Schwab Foundation

Say No to Billionaire Bullies!

“The definition of bullying is when there’s a power imbalance and there’s repeated harm against those who are less powerful… (At a) macro and policy level…the billionaires and the technology companies who have the power...are attacking public education… If you look at who’s getting attacked, (it’s) women and children... in communities of color… the least politically powerful and most disenfranchised in our community… and teachers…(which is) primarily a female profession… Easy targets…”
— Dr. Roxana Marachi, NAACP, March 12, 2018

As the Ross Valley community reels from the continuing and ongoing disruptions instigated by the Ross Valley Charter (which filed suit against our public schools for the second time, on March 16, 2018), it is appalling to learn that the charter’s continued malfeasance and hijinks are being financed to the tune of a $150,000 grant. The grant was given by The Hastings Fund, which is financed by the deep pockets of Netflix CEO, Reed Hastings, who also had a direct role in the creation of the public education wrecking ball, Proposition 39. Hastings, his Fund’s CEO, Nareev Kingsland, RVC Board member, Kristi Kimball, and other powerful operators (explained more fully here and here), are not only running roughshod over the Ross Valley community and its kids; by continuing their attacks on our excellent and highly-rated public schools, they are supporting a group of operators with a proven record of discrimination, about which the ACLU expressed “grave reservations.” Despite their claims to the contrary, RVC is a true astroturf group.

For those who are new to the charter school and public education/privatization debate, Mr. Hastings looms large. After a successful career in the tech industry, he decided that the free-market ideals of competition, disruption and consumer “choice” (i.e., shopping), needed to be applied to public education. He’s gone on to become one of the most powerful education “Deformers,” applying his billions of dollars and his outsize influence to reduce supports and resources for neighborhood public schools, hurting vulnerable children and educators along the way.

Mr. Hastings was appointed by then Governor, Gray Davis, to the California State Board of Education (SBE) in 2000, becoming its President in 2001, where he remained until 2005, when he resigned after some in the legislature questioned his policy directives. The SBE proved an excellent perch from which to begin his assault on public education. In November of 2000, while sitting on the SBE, he spent $1 million to ensure the passage of Proposition 39, which ostensibly lowered the bond threshold for passage of public school facility construction (from 66% to 55%). As local residents are probably well aware, Prop 39 contained a trojan horse requiring public districts to house charters. According to this article from 2000, “the agreement between two of the state's fiercest Proposition 39 proponents -- Hastings and the teachers union -- has given charter operators a significant boost unseen in many other states.” Mr. Hastings has not been shy about his disdain for democratically-elected, local school boards, and his stated desire to do away with them entirely. In addition to his own fund, Mr. Hastings serves on the board of KIPP, a controversial and highly profitable “non-profit” charter chain which recently won approval at the State Board of Education for new charters in San Francisco and San Jose, over the objections of locals, the NAACP, and overriding the votes of those communities’ democratically elected boards (sound familiar?). He also has financially enabled Rocketship, another highly contested charter chain (link).

Despite The Hastings Fund’s purported intention to, “expand educational opportunity,” because, “too many children do not have access to amazing schools,” and “to partner with communities” to “increase… access to rich and holistic educational experiences,” Mr. Hastings and his cronies are actually reducing our 2,000 kids’ access to our already amazing schools and teachers, all in support of a new charter based on a 20-year program with a proven track record of discrimination against the very children he professes need saving from public education. The very undemocratic way RVC came into being, and the lack of regard they continue to show for the larger Ross Valley community, is the polar opposite of “partnering with.”

Via its CEO, Mr. Kingsland, the Hastings Foundation is closely linked to RVC Board member, Kristi Kimball, who works for billionaire Charles Schwab, doling out his billions to charters across the country (including KIPP). Both Mr. Kingsland and Ms. Kimball sit on the California Charter Schools Association’s (CCSA) Board, one of the biggest lobbying groups in California (here). Mr. Kingsland cut his teeth helping to transform 90% of the New Orleans School District into charters, in a stunning example of what Naomi Klein has dubbed, “The Shock Doctrine.” According to this study from Stanford’s Center for Opportunity Policy in Education, these changes have "created a set of schools that are highly stratified by race, class, and educational advantage, operating in a hierarchy that provides very different types of schools and to different types of children. While some have choice; others do not." Mr. Kingsland casually concedes (here), that despite the these radical changes, and the firing of thousands of mostly African American female educators, "the school system is far from excellent".  Nonetheless, Mr. Kingsland and Ms. Kimball had a conversation here, comparing “the charter sector” to Uber (spoiler alert: charters are “1000 times more difficult than Uber”), and this one, where he likens public school districts to “greedy corporations,” and closes with this statement, “...shout out to Kristi Kimball for ideas that this post was built upon.” Good to know that Ms. Kimball believes districts, staffed with educators who have heeded a call to teach and work with children, are “greedy corporations.” That attitude toward our excellent public schools explains a lot of RVC’s actions, doesn’t it?

