LAFAYETTE (KPIX 5) — A major fight is brewing in Sacramento over the effect charter schools are having on public education.  And caught up in that battle are people who educate their kids at home.

On Tuesday afternoon, the State Assembly passed  AB 1505, which says new charter schools can only be created with the approval of the local public school district. That bill now goes on to the State Senate.

Wild Oak is an educational enrichment program operating out of a Girl Scout camp in Briones Regional Park above Lafayette. The students are being home schooled, but their parents send them there a few days a week for learning and socialization.

Tuesday’s lesson was about team collaboration as the older kids invented an obstacle course through the park for the little ones.

“This environment here at Wild Oak is amazing!” said parent Graciela Garcia. “They get to learn outside in nature…math, humanities, science…”

“But most of the home-schoolers are actually signed up as part of a charter school and because of that, the state provides from 1,500 to 3,000 dollars per year to help parents pay for educational opportunities like Wild Oak.”

Critics like retired Oakland teacher Renee Swaine say charters siphon off state funds, but are exempt from the requirements that strain public schools like special education, union contracts and inclusion mandates.

“They’re kind of an entity that has a lot of protections and privileges,” Swaine said. “So it’s not a level playing field.  And that’s what a lot of us say: f you’re going to use state money then the rules should be equal.”

Teacher’s unions and local school districts are pushing hard in Sacramento to rein in charter schools. Kate Newkirk, the business manager for Wild Oak, is concerned that funding could be eliminated.

“I’m absolutely worried,” Newkirk said. “I don’t know that we’ll have a program in a year, frankly.  Our program may dissolve and not be able to survive.”

Opponents say charter schools are taking away from the public school system. But advocates argue that if people were happy with that system, charter schools wouldn’t even exist.

“People were looking for other options and so charters became popular,” Newkirk said. “And so now, it feels like there’s not enough funds and so the two groups are fighting with each other. And it’s very sad to see because it’s parents against parents.”

Regardless of what the government decides, Newkirk says she doubts that home-schooling parents would ever send their kids back to the public education system.

Comments (7)
  1. Jackie Shonerd says:

    This story is way off the mark. Charter law reform has nothing to do with closing existing charter schools (such as Wild Oak) that operate within the current or within the proposed law, AB 1505, which passed the Assembly yesterday. The real problem has to do with corporate interests behind the explosion of charter school networks that use tax dollars to pay outrageous CEO salaries, while exploiting under-trained teachers, and practicing exclusionary enrollment and discipline policies without due process for students and families. AB 1505 seeks to make privately-run charters more accountable to taxpayers and to ensure equitable education for all students. We all need to unite around reforms to Prop 13 to save our public schools, unite in support of public school teachers, and reject the idea that billionaire privatizers know what’s best for our kids. This retired teacher respectfully asks the reporter to do better homework next time.

  2. There is a war against homeschoolers in CA. To say these parents are taking away funds from public school when many of them pay property taxes. NO, CA just passed a law to fund education for inmates in jail. You would think they would support homeschoolers?

  3. Mary Kretzmann says:

    The vaccine bill – SB276 – takes away options for medically vulnerable children. Those families will want to homeschool as their only option if they don’t want to risk playing Russian Roulette with vaccines (meaning – if you get an anaphylactic reaction we will give you a vaccine exemption – but just for that one… Let’s try another vaccine and see how that one goes! ) – These parents are paying taxes and deserve some money to help with homeschooling costs. Plus, public education is guaranteed in the California Constitution.

  4. Kayla Wildman says:

    For some of us homeschoolers who benefit from working with “homeschooling charter schools”, sending our kids back to public schools is not an option.

    My own child has never been able to go to public school. She has special medical needs and one of her problems is “multiple chemical sensitivity.” The many toxic chemicals in school air — from building materials, janitorial supplies, peoples’ personal care products, and fabric softener on other childrens’ clothes — would make my child very ill, and unable to learn.

    My family rejected independent study through the local public schools because of the dismal results they were achieving, particularly in math. At first we homeschooled “independently”, but more recently, working with a charter school that provides funds for curriculum and extracurricular activities has been a blessing, especially given our high medical expenses.

