charter school

Charter school says they will sue RVSD if they don't get what they want

Screen Shot 2018-02-14 at 10.55.06 AM.png

THANK YOU to the community members who attended the prop 39 charter school board meeting last night.  

At the board meeting, charter leaders made it crystal clear that they will sue RVSD if they don't get what they want.

For those who were not able to attend, here is a brief recap:Prop 39 and enrollment: 

•   The charter discussed the prop 39 letter from RVSD.  Kristi Kimball stated that she thought it was “pretty shocking” that the district did not account for any specialized space.  The specialized space is what the charter is basing its space allocation argument on.

•   The board stated that that RVSD provides art and music.  The “District’s fingerprints are all over this. Those teachers are paid and tenured.” The charter is trying to prove that these specialized classrooms are provided to the student population by the district and should have been allocated or included in the space given.

•   The charter discussed the PRAs submitted to RVSD.  They only got 1/3 back of what they requested.  Conn Hickey said it will take another 2 weeks to get the additional info from  the PRA to come back from the district.

•   Mr. Hickey spoke about a letter that will be submitted to the district to ask for resolution as they are under a time crunch. If the district does not provide them additional classrooms, the litigious prop 39 charter, will once again, sue our school district. 

•   Comments made by the charter school leaders included, “We can’t wait” (referring to the back and forth legal Prop 39 steps deadlines) as “March is the time to enroll” and it is “not easy to get a court date”.   Mr. Hickey stated that he is “pretty confident that if it gets in front of a judge they will side with us”. 

•   It should be noted that the charter wants to sue in March, before final demand offers are due to be completed under the Prop 39 process. All because they see the urgency, and parents make decisions about schools in March. So once again, like when they were MAP, they are walking away from the process that they invoked, to go nuclear and file a lawsuit.  This is the same behavior exhibited by the charter leaders in 2014 when they walked away from mediation and filed for charter. 

•   The prop 39 charter stated that there are allegedly 25 TK/K students on the waitlist for this year (2017/2018) from WISE/Heartwood. They want to open the eighth classroom to accommodate this group. If the charter school adds the classroom and gets that attendance, the charter alleges that it will meet the 165 students per their original application and will avoid the material revision and fees due to the district.  However, this is not accurate. The fines are levied on low numbers of in district children, not the total number of children enrolled.  

•   Although the increased enrollment may allow the charter school to avoid a material revision, they are still required to revise the petition prior to allowing the founders/teachers and siblings to have priority.

•   RVC is confident that the July material revision will allow for the carve outs for siblings and children of staff/founders to occur.  There was further discussion about the sibling policy.  The majority of in district siblings will have priority, but not the out of district. 

•   Last night, rather than “hold seats’ for these illegally prioritized applicants, the charter board voted to reduce the number of seats available in the lottery.  This is a violation of the enrollment policies in the approved charter petition and the SBE should do their job and not allow RVC to enroll any children outside of the lottery process.

•   The return of the White Hill library was mentioned in passing. The agreement is in their hands for signature. But they are concerned that, should they add the 7th class - and maybe the 8th class - in this school year, that they will need all the space that is available to them. The internal battle is whether they make a sacrifice in space in 2017-2018 to create an advantage for the 2018-2019 school year.

Budget:

•   Once again, the charter board did not provide any update on its progress towards finding $250,000 in grant funding, with $150,000 needed in March. 

The definition of litigious is:

a : disputatious, contentious

b : prone to engage in lawsuits

 As it becomes clear that RVC will be suing RVSD if they don't get what they want, we thought we would remind our supporters of RVC's own words.

Screen Shot 2018-02-14 at 11.28.01 AM.png

 Ross Valley Charter will be suing our school district for the second time. The charter is certainly "prone to engage in lawsuits".

 

RVC's Trump Connections, Part 2

"Education reformers call this school choice, charter schools, vouchers, even opportunity scholarships. I call it competition--the American way." Donald Trump, November 2016

"Education reformers call this school choice, charter schools, vouchers, even opportunity scholarships. I call it competition--the American way." Donald Trump, November 2016

Why does RVC keep claiming they are the champions of underserved, English Language Learners (ELL), and low income (FRL) kids? We find their claims to be disingenuous, but familiar, given the claims made by right wing education reformers across the country, and even in our own backyard. Click here to read the article about how “ed reformers,” operating as “Innovate Charter” in San Francisco, funded by the Waltons, Schwab ($500,000) and others, are using race and the performance gap between African American and white/Asian students, to justify a privatization push there, rankling NAACP leaders and dividing the SFUSD community. Charter folks there echo the California Charter Schools Association’s (CCSA) language, describing this as a “war,” and causing San Francisco parents to ask, “Are we at war?”  

