Simitian sponsors bill backed by charter schools

In semi-annual 'education update,' local senator discusses state budget outlook

State Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, has introduced legislation -- favored by charter school interests –- that would boost oversight and accountability for the 912 publicly funded charter schools serving 365,000 California children.

The bill establishes minimum performance criteria charters must meet, or face hearings before the State Board of Education and the local chartering agency.

The bill is backed by the California Charter Schools Association but opposed by the California School Boards Association.

Simitian raised the topic to a somewhat skeptical roomful of school board members Saturday, who had gathered in Palo Alto for the senator's semi-annual "education update."

The support of the Charter Schools Association "has surprised everyone ... and it makes some people nervous," said Simitian, the son of two public-school teachers and long viewed as an ally of traditional interests in the rift that has grown between traditional schools and the more experimental charters.

"The reason (charter interests) are supporters is, their view is, 'We know we're subject to criticism, and we think if we can prove we're prepared to meet the high expectations people set for us, people will be more accepting of what we're trying to offer.'"

SImitian expressed disappointment there has not been more cooperation between traditional and charter schools.

"In a perfect world, the hope was the folks would step up and say, 'We've got a wonderful opportunity to provide education and partner, but in the real world it didn't always turn out that way.

"Sometimes it did, but more often than not folks viewed charter schools and districts as competitors, things got confrontational and it's been a struggle along the way."

More than 100 people -- at least half of them school board members or administrators from districts from Santa Cruz to San Carlos -- gathered for two hours to hear Simitian's update.

Simitian said he sees "the basic outlines" of a deal for the legislature to agree to a state budget by June 15, involving compromises on public-employee pension reform, a state spending cap and some reforms of the California Environmental Quality Act.

But Gov. Jerry Brown's failure to get a June ballot measure to extend $12 billion in taxes for five years presents the potential for a "world of hurt."

Although state income and property-tax receipts have come in somewhat higher than expected, a serious budget gap remains if the legislature refuses to unilaterally extend the taxes pending a statewide vote.

"Bleak doesn't begin to describe it," he said.

"There's going to be a lot of scrambling to make the unworkable work," including furlough days and a shortened school year, he said.

What is community worth to you?
Support local journalism.


Like this comment
Posted by PA MOM
a resident of South of Midtown
on Jun 6, 2011 at 11:06 am

Sorry, Joe. I disagree. Charter schools suck money out of public school coffers and pull many of the best supported students out of public school enrollment ranks, undermining public school strength. Charter schools are regressive--and they don't necessarily provide a better educational alternative as we have seen time and again.

I don't support them. Though I usually agree with Joe on educational issues, I am not with him on this one. I am disappointed, Joe.

Don't be distracted by charters. They are public school parasites. Please work on improving public schools.

Like this comment
Posted by Arch Conservative
a resident of Menlo Park
on Jun 6, 2011 at 11:07 am

The Budget
The Budget
The Budget
This is just another "feel good" law that you are so fond of. Do what your are paid to do. Remember what John Chiang has threatened to do about your pay and perks unless a budget is adopted?

Like this comment
Posted by 800-Should-Be-The-Target
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 6, 2011 at 1:01 pm

From the link above --

Web Link

From the bill's text--

(b) After a charter school has been in operation for four years,
it shall meet at least one of the following criteria before having
its charter renewed pursuant to paragraph (1) of subdivision (a) or
complete the process described in subdivision (c):
(1) Attain an Academic Performance Index (API) score of at least
700 in the most recent year.
(2) Attain a cumulative API growth of at least 30 points over the
last three API cycles. For purposes of this paragraph, an API cycle
represents the difference between a current year growth API and the
prior year's base API.

We need to remember that the minimum API score for "Proficient" is 800. While the 10 point (average) per year in API base-score growth suggests that a Charter School that is sub-800 suggests will be expected to move to 800 in at least ten years, but the language is loose enough that a school can "fall back" by not achieving the 30-point score increase, and then achieve it in a 4th/5th year, and still not actually ever achieve 800.

Not targeting 800 as a goal for continued existence is one of the ways that public education fails our students, while draining the public treasuries of State, and local education districts around the state.

Simitian isn't really doing us any big favors here.

Like this comment
Posted by @ Arch Conservative
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 6, 2011 at 1:13 pm

We'd have an easy time passing a budget if the Republicans would have allowed the tax extensions to be voted upon by the public. But they don't want tax extensions or increases at all and won't compromise.

Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Community Center
on Jun 6, 2011 at 5:44 pm

We'd have a more open discussion about the state budget if Brown would put:
1.) the union pension issues up for a vote and
2.) put the tax extensions up for a vote

There is no way many of us are going to support tax increases if it just goes to continue the government union waste.

Currently Brown (and I voted for him as the lesser of two "hold your nose" choices) is protecting his campaign funders (the unions), by keeping the union pension reforms off the table.

I am a big supporter of public schools. I think what Simitian is doing is looking at ways to improve the education opportunities for all kids. Having options is a good thing. Having entrenched unions that ensure unfit teachers who can't be terminated is bad for education.