The Ross Valley community is dismayed that its kids and excellent teachers are being bullied by those who use their billions to exploit undemocratic policies, which have already decimated many urban districts (New Orleans, Detroit, Oakland and Los Angeles). We cannot remain silent as these ill-conceived laws are applied to our small, underfunded, and high-performing school district. For those who insist we are a wealthy district and can afford a pet-project charter school advocated for by the privileged (with a history of discrimination) please take note: California’s per-pupil funding comes in 41st in the country and Ross Valley School District’s per-pupil funding is at the bottom 10% of state funding. Despite this, our neighborhood district schools perform in the top 7% of the state. We have no choice but to Stand up to these bullies and their assault on our excellent, democratically-governed schools; a fight against the privatization of public education that threatens to run our schools - and so many other underfunded public schools - into the ground.

Go Public, Not Charter!

RVC: Teetering on the brink of financial ruin?

The writing is on the wall. Ross Valley Charter is not financially viable. It is time to take a good long look at what the drastic difference between projected and realized enrollment means for the future of the school.

RVC projected a total enrollment of 222 students in their charter petition, which the State Board of Education approved after our district and county denied it largely due to financial unviability. The charter’s numbers have fallen a whopping 45% below their projections, far beyond the 25% level of decline which should trigger a material revision to ensure it has a sound financial budget, yet the State has declined to require one.  When the school opened on August 23rd, their total enrollment was 131. As they did all throughout summer, the charter claimed they would have new applicants and continued new interest. And yet, their enrollment has actually declined by an additional 5% during the first 3 weeks of school. At this time, they have only 124 students, almost 100 students less than projected. As a result, Ross Valley Charter is in a dire financial situation.

For 124 children, the charter receives less than one million dollars in ADA for the year. Based on the charter’s July financial report, the monthly payroll costs are $92,000, which is a yearly cost of $1.1 million. This means that the ADA is insufficient to cover the payroll costs, let alone the rent, subsidizing free and reduced lunches, office expenses, legal fees and all the other costs associated with operating a school. The charter opened its doors $400K in debt, including $130k in personal loans. They have already spent almost all of the $250K loan from the CDE they deposited in July. By our estimates, the charter will be out of money by March.

At their last board meeting, they stated they will not be able to make payroll in October without going further into debt and approved seeking additional short term personal loans of up to $100,000. These loans are meant to cover costs until the school receives a check from the CDE in October. However, here's the rub, the CDE sends three checks throughout the year. The first is based on a final enrollment projection given in July and the second two are based on actual attendance. The check that is coming to the charter school next month is based on 172 students, the number that the charter gave the CDE in July. However, the remaining checks, arriving in December and the spring, will be adjusted based on the actual attendance numbers released next month causing the school to be drastically underfunded later in the year.

On top of all that, the charter’s Memo of Understanding with the State Board of Education requires the charter to have reserves of at least 5% or 55K.  The charter does not have this cash and thus is already in violation of the MOU.

Charter enrollment has been consistently overstated and has persistently declined. Its finances are depleting. Hard earned taxpayer money is being wasted on a school that will not survive. Charter students will have their education interrupted when it fails. The truth about RVC's finances needs to be acknowledged and the State needs to intervene. The current situation is irresponsible and unfair to all of the children and tax payers in Ross Valley.

 

Charter Schools Don't Have To Follow Public Rules

There has been some question as to whether the Ross Valley Charter is truly a public school.  What makes a school a public school?  Good question.  Does the charter take California tax dollars?  YES, the per-student ADA.  So the charter gets public money.  What else makes itpublic?  Consider if the answers to these questions describe a public or private school:

·      Is RVC’s school board elected?  NO.