As many readers know, Schwab and the CCSA have a direct link to the Ross Valley Charter. The Schwab Foundation, is headed by RVC Board member and Fairfax resident, Kristi Kimball, who also sits on the CCSA board. According to Fortune, Schwab was one of the largest donors to Donald Trump’s inauguration, giving  $1 million. It is unclear if the donation came from the Schwab Foundation, or Charles Schwab himself (perhaps this could be a question for the next RVC board meeting?). This newly discovered Trump connection adds to what we already know about RVC and its connections to right-wing groups and billionaire “reformers” (click here for a refresher and here to read the California Charter Schools Association’s congratulations to Betsy DeVos).

How can RVC continue to claim to care so much about disadvantaged children while maintaining such close links to the President and his top funders? How can they claim to be motivated to serve underserved kids when they had a proven record of discrimination against them?

We ask our friends and neighbors, do we really want our excellent public schools disrupted and privatized by billionaire-backed and right-wing groups? We say no, and invite you to STAND with us for our truly public, neighborhood schools.

RVC's Trump Connections Part 1

We hear over and over again from RVC’s taxpayer-funded marketing materials and public statements, that they exist to provide a better education to English Language Learners (ELL), and low-income kids (FRL) than that which those kids could get in our public schools. In addition to being insulting to their colleagues in the Ross Valley School District (RVSD), and other districts (read how San Rafael fought off a charter with similar, dubious intentions), they also are papering over their history of discrimination and poor outcomes teaching English Language Arts (ELA) to ALL kids. This is the same group which maintained a discriminatory program (read the investigation report here), then had the lowest scores in the RVSD for teaching English, and now has very close ties to the Trump administration, which is anything but a champion for those (or any?) kids.

MAP's Language Arts scores were the lowest in the RVSD.

MAP's Language Arts scores were the lowest in the RVSD.

According to the RVSD’s November 2015 report on standardized tests, 85% of Manor "K-5" students met or exceeded the state standards with ten ELL kids, while only 70% of MAP’s 3-5th grade students met or exceeded standards with only one ELL. Clearly, Manor “K-5” was doing a much better job teaching language skills to all students, including ELL students.

Tune in for Part 2, in which RVC's Trump connection will be explained.

 

Vaccination Rates in the Ross Valley

In recent years, many parents in Marin County and other communities have made the decision to opt out of vaccinations, completely or partially. This controversial practice places the health of all school children and their extended communities in jeopardy. When surrounded by a significant population of unvaccinated children, even fully vaccinated students are at risk of contracting potentially dangerous diseases, such as pertussis. For the small number of truly medically-vulnerable children who cannot be vaccinated, the risk of contracting a vaccine preventable infection skyrockets. Senate Bill 277 was passed in 2015.  The law requires that incoming kindergarteners in California have up to date immunizations. Medical exemptions are allowable, but new personal belief exemptions will not be honored. For those students who had PBEs prior to SB 277, the law allows them until 7th grade to complete immunizations. Ross Valley Charter’s unacceptably low vaccination rate threatens the health of all of their students, teachers, and staff as well as the health of the community at large.

Of 129 RVC students:

  • 67 are fully vaccinated as defined by SB 277, California’s mandatory vaccination law.
  • 26 have a status that is not clear, absent the student's birth year, from the information RVC provided via a public records act request. An additional PRA has been submitted to ascertain if these children are fully or partially vaccinated. 
  • 25 have personal belief exemptions (PBE).
  • 10 have personal medical exemptions (PME).
  • 1 student is partially vaccinated, was conditionally admitted, and is catching up on a conditional schedule. The law allows for this. 

Assuming a best-case scenario—that the 26 whose status is not clear are indeed fully vaccinated as defined by SB 277—the charter's vaccination rate is 73%. In a worst-case scenario, if all 26 are not fully vaccinated, it is 54%.