Like this comment
Posted by AmericanTeacher
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jun 6, 2011 at 7:49 pm

Charter schools are a problem, Joe needs to do more research. California has had many closed down by the state attorney general. California Charter academy was a recent one and the debt they left the good people of Calfiornia was over $26 million. They found they had purchased luxury vacations, dinners, etc., with educational tax money.
In the USA and California we have a foreign interest group called the Gulen Movement under exiled Islamic Imam Fethullah Gulen which run 120 charter schools in the USA. In California they are called Magnolia Science Academy, Bay Area Technology Schools, and Pacific Technology.
They perform horribly but now how to put on the show with marketing, advertising, and public relations. Academically they only win contests at one of their Gulen front group's contests that are owned or sponsored by them: Science Olympiad, I-SWEEP, Turkish Olympiad, Math Matters, Math Counts and more.
They have recently been put under investigation by the FBI for spending tax educational money on h1-b visas for unqualified teachers. They contribute to unemployment of GOOD teachers while they employ only members of their group. They have applied for a building bond financing to the State for $17 million.
They have a school in Santa Clara and are slated to open another in Milpitas, CA. They also teach Turkish language, dance and singing.
Do your research about this group.
Web Link
Web Link
Web Link
Web Link

Like this comment
Posted by David Pepperdine
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 6, 2011 at 9:27 pm

Charter schools are fablous. As a parent I love them. Look at what Bullis has achieved! There are so many outstanding ones. Let's be honest - charter have the entrenched district bureaucracy (who are not accountable) and the unions quaking in their boots, because charters hurt their ability to get more budget.

Charters are great for kids. Traditional schools are great for unions and bureaucrats. It's fabulous that Simitian has the courage to challenge entrenched special interests.

Go Joe!

Like this comment
Posted by 800-Should-Be-The-Target
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 6, 2011 at 10:24 pm

> Charters Are Fabulous ..

If you look at the API data for public schools, and Charter schools, the data tends to suggest that the performance of the schools is about the same as the public schools in the same districts. About 30% show API scores over 800, and the rest are under 800--which is about the same for public schools.

Charter schools that provide middle school instruction tend to have slightly better API scores in the 7th grade, but otherwise .. really not a lot of difference.

Of course, API scores are a school-level metric. From a per-student point-of-view, its not clear that data from the State can shine much light on that, until we get the longitudinal data for several years of each students academic life.

Charter schools were originally proposed to offer teachers, and parents, alternatives to the bureaucratic approach of the public school system. For those schools that have attracted the best students, and teachers, they may well be providing a "better" education--but there is little in the way of educational testing that proves that point--at least in terms of data available to the public.

Parents that love Charters will probably say that the school is more responsive to the parents demands, than their children are getting a public education that would otherwise be impossible in the District schools. In other words--Charters are really for the parents.

Like this comment
Posted by Interesting
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Jun 7, 2011 at 3:31 am

@racist - I had not heard about Gulen schools, but here is a link to a long article in today's NY Times about Gulen schools in Texas, echoing some of the above poster's points.
From the NYT: Web Link

Like this comment
Posted by Tenure
a resident of Gunn High School
on Jun 7, 2011 at 11:25 am

Until the tenure problem gets resolved, there will always be "competition" with public schools. The longer we keep the worst of the worst teachers in public schools, there will be families drawn to other options. Next to parents, teachers have the greatest opportunity to influence youth. The mother of the nearly 4-month old who was shot pleaded with parents to love their children so they don't turn to gangs, teachers have as much opportunity to make this same kind of difference. Teachers who are not performing need to be dismissed. This is the single biggest advantage that private and charter schools have. If we can't change tenure policies quickly, then at least the charter schools are stepping up and doing a better job of educating our youth.

Like this comment
Posted by J. Hernandez
a resident of another community
on Jun 7, 2011 at 2:34 pm

@AmericanTeacher: Rest assured; wouldn't the authorities be aware of any such wrongdoing, if any?

Unfortunately, your statements depict another example of recent allegations targeting Magnolia Schools, which are being spammed all around the Web..

Similar accusations have already been addressed at the following website:
Web Link

Like this comment
Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 7, 2011 at 5:40 pm

Not all charters are great and there will always be people who take advantage of any system. But charters have great flexibility to respond to their student community, great flexibility in how to spend their money and best of all, the ability to fire terrible or even mediocre teachers.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

All your news. All in one place. Every day.

After experiencing harassment, owner of Zareen's restaurants speaks out about Islamophobia, racism
By Elena Kadvany | 28 comments | 5,325 views

Don't Miss Your Exit (and other lessons from an EV drive)
By Sherry Listgarten | 13 comments | 1,975 views

Goodbye Food Waste!
By Laura Stec | 5 comments | 1,765 views

"Better" Dads and "Re-invigorated" Moms: Happier Couples
By Chandrama Anderson | 1 comment | 1,297 views

The kindness of strangers
By Cheryl Bac | 0 comments | 571 views


Register today!

‚ÄčOn Friday, October 11, join us at the Palo Alto Baylands for a 5K walk, 5K run, 10K run or half marathon! All proceeds benefit local nonprofits serving children and families.

Learn More