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Emiliana Dore: Charter Schools Are Not the Answer!

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Emiliana Dore wrote a powerful article at Medium about the importance of public schools and why charter schools do not promote racial or social justice. Her article was posted by Carl J. Petersen, a valiant fighter for public schools in Los Angeles.

Dore, a public school parent and advocate, wrote in response to an article at The 74 contending that charter schools were models for teaching kindness and anti-racism. Dore strongly disagreed.

In response, she wrote:

I agree with Ms. Nurick that kindness, caring and an awareness of diversity are very important qualities to teach in our schools. I also believe that we should be doing more to integrate our schools and communities. But demonizing our public schools and creating carefully curated charter schools that cater to a few select students is not the way to nurture future social justice leaders. We have a long way to go before we reach an equitable education system in this country, but charter schools are not the answer.

Dore cited the ample evidence of embezzlement and self-dealing in the charter industry and the instability of charter schools, which open and close at a dizzying rate.

Yet, despite these clear bad faith players in the charter industry, charter advocates fought tooth and nail against all of the charter accountability bills. If you really want to create schools that foster greater equity, why fight against transparency and accountability? In memos uncovered via a recent public records request, two charter advocacy groups, Los Angeles Advocacy Council (LAAC) and California Charter School Association (CCSA), gleefully celebrated their role working with pro-charter school board members to remove the Office of the LAUSD Inspector General’s (OIG) oversight of charter schools. The memo claims that this “should be seen as a major win by and for the charter community.” It may be a win for the “charter community”, but it is not a win for the BIPOC [black, indigenous, and people of color] and low-income communities that are so often targeted by questionable charters.

Both the NAACP and Black Lives Matter conducted studies about the impact of charter schools on BIPOC communities. The hope was that charter schools might be the silver bullet that they promise to be. Instead, the studies concluded that while some BIPOC families do benefit from charter schools, on the whole, charter schools do not outperform public schools, and they are causing a great deal of harm to minority and low-income neighborhoods. The NAACP study also found that charter schools were causing our schools to be more segregated. The Students Deserve group here in Los Angeles has also called for our leaders to invest in public schools and stop charter expansion. When will our local leaders start to listen?..

The problems with charters extend beyond politics. Due to the ill-conceived Prop 39, charter schools like Citizens of the World can co-locate on public school campuses. In theory, two small schools sharing space on one campus might not sound so bad, but when all of the advantages are on the charter side, it becomes a much more questionable practice. Prop 39 requires the district to provide charter schools with a list of schools that have available space. By law, that means any part of a school that isn’t actively used as a classroom is up for grabs — computer labs, gardens built by the community, after school enrichment programs — can all be taken away from local public school kids to make way for a charter. Public school families have zero say in this process. Even worse, co-location requests are based on prospective charter school enrollment. Many charters have been caught posting on local parent boards asking parents to sign up for their school, even if they do not intend to enroll. This practice of inflating enrollment means that imaginary charter school kids can take away space from actual public school kids. Charter schools are supposed to pay an over-allocation penalty for space they take from public schools but do not use. Within the LAUSD many charters are woefully behind on payments with one charter school openly scoffing at the idea of paying funds that it legally owes to the LAUSD...

My big hope is that we can start working together to make education better for all of the kids in our neighborhoods — not just the lucky few who are selected by lottery. To my fellow white parents, especially, please consider sending your child to a local public school. Ignore Great Schools, which was founded with charter money specifically to seed doubt in our local neighborhood schools. Join the Integrated Schools community and listen to podcasts like Nice White Parents or Season 2 of The Promise. Instead of creating our own schools, imagine if we pooled all of our resources and worked hard together to support and strengthen our neighborhood schools. Imagine providing exceptional learning opportunities for every single child.

Charter proponents have long pushed a narrative about our public schools failing, but maybe we need to reframe that discussion and realize that we are the ones who are failing our public schools. We have been shamefully underfunding them for years — especially here in California where we spend close to $8,500 less annually per student than New York City. I am encouraged that President-elect Biden has committed to reigning in charter failure and fraud, and has appointed public school educator Miguel Cardona as Secretary of Education. If we truly want to build an education system that works for everyone, the answer is not privately run charter schools. The only true solution is fully-funded, equitable public education.

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