As noted earlier, all personal belief exemptions that were on file prior to the implementation of SB 277 are valid until those “grandfathered” children, currently grades 2 through 6, reach 7th grade. The majority of RVC’s 25 PBE students are concentrated in the older grades. Per California law, new PBEs are no longer accepted at any campus-based school, and those 25 students will need to be compliant by 7th grade in order to attend any campus-based school in the state.

A curiously high 8% of RVC students have personal medical exemptions, or PMEs. There is no school in RVSD with so high a percentage. Four medical practices provided nine legally acceptable letters of exemption. Three of the medical providers are recommended on an anti-vaxxer website:

*Dr. K Paul Stoller, Hyperbaric Oxygen Clinic of SF issued 3 of the PMEs. His website speaks volumes: https://www.jabevalscalifornia.com/

*Dr. Ron Kennedy, Anti-aging medical clinic in Santa Rosa issued 2 PMEs  

*Dr. Thomas Cowan – Holistic Family Medicine in SF issue one. He shares an address with Fourfold Healing and this website: https://fourfoldhealing.com/pages/about-us

 *The fourth PME provider, Pediatric Alternatives in Mill Valley, issued three. We note that one of the ten PMEs did not have an accompanying letter.

In order to compare apples to apples data to capture a snapshot of how RVC vaccination rates compare to RVSD rates, we look at the 2017-18 Kindergarten reports that were submitted to the state by November 1, 2017:

Percentage of TK/K students who are fully vaccinated as defined by SB 277:

What does this mean for our community? It means that herd immunity at RVC is threatened. It means that—by extension, on buses and sports teams, and at grocery stores and at White Hill as well as schools attended by RVC siblings—we, as a community, are no longer immune to the terrible diseases from which SB 277 is intended to shield us. It means that our most vulnerable—the very young, very old and immuno-compromised—are at unnecessarily high risk. From the campus currently rented to a preschool with vulnerable toddlers, to our middle school from which the kids return daily to homes throughout the entire Ross Valley, there is no campus that can safely house this school.

Herd immunity is meaningfully diminished below 80%, the point below which the CDC identifies communities as "most vulnerable."

It is worth repeating that only 73% of RVC students are fully vaccinated in a best-case scenario (the number is quite likely lower), and that even fully-vaccinated children are at risk when there is an outbreak at a shared campus.

It should be noted that a "community cluster", such as RVC, of unvaccinated children compounds the likelihood of an outbreak that spreads even more so than the raw data suggests. This article from the Washington Post explains the "community cluster" concept very well.

In 2010, a year in which several California infants died from pertussis (whooping cough), there was an outbreak in Marin County. The greatest concentration of cases was at Manor and Wade Thomas. The 2014 Marin outbreak was even worse. According to Harvard Medical School, in order for the pertussis vaccine to be effective, a vaccination rate of 92-94% must be achieved.

SB 277 was written to specifically address such dangers. According to the California Department of Public Health, “Schools with low vaccination rates are at increased risk for outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases. Some children are allowed by California law to skip immunizations if a parent submits… a medical exemption (PME) at enrollment. Other children may be admitted to school on the 'condition' that they complete any remaining vaccinations when due. Until follow-up is complete, 'conditionally admitted' children remain under-vaccinated.”

It is the clear legal responsibility of the Prop 39 charter's overseer, the CDE, to hold the school accountable to follow state law 277 and ensure that all of the children are up to date with their vaccinations. Please contact Tom Torlakson (Superintendent@cde.ca.gov), SBE (SBE@cde.ca.gov), Mary Jane Burke (mjburke@marinschools.org), Marc Levine (assemblymember.levine@assembly.ca.gov) and Mike McGuire (senator.mcguire@senate.ca.gov) to ensure the charter follows the law.

We note that Marc Levine has accepted thousands of dollars from pro-charter interests and has been non-responsive to us, his constituents. He has failed to reach out to his colleagues at the CDE to request that they do their job. As such, it might be helpful to instead contact California State Senator Dr. Richard Pan, who might embrace our request that he and his colleagues pressure the CDE to step up and look carefully at RVC compliance. Voting districts have clear boundaries, but contagious diseases do not. It is a state-wide interest that our valley not become ground zero for the next deadly outbreak.

