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Politics

Phil Matier: Is Oakland Being Overrun With Charter Schools?

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(CBS)

Phil-Matier_BIO-HEAD Phil Matier
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OAKLAND (KCBS)—An Oakland Unified School District board member has vowed to vote against any new charter schools despite the fact that, technically, she’s unable to.

In a system already packed with alternative public schools, about a half-dozen more charter applications are set to come before the board this fall. School board member Jody London has reportedly said the city can’t support anymore. However she is prohibited from voting against charters based on the financial impact on public schools.

So is Oakland running the risk of being overrun with charter schools? It depends on you who talk to.

Jill Tucker wrote a great piece in the San Francisco Chronicle on Wednesday that that shows the numbers. One quarter of Oakland’s 49,000 students is enrolled in charter schools; they are moving out of Oakland’s public school system. Another 2,500 are on a waiting list.

The number of charter schools has exploded and while there are members of the board of education are reluctant to approve more, there is not much they can do about because the law is the law.

This is sort of the scenario that some people warned of when the charter schools started opening: people would take their children out of the regular school system, for a safer or better education, and that disabled and at-risk kids with a parent to advocate for them would be left behind. In the end, detractors said, there would be school system with very expensive children without any funds to educate them.

When the charter school kids leave the system, they’ll take about $75 million of the school district’s budget with them.

The idea behind the charter schools was that the public schools were going to compete on a level playing field; parents didn’t have to be wealthy to put them in private school or have to move to the suburbs. It was ‘make a good education accessible to disadvantaged students,’ and they are taking advantage. I don’t see the trend subsiding, at least not in Oakland.

The latest thing, and I’ll just put it out there, Oakland’s public schools are under a federal order now because they have too many suspensions of black kids. With the new policy, they may not be suspending kids who might come from a bad home, a bad neighborhood or who might just be acting out in class. While that may or may not be good for that one student, what about the other kids who are stuck in that classroom with someone with troubling behavior?

That’s part of the reason why parents of all economic levels are putting their kids in charter schools. While they may not be performing all too well, they have a reputation for being safe.

(Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services may have contributed to this report.)

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