    Other parents I know have turned to homeschooling when school administrators didn’t stop their child from being bullied at school, or because their learning-disabled children weren’t learning, or because their autistic children couldn’t cope with the “sensory stress” of school. There are many good reasons for parents to choose homeschooling, and California’s public charter schools are an important resource for many families.

    I do agree that charter schools should not be run by private companies, for profit.

    The truth is that the funding problem for public brick-and-mortar schools is not charter schools. If corporations paid their fair share of state income taxes, generous funding for schools would be no problem at all. The fact that corporations are shirking their civic duty of paying taxes is the problem that needs to be solved.

  5. Pam Ragland says:

    This story is way off but not like some comments are saying.

    1) Charters must follow all the same special ed laws. In fact I have an entire group for this to help parents navigate homeschooling special needs (/HomschoolIEP)

    2) Charters must follow all inclusion laws

    3) Districts do not like Charters because they don’t get to keep as much of their money, even if they authorize them. The average district keeps HALF the money they get from Sacramento. For a charter, if they contract to provide services like Sped oversight and delivery it’s closer to 7-10%. Without that it may be 3%. Big difference. And this is the actual COST OF THESE SERVICES. The over head is killing our schools. So you really think these same districts are going to allow new charters? Of course not. This bill is solely designed to KILL CHARTER SCHOOLS SO THE DISTRICTS AND CTA CAN RULE THE ROOST while kids suffer.

    4) There is a ton of abuse of special needs kids in traditional public school and that is one reason parents leave

    5) There are a lot of special needs kids not getting what they need in traditional public schools and that is another reason parents leave. There are way too many lawsuits, fights, and intentionally cheating of kids. The system has become hostile to parents and kids.

    6) There are a lot of kids who are not learning in traditional public schools. At least 25% of these kids have dyslexia, and they are missed.. and the districts have no intention of properly educating these kids.

    7) There are kids who were treated like animals in school — and they come home and are fine. They tried to put my son in a school where they lock kids in a closet!!!! Guess what — my son has never needed that in homeschool. Give me a break — if parents did that you would call CPS on us!!!

    8) There are teachers teaching who should not be around kids. My son was choked by an administrator, and abused by his special ed teacher. This is unacceptable and parents were looking for alternatives and have found them.

    9) There are parents who understand the dangers of vaccinating. Homeschool is a legal alternative. These parents will refuse to go back. You are never getting their kids again.

    10) Finally — if traditional public schools were doing the job, parents would not be looking for alternatives. But they are not, and parents are. If you are worried about “losing money” then up your game and do the right job for the kids. Because we are damn tired of how are kids are treated and we are not going to take it any longer!!!!!!

  6. Robert Elkins says:

    The kids never matter to teachers in the end. If they did, they would not try to force kids into the indoctrination camps we call public schools.
    Yes, the Charters do not have to pay union wages. Union wages eat up classroom dollars more than anything else.
    We should import teachers from Mexico and Central America that will work for less like the restaurant workers and landscapers and that will free up funds for the kids.
    Teachers support illegal immigration ,they can lose wages and jobs to show how much they really care.

  7. dolphinwrite says:

    I remember reading that this nation began without formal schooling. But with time, citizens found a need for them. Schools can help in ways that many people do not have the time. But this is the responsibility of parents and they are the ones responsible for their children. As one who has taught many years, I always talk with the parents. I see this as a “team” effort, but that the parents need to understand what I am doing in the classroom. If they can share something about their children, so I better understand them, then that works for all of us. *I remember one mother concerned about her son’s difficulty with math. As I have learned to better understand what math is and how the brain understands it, I talked with the boy and told her she would have no worries as long as he learns his basics to mastery. Learn his multiplications tables and I can do the rest by “showing” him the door to understanding math. * I work to improve the students’ academic skills, but also to encourage realization and thinking for themselves in a responsible way. This includes historical contexts and lessons that develop critical thinking. Can they disagree with me, respectfully, in regards to history and causes and effects? Of course. Then, they need to learn why they think as they do and support their ideas. Parents, when they have children, are the ones primarily responsible for their own children. As they raise them, they should be the examples for their children, but also find what their children need to best grow up. Every child is not the same. As a teacher, I see this every year.