The second installment of this analysis, including updated statistics regarding the status of the 26 students whose initially provided data (without age) did not make clear if they are SB 277 compliant, will be published in the new year. That information will also determine the rate of fully vaccinated children (as defined by SB 277) at RVC, which is somewhere between 54% and 73%. The public records request has already been submitted. There are several credible resources for vaccine safety and information. This one is very useful: 

http://www.whyimmunize.org/vaccine-safety/

For those of you who need a bit of levity after reading this sobering information, we leave you with one of our favorite people sharing a perspective on vaccination opt-out: John Oliver. Happy holidays, folks.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7VG_s2PCH_c&app=desktop

RVSD Encourages RVC to 'temper its overreach"

Thank you to the RVSD Board, Superintendent and Staff for the highly-detailed response sent out yesterday in response to RVC's request for facilities under Prop 39 for the 2018-19 school year. In it, the District spells out its "objections and concerns with RVC's data, assumptions, methodology, supporting documentation and related issues which render RVC's projections for in-district ADA for the 2018-19 school year unreasonable..."

Some salient points: 

·      The prop 39 charter vastly overstated its projected enrollment for 2017-18 school year. As we have seen, the charter estimated 215 total students, 189 in-district - but now claim only 105 in-district

·      The prop 39 charter's documentation does not support its projected enrollment growth estimates for the 2018-19 school year. The charter estimates a total of 172 students, 144 in-district. The District estimates just 97 in-district students. 

·      The prop 39 charter's Intent to Enroll (ITE) forms are not an accurate estimation of actual enrollment since "the data from the past school year demonstrates that only a fraction of the students... will actually attend the charter school as represented."

·      The prop 39 charter failed to support its in-district average daily attendance (ADA) by the Nov. 1 2017 deadline.

Please take the time to read the entire letter here. We appreciate the Board's diligence, thoroughness and the amount of time that went into this and are thankful for your strong leadership and commitment to all the children and teachers of the Ross Valley School District. 

 

It’s Prop 39 season and guess who brought the turkey?

On November 1st, 2017, Ross Valley Charter once again demanded district facilities using Proposition 39 (Click here to read the “request” for 2018-2019), weaving in multiple threats of legal action against the district. Though the charter is forecasting 150 students, down from the 189 they projected last year, it will be no surprise to community members that the charter is using Prop 39 again, and the pro bono legal services of charter attorneys to ask for more - more classrooms, more time in the gym, more space for their teachers, and more access to the field. In sum, they are predicting fewer students will enroll,  yet they are demanding more space, while our White Hill children learn in portables and storage rooms, and our teachers teach from roving carts.

Proposition 39 was approved by voters in 2000, ostensibly to lower the voter threshold to approve new bond measures for school facilities from 66% to 55% (more history here). However, a backroom deal was made to include a clause permitting charter schools to have access to district facilities (here), which local residents are well aware, has become a wedge issue in the Ross Valley and roiled our community. According to Prop 39, a district is only required to provide space for in-district students (those who live within the Ross Valley School District), not the students who come from other districts. This is an important aspect of the law, and brings our immediate focus to the “Intent to Enroll” (ITE) forms, and the estimated number of students for 2018-19 submitted by the charter school.

In its 2017-18 Prop 39 (submitted October 2016), the charter projected enrollment of 189 in-district students. However, as many of you are aware, as of October 31st, 2017, the charter reported a mere 105 in-district students. Under the law, the charter should have returned at least 3 of its 8 classrooms to the students and teachers at White Hill, something they have refused to do, claiming the district’s legal understanding of classroom allocation is incorrect. As things stand, the charter currently has the smallest class sizes in the district, though they contend they are lacking space. Their Prop 39 demand for 2018-19 includes 150 in-district students, which, as logic would have it, would indicate they need fewer classrooms next year, not more. Validating the charter’s in-district projections for next year, and the accuracy of their ITE forms, is critical to correctly allocating space. However, the charter has threatened our district with litigation (p.10) if they further vet any of the ITE forms on which the facilities calculations are based.

RVSD doesn't just have the right, but the responsibility to validate the ITE forms because of the associated impact to RVSD students and staff. Using 2017-18 as a benchmark, an assumption could be made that RVC’s enrollment will be 45-50% below their “projected” in-district numbers. Simple math would indicate that the charter will need fewer classrooms next year, not more. We beg the question, why wouldn't the charter want/expect RVSD to vet the ITE’s if they are concerned about the community, as they claim to be? Why the veiled threat of a law suit? What do they have to hide?

