The geography of school districts within the Santa Clarita Valley (SCV) insures that a K-6 grade charter school will draw students from all four elementary grade school districts found here.
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After multiple failures to be approved by SCV school districts, AEALAS is now seeking approval for a K-6 charter school from the Acton Agua Dulce Unified School District.
But it appears that the petitioners intend to actually operate the school somewhere in the SCV.
Consequently, as the superintendents of the Castaic Union School District, Newhall School District, Saugus Union School District, Sulphur Springs School District and the William S. Hart Union High School District, we are opposed to the AEALAS petition.
The Newhall School District denied this charter petition in October 2010, and it was subsequently denied multiple times by the Saugus Union School District.
The AEALAS petitioners have also been denied by the Ventura Unified School District, Los Angeles Unified School District, and the Ventura County Office of Education. The Los Angeles County Office of Education has twice recommended denial of the appeal of this charter and the appeal was withdrawn by the applicants to avoid a vote.
The William S. Hart Union High School District declined to consider its petition for an elementary program, even though they approved Einstein’s existing secondary school charter.
There are large, overarching reasons for the multiple denials of AEALAS – all the school boards understood the intent of California’s Charter Schools Act and have held the petitioners to a high standard.
The reasons for denial included the following:
• The charter school law was passed to provide special emphasis on the learning experience of low-achieving students. The AEALAS petitioners have no experience with English language learners, low-achieving students or students who are socio-economically disadvantaged. They have little experience with those with disabilities.
While they can describe a program on paper, they have no actual expertise in these areas.
Large numbers of SCV students fit these categories, so expertise in serving them at a school that may operate here is critical.
We believe it has become clear, over time, that AEALAS actually has no intention to serve the very students that the law identifies for service.
• Fiscal information provided by AEALAS has been weak and premised on errors, supposition and vague promises or “pledges.”
• The charter school law requires a racial and ethnic balance reflective of the chartering district.
We have seen AEALAS “cherry pick” carefully selected schools rather than the district to make this comparison.
The requirement is meant to prevent the establishment of exclusive schools built on segregation by wealth and self-selection.
Yet, this appears to be exactly what the AEALAS petitioners intend to do by comparing themselves to carefully selected SCV schools, asking the Acton-Agua Dulce district to approve the school, stating that their student body will reflect the Acton-Agua Dulce student body and then proposing that they locate the school in the SCV.
They are attempting to evade this requirement of the law.
Charters in neighborhoods such as the SCV, with its successful schools, recruit and siphon off students who are predestined by social standing and parent education levels to achieve, and they ignore the low-achievers — the very students the law was designed to serve.
These schools end up contributing to segregation by race and social class.
Diane Ravitch, former assistant secretary of education in the George H.W. Bush administration and one-time charter proponent, calls this subtle recruitment “creaming” of the students most likely to be academically successful.
Prospective charters should not be allowed to establish exclusionary, boutique schools.
Once established, they like to point to their achievement levels as proof of their excellence.
But is this achievement simply the result of “creaming” high achievers?
The AEALAS administration has publicly described itself as providing “a private school education in a tuition-free, public school setting.”
Charter schools are public schools. The law is not intended to create private schools with public funds.
“Private school education” is code for avoiding diversity and the instructional challenges faced by today’s public schools. The exclusion of children of color, those who live in poverty and low achievers is no surprise.
Students in the poorer sections of our valley cannot get to a charter school in a remote commercial/industrial area of the SCV, where the existing AEALAS charter school is located.
We have seen the AEALAS paper claims of outreach to this population, but there has been no effective support offered from their current charter to low income or Hispanic students.
The promise of the public schools in America has always been to provide opportunity for all our students.
Public schools have enabled students from all stations in life to contribute to our society and our economy.
Equity and access have been central tenets of this important American institution.
Two school boards in the SCV have definitively stated that they do not believe the petition will create a school to meet the needs of our students, had deep concerns about the proposed school’s finances, and generally, found that the petitions failed to meet the requirements of Education Code.
The Los Angeles County Office of Education has twice supported the Saugus board’s decision in this matter and, upon review, found additional errors and problems with the AEALAS petitions.
We ask the Acton Agua Dulce school board to respect and honor these facts and decisions made by local school boards.
If they believe the petition and program has merit for the Acton-Agua Dulce community, the school should be approved for physical location and operation only in their district.
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Source: Santa Clarita News