California Charter Schools Segregation

How the Richest County in California Got Its New Charter School

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Marin County in California is the wealthiest in the state. The seemingly idyllic Ross Vallley is now torn between two factions of parents: one supporting the traditional public schools (organized as STAND with Ross Valley schools), the other determined to break away and have their own charter school, RVC, or Ross Valley charter school.

Bill Raden, writing at Capitol & Main, writes:

“California’s 1992 charter school law waived much of the state’s education code for charters, under the theory that they would be dynamic classroom laboratories capable of closing the state’s education gap for children traumatized by the poverty and social stressors of their neighborhoods. What the law doesn’t do is limit charter schools to low-performing communities, and for small, highly rated districts like Ross Valley, charter schools carry substantial costs that STAND parents maintain have already negatively impacted classrooms.

“What concerns me is that [Ross Valley Charter] is going to eventually take over one of our neighborhood public schools,” said Eileen Brown, who is a STAND member but also a former parent of RVC’s predecessor, a district-run Alternative Schools program called MAP. “They will grow and they will get enough parents to buy in, so that one of our neighborhood public schools that serves all the children is not going to have enough numbers to justify staying open.”

“Besides being California’s wealthiest county, Marin is one of its best educated. The high value its residents place on a quality education has given Marin County some of California’s highest-performing and most competitive schools — including the four top-rated elementary schools and one middle school that serve the RVSD towns of Fairfax and San Anselmo.

“It has also given Ross Valley a blistering charter fight, in a Bay Area community long renowned for its laidback lifestyle and 1960s counterculture past.

“What has turned parent against parent, neighbor against neighbor, and even split up children’s friendships is MAP (Multi-Age Program), which was installed at Fairfax’s sole neighborhood school, Manor Elementary, in 1996. In August, the program will reopen its doors as the Ross Valley Charter School to 130 students, or six percent of RVSD’s 2,300 enrollment — becoming only the fourth charter in Marin county — in a co-location at White Hill, the district’s lone middle school.

“But many Fairfax parents already had their fill of MAP when the program was allowed to operate for 18 years under its own board as, essentially, an elite private academy within the district — much like a charter school. But because MAP was co-located at Manor Elementary, which includes the bulk of the district’s English Language Learners (ELL) and Free and Reduced Price Lunch populations, it was Fairfax’s traditional K-5 students who paid a disproportionate price in resources, enrollment and especially, said the Manor parents, the program’s rigid culture of keeping the two programs socially segregated.”

When parents complained about discrimination, MAP parents decided to take advantage of California’s lac charter law and break away as a charter, free of any obligations to the district.

You can see where this is going, can’t you? It is an invitation to affluent parents to break away and self-segregate, avoiding contact with “those children.” Better yet, they get to have a socially and racially segregated school at public expense. Deja vu?

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