As our small, formerly close-knit community struggles to accommodate the divisions caused by the Ross Valley Charter, once again, they choose to subject us all to Proposition 39 and the pro bono legal weaponry of self-proclaimed, “Champions of the Charter Movement,” Young, Minney and Corr (here). Despite their claims to the contrary, Ross Valley Charter is again reaching for every billionaire-backed cudgel within arm’s reach, with which to pound our small district and community. As Trustee Mark Reagan said at the November 9 RVSD board meeting, “...the notion of 14 classrooms for 150 kids is not an educational discussion under any circumstances.” It seems that the Ross Valley is merely a new battleground for those who seek to privatize public education and create legal precedent, further hurting the majority of children, teachers and families in our community.

Take Action! Email Superintendent Bagley and the trustees and ask them to please do everything they can to ensure the validity of the Intent to Enroll Forms. Copy and paste their email addresses:

rbagley@rossvalleyschools.org; trustee.bauer@rossvalleyschools.org; trustee.capron@rossvalleyschools.org; trustee.pratt@rossvalleyschools.org; trustee.reagan@rossvalleyschools.org; trustee.stock@rossvalleyschools.org

Thank you for STANDing with us for our excellent, truly public schools.

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.

NAACP Calls For "Permanent and Rigorous" Local Control

As parents in the Ross Valley struggle over the impending opening of the Ross Valley Charter (RVC) and its displacement of White Hill’s sixth graders, the NAACP has doubled down on its 2016 call for a charter school moratorium (here). According to Education Professor Dr. Julian Vasquez-Heilig (here), “The report goes further than 2016 resolution in calling for a permanent and rigorous local role in authorizing and renewing charter schools. It would ‘empower those districts to reject applications that do not meet standards, and establish policies for serious and consistent oversight.’” Can you imagine where our community might be today if the decisions of our elected Ross Valley School District and Marin County Board of Education Trustees had been honored?

Dr. Vasquez-Heilig goes on, “The report also goes beyond the moratorium by proposing the elimination of for-profit charter schools. It states that ‘no federal, state, or local taxpayer dollars should be used to fund for-profit charter schools, nor should public funding be sent from nonprofit charters to for-profit charter management companies.’” Though RVC is a nonprofit corporation, its finances are managed by a for-profit charter management company, EdTec.

As some of you may know, the NAACP was the group which brought the landmark Brown vs. Board of Education case, which effectively outlawed segregation in public schools. Shouldn’t we heed the call of this vanguard civil rights organization as it advocates for equal education for ALL children, not simply those who have the social capital to “choose” a charter school in the public education “marketplace?”

We STAND for quality, locally-governed public education for all.

We STAND with the NAACP.

 

MAP 6: It's time to resign

There is an urgent matter that needs to be addressed before irreparable harm is done.  Unless the charter’s founding teachers resign, RVSD may have to give some teachers “pink slip” notices of termination of employment on May 15. 

Much of this could be avoided if the charter leadership would simply act in good faith by releasing their current enrollment numbers and formally hiring  their teachers.  There are 6 teachers, all former MAP teachers and founding members of the proposed charter, who currently work in the Ross Valley Elementary Schools, who have yet to tender their resignations to RVSD. Per the charter’s web page FAQ section:

“The six petitioning RVC teachers are long-term, tenured employees of RVSD. They will give notice of their resignations to RVSD when RVC’s site is confirmed and students are enrolled. As the District asserted in its February 2016 workshop, if the charter school does not open, the students that the District is currently projecting to leave for the charter school will not leave, so the District does not have to lay off teachers in March.”

Per charter school's Facebook post (here), "RVC today (April 12, 2017) officially accepted the District’s final offer.  We are grateful that this issue has been resolved and will work to be good neighbors as well as minimize our impact on the middle school."

The conditions set to hire the MAP 6 appear to be met. Why the delay?  Are there enough students for this program to be financially viable?  Public Records Act requests over the last 5 months show a pattern of steadily declining enrollment, with only 120 children enrolled in late March - 100 children short of the 220 students the charter petitioners expected to enroll.

At an RVC board meeting in January 2017, Conn Hickey stated that the teachers wouldn't risk losing their tenure.  Watch the video of Hickey and MAP 6 teacher and RVC Board Member Chris Lyons answering a question about teacher resignations  here.   If the teachers have so much to lose, why should families risk the education of their children?  Will the charter actually open?  Will it last the year?  Will it have enough students? Is the charter financially viable with a shortfall of 100 students?

