scapegoat for poor performance by teachers opposing Vergara over and over, but when something tries to force parents to get more involved, it becomes a faux liberal cause to glorify parents who don’t wish to lift a finger to help their kids’ schools. To me, these people, like clearly bad teachers, cannot be defended if we are to turn things around, they must change.

      We always have a proposal to fix one thing without another. Let’s fix them all. Bad teaching, let’s fight for Vergara. Bad parenting, let’s require parents to volunteer or donate, particularly absentee fathers should have to volunteer 30 hours per child. Bad funding, let’s reduce defense and police and prison budgets and spend more in the classroom, not on education consultants. But instead we get a faux liberal NIMBY thing. Bad teachers are noble, theoretically one could get fired because a principal is unfair, so let’s fight to guarantee every teacher has a job for life so hard a molester gets 40k and someone calling in sick and hanging out in cafes gets over 100k and thousands of known bad teachers stay on the job for decades. OK, NIMBY protected, no dealing with teachers. Bad parenting, let’s require some volunteer work or a donation. No, let’s fight like hell saying poor parents have no time even if they watched 1000 hours of TV last year and sent their kids to Kindergarten not knowing how to read and spent more on alcohol or fancy shoes than Hooked on Phonics, let’s fight for them so they don’t have to change. NIMBY protected.

      Who’s left? Rich people, white people, how evil. Let’s raise taxes even more on the rich. They alone should solve our education problems by paying what, 20% in taxes over a million. Sure, what if they leave, oh head in sand, ostrich time. We must constantly blame conservative rich people and funding and society for everything, never hold teachers or kids or parents accountable. Any attempt to do so must be NIMBY-defeated.

      I’m a far left liberal and I see the insanity in this. Every attempt at change is met with negative energy, complaints, bureaucratic roadblocks.

      Parenting is an issue. As much as you complain about funding it is a fact that if every parent acted like the typical Chinese American parent, our schools would be the best in the world!

  9. FloydThursby1941 2 years ago2 years ago

    Wow! Kids get to go to a good school and parents have to volunteer 30 hours. What victims! I volunteer way more in PTAs and PTSAs and have a difficult and demanding job and 5 kids. Poor them. They don't have to pay money. Those who claim they are too poor probably have some free time, and they can put in an amazing hour a week all told. … Read More

    Wow! Kids get to go to a good school and parents have to volunteer 30 hours. What victims! I volunteer way more in PTAs and PTSAs and have a difficult and demanding job and 5 kids. Poor them. They don’t have to pay money. Those who claim they are too poor probably have some free time, and they can put in an amazing hour a week all told. Some of these parents damage schools by not showing up to parent teacher conferences. Parents should be more involved in their children’s education. 60% of Asian kids show up at Kindergarten with their parents having taught them basic skills, vs. 16% of whites, and that dedication and prioritization pays huge dividends years later with nearly the same proportion, over 3.5 to 1, qualifying for Cal or UCLA or other UCs. Parental involvement makes a better school and is hugely important. This is a good thing, and no one is a liberal victim here because if you work too much you have some extra money to donate and if you don’t work a lot, you can volunteer. It’s putting your money where your mouth is and showing your kids school is very important. How many of these poor liberal victims being lionized by this idiotic law firm spent 30 hours, or 300, or 1000, watching TV last year? Or listening to music, or in church, or sitting at a bar or in Kentucky Fried Chicken? This stupid lawsuit is taking us in exactly the opposite direction from where we should go, making a liberal cause out of a conservative thing which holds poor people back, the idea that it is wrong to ask parents and kids to do more. If we’re going to solve the achievement gap, it is not only right but necessary we demand more from parents and kids. This isn’t liberal. It’s sponsored by the teacher’s union to make it harder for charters to overperform. This is prioritizing TV over volunteering, studying and education, teachers’ interests over children’s, and putting another bureaucratic obstacle in front of a movement demanding parents do the right thing!

    I’d like to see charters require Saturday homework/tutoring club attendance and parent education conferences for all parents and kids in Kindergarten and 1st Grade and all who don’t test Advanced or Proficient starting in 2d, which will push more parents to make sure to do flashcards and make sure their kids reach this level.

    Probably there’s some obscure law against that too. Let’s get so-called liberal law firms (limousine liberals who want to keep the poor down and failing) to fight to let the poor have habits which keep them poor, to fight for parents to not be involved and do the right thing, to fight so we stay near the bottom on international education comparisons. Let’s fight to stay a nation of low class mobility and one in which asking parents to contribute 30 hours a year makes them a poor victim instead of compels them to do the right thing! Good job, what a wonderful idea! That law firm is morally bankrupt!

  10. Caroline Grannan 2 years ago2 years ago

    Some people (gosh, who could they be…) have been pointing this out for years.

    Replies

    • FloydThursby1941 2 years ago2 years ago

      I was at Rooftop in the early '80s and they required my parents to volunteer. It's good, it builds community and requires some sacrifice from every parent to get their kid into a great school. Money is unfair but we all have time, and if they allow money instead of time that covers those who work 80 hours who clearly have more than enough money if they work 80 and some can't get … Read More

      I was at Rooftop in the early ’80s and they required my parents to volunteer. It’s good, it builds community and requires some sacrifice from every parent to get their kid into a great school. Money is unfair but we all have time, and if they allow money instead of time that covers those who work 80 hours who clearly have more than enough money if they work 80 and some can’t get 40 hours a week of work. All schools should require parents be involved. That is a huge problem in schools, having parents not involved.

      As for favoritism, there is some of that yes. I know for a fact that I know which teachers, protected by the union, will hurt my child if they get them and I make requests and avoid such teachers. You get your requests if they know you volunteer and help the school a great deal, drive kids to games, do fundraisers, etc. I rarely donate but get a lot of credit for volunteering I’m sure.

      I don’t respect parents who never bother to volunteer. It isn’t right. That’s more of a problem than any technicality.

      I like Geoffrey Canada’s approach. We’re offering you a lifeline, but you need to show full commitment. You are getting something, but many are being rejected, so if you are chosen to the Harlem Zone schools, we ask you to make education the highest priority, like many immigrants do. We ask you to come to meetings, bring your kid here Saturday, turn off the TV, make sure your child studies, etc.

      This is the problem in America. Most parents just raise their kids to think it’s OK to study 5.6 hours a week and watch TV over 40 (including video games, the average), not make school a priority, not turn in homework, not study for tests, not read in the Summer. Parents start the bad example by sending kids to kindergarten unprepared.

      Why are you people more concerned about a technicality than with the problem of parents putting a low priority on their children’s education and not working hard as parents?

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