·      Are the teachers or employees of RVC Public employees? NO

·      Can the charter expel kids? YES

·      Can the charter fire employees without due process? YES

·      Does the charter have to follow conflict of interest laws that apply to public institutions? NO

·      Can parents, teachers and board members loan RVC money with interest? YES

·      Can the business of the charter - referred to repeatedly by RVC leadership as “the company” - be run by private or for-profit companies?  YES  (Click here for the website of the company the charter is using to run their back office operations)

·      Does RVC's law firm consider charters public? NO - click here to read more

We are not alone in this claim.  To learn more, check out the following recent statements by the experts:

Click here to read our new blog about the NAACP’s call for a strengthened moratorium on charter schools.  

Click here to learn why National Labor Relations Board decides charter schools are private corporations, not public schools

Click here to read the full position statement on charter schools from the Network for Public Education: "By definition, a charter school is not a public school. Charter schools are formed when a private organization contracts with a government authorizer to open and run a school. Charters are managed by private boards, often with no connection to the community they serve. The boards of many leading charter chains are populated by billionaires who often live far away from the schools they govern.” 

Click here to read the full National Education Association's Policy Statement on Charter Schools:  "The growth of separate and unequal systems of charter schools that are not subject to the same basic safeguards and standards that apply to public schools threatens our students and our public education system.  The purpose of this policy statement is to make plain NEA’s opposition to the failed experiment of largely unaccountable privately managed charter schools while clarifying NEA’s continued support for those public charter schools that are authorized and held accountable by local democratically elected school boards or their equivalent.” 

To show support for public schools, send a request for a magnet, sign, hat or T-shirt.  Use the link to sign up for our newsletter, and please follow us on FB and Twitter.

STAND Remains Committed to Civil, Fact-Based Discourse

STAND does not condone the personal attacks or uncivil tone of some recent statements against the charter or its supporters.  We remain committed to civil, fact-based engagement, and we ask our neighbors, whatever their point of view, to do the same.  

From the start, STAND has voiced our commitment to respectful civic engagement. On January 16, 2017, we wrote:

 

"We acknowledge that people sometimes disagree, strongly, and we ask that our entire community commits to doing so respectfully. We are one community, and while we may have different opinions and goals, we are still neighbors, teammates, and even friends." 

 

We all must remember that this is a public policy debate about how to spend our community’s education funds and about the future of public education in our state and nationwide.  While each of our children are being affected by the opening of the charter, and thus emotions run high, we must not give in to contempt for those with whom we disagree.   Every one us can do better to show respect and compassion for one another.  

https://www.facebook.com/harvardkennedyschool/videos/10154251688431403/?pnref=story

RVCharter Leadership is Taking You for a Ride…Again

The turmoil in our community is being caused by one thing, and it's not STAND. It's not the appearance of signs and magnets. It's not even the existence of a charter school. The upheaval in our community is the direct result of the charter leadership's use of Proposition 39, a law allowing the hostile takeover of our children's school buildings.
 
Using this law, which was never meant for small, well-performing districts like ours, the charter is commandeering the 6th grade building at White Hill Middle School, displacing the entire District's 6th grade and eliminating the “soft landing” into middle school that a separate space provided.
 
Charter leadership has spun the tale that they were "forced" to invoke Prop 39 because the District wouldn't continue negotiating with them for the rental of Red Hill. However, as a community member just reminded us, it is documented here that, in fact, they attempted to shoot that missile at the District long before those negotiations even started. The charter's narrative of victimization at the hands of the District could not be farther from the truth.
 
In October 2014, around the same time they submitted their first charter petition, the leadership filed a Prop 39 demand for facilities, specifically a large chunk of Manor School. The filing demanded seven classrooms with the intention to expand to nine over the following two years. The charter’s previous incarnation as the Multi-Age Program (MAP) occupied six classrooms at the time. This Prop 39 expansion would have drastically reduced the space for the rest of the students on the Manor campus and would almost certainly have caused some neighborhood children to be moved to other schools. 

The maneuver occurred just a few months after MAP leaders decided it was a "complete waste of time" to work out the inequities at Manor and keep MAP as a program of choice within the District (here). MAP went rogue and became a charter to avoid District oversight. Now we can plainly see how they simultaneously began a long, drawn-out battle to take over District facilities using Prop 39.


Charter leadership has repeatedly stated they do not wish to displace District students, yet one of their first acts as a newly proposed charter school was an attempt to forcibly expand at Manor using Prop 39, which would have displaced students who were not in the charter from their neighborhood school.
 
The charter claims to be using Prop 39 only as a last resort. That is patently false.