Charter supporters say they don’t want to cause any harm to the district schools.  Yet the charter leadership is risking the livelihoods of many of our dedicated RVSD teachers and the the education of many RVSD students so the MAP 6 teachers can hedge their bets.

Out of consideration for all of the children and teachers in the district, we ask the RVC board to please hire the MAP 6 for the 2017-18 school year immediately so they may give their resignations to RVSD asap.

Ross Valley Charter: A Pawn of the Lobbyists

In light of Ross Valley Charter's March 1, 2017 response (here) to the Ross Valley School District’s Prop 39 offer of classrooms at White Hill (here), we want to remind the community about the charter’s legal and financial relationship with the the California Charter Schools Association (CCSA).

The January 23, 2017 letter (link here) from Superintendent Dr. Rick Bagley to the charter was a response to the charter’s repeated requests for mediation. The letter revealed why Dr. Bagley and our elected trustees are not interested in sitting down with the charter to discuss these matters over a cup of coffee, as many in the community, including San Anselmo Town Council Member John Wright (link here), have urged.

The charter's CFO and Treasurer, Conn Hickey, signed a $40,000 interest-free loan commitment (link here) with CCSA to finance the charter’s litigation against our school district (IJ article link here).  The purpose:  "To prevent RVSD from rejecting [RVC's] attendance projection in its request for facilities under Proposition 39 and for no other purpose."  

CCSA is a pro-charter school lobbying group, funded to the tune of over $20 million a year (link here).  These powerful outside interests are fueling conflict in our local community. Go here and read more about the billionaires who fund CCSA and other groups seeking to privatize public education.

The loan also states that the charter, CCSA, and Young, Minney & Corr (the charter’s attorneys) have “formed a coalition for a common purpose.” The document specifies that CCSA must agree to the terms of any settlement reached between the charter and our public school district. If the CCSA is not satisfied with terms the charter agrees to, the charter may be subject to “immediate or accelerated repayment of the loan,” with a 10% "interest" penalty. Thus, any potential settlement’s terms will be controlled by the agendas of outside interest groups seeking to set legal precedent, not trying to come to the table in good faith to heal our community.  This loan will be paid back with our tax dollars received by the charter through state and federal funds.

If you would like to read more about a handful of the numerous CCSA-backed lawsuits filed against public school districts on behalf of charters, click here, here and here.

If you believe that Ross Valley Schools should have transparent government by our locally elected and accountable leaders, not powerful outside interests, STAND with us. STAND for our teachers and children in the face of this deep-pocketed, outside group.

Did you say ‘negative message’? Respectfully, we disagree.

The Families and Friends of Ross Valley Schools are committed to engaging the greater community in the ongoing open discussion regarding educational policy, both locally and nationally. We wear our orange with pride, and have carefully considered our initial STAND message, which is two fold:

  1. STAND! with your awesome neighborhood school- be it Brookside, Hidden Valley, Manor, Wade Thomas or White Hill. STAND with your exceptional teachers. STAND proudly with your friends. Our children are excited to feel the energy being created around a sense of pride in their community. Proud and happy looks great on them. We were invited to a competition, and the school spirit is rising!

  2. One of our goals is to support, advance and enhance outstanding truly public schools, whose noble aim is to serve the greatest number of students at the highest possible level for each of them, within the constraints of finite public resources. Thus, in keeping with this mission, we support the broad policy: ‘Go Public! Not Charter’

Our second message is clearly a matter of policy, not a judgment of the people who support or disagree with the policy itself. Most of us speak daily about issues regarding our government. There is no reason to abandon our commitment to honest free speech on this particular and relevant topic. Among the many principles with which we STAND, the First Amendment is near the top of the list.

Our current debate represents an opportunity for each of us to speak with our children about educational policy and perspectives. We might agree or disagree with, or be curious about, a particular policy position. STAND believes in the common good. We believe that children are able to understand the concept that supporting truly public schools--or not-- and explicitly opposing charter schools--or not--  is a point of view on policy, not individuals.

Let’s break it down: ‘Go Public!’ is a broad-based statement of support for our truly public schools. ‘Not Charter’ clarifies that STAND does not recognize charter schools as truly public. They have little transparency or local accountability, and are often for profit, or indebted to some heavy-muscle lobbying groups. Proponents of charter schools will say that public vs. charter is a difference without a distinction. Respectfully, and strongly, we disagree. The vocalization of this disagreement is a right that each and every one of us can celebrate. Our disagreement is not personal; it is a Civics lesson.

Let’s address the concerns expressed by one of Marin County’s four charter schools that STAND signs, which are not yet displayed, are upsetting their children. Parents have the opportunity to explain that our message is no different from one that says ‘Vote Democrat! Not Republican’. Would the President’s child take that party/policy affiliation as an attack on his/her family? Probably not. And if they did, there is no doubt that adults could explain it if they chose to. It is a party/policy position. We must never compromise our First Amendment Right- or our neighbor’s- to take a stand.

It is also unfair to make the assumption that the charter school’s children are the only children in the District who are upset. A great many of the District’s students are also upset, angry and hurt from the forthcoming disruption to their schools and teachers. They must be allowed to express their authentic feelings. We cannot hide reality from them, nor should we. We, as parents, can explain to them that the charter school chose to exercise Prop 39 to make this happen, and that no matter what, we will make it work. We can explain that the charter’s purpose was not to harm them. The charter simply took a policy position that exercising Prop 39 was a good idea. It is up to us to explain that this was not personal. We are looking at two sides of the same coin.

If your child has expressed some distress, we are confident you have the tools to assure them that not everyone supports the same causes in our community. Regardless of your personal position on this issue, we continue to STAND for respectful expression and conversation. STAND itself is a diverse group of individual community members. We recognize that not every STAND supporter will adhere to our mission statement. However, we have been heartened by the support and feeling of community which STAND has inspired. 

So while we are unhappy that any child in the district is sad or angry or concerned, we want to be clear that all of our children are experiencing these feelings as a direct result of the charter invoking Prop 39. Our ultimate message is a warm invitation to the charter students and teachers to return to Ross Valley Public Schools.  We want to do what is best for 100% of the children in our District. Our goal? Everyone send your children to our superb, truly public schools. We welcome you with open arms.

With this being stated, we again ask RVC to rescind their Prop 39 facilities request.  And if you would like to sign or view our petition in support of this request, it is available below.

Stating a policy preference, tacitly or openly, is an honored and protected right in this amazing nation. This is not the time for silence. Not now. Not ever.

 

http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/request-to-ross-valley?source=c.em.mt&r_by=11553673

 

Block Betsy

President Donald Trump has nominated billionaire Betsy DeVos to be our next Secretary of Education.  DeVos has admittedly never attended public school; neither have her children or grandchildren.  She strongly favors publicly funded school choice:  "magnet, virtual, charter, home, religious, or any combination thereof.”  

In her home state of Michigan, DeVos has won her battle; the state now boasts the highest number of charter schools in the nation, even though test results have shown most Michigan charter schools have not performed better than the state's public schools.  A Detroit Free Press investigation concluded, “[T]he most accurate assessment is that charter schools have simply created a second, privately managed failing system.”

DeVos has spent millions of dollars - at least $1.45 million in 2016 - to defeat state legislation that would have required more charter school oversight in Michigan. To restate: Charters use public dollars, but without public accountability. According to the Detroit Free Press, “Michigan spends $1 billion on charter schools but fails to hold them accountable.”

In addition, there is a disconcerting lack of regard for how the creation of charter schools negatively impacts students attending their neighborhood public schools. In her Senate testimony, DeVos did not explain how she would safeguard the education of children attending truly public schools when charters siphon away limited public funds from school districts. A perfect example of this problem is taking place in the Ross Valley School District, where the establishment of the Ross Valley Charter threatens to take hundreds of thousands of dollars from RVSD and disrupt the students and teachers at our district’s shining star, White Hill Middle School. The RV Charter will negatively impact about 2000 district students for the benefit of the approximately 5-7% of the total in-district population who plan to attend the RV Charter.

Despite the damage the RV Charter is inflicting upon all of the Ross Valley School District children, the California Charter Schools Association (CCSA) approved a loan to the charter to fund litigation against our own district.  The CCSA determined that litigation against the school district would further “the promotion and protection of the charter school movement in the State of California.” The very same CCSA wrote in November of 2016, the “California Charter Schools Association congratulates Betsy DeVos, a longtime supporter of charter schools, on her appointment as Secretary of Education.”


DeVos’ testimony regarding her commitment to meeting the educational needs of individual children and to providing school choice for parents may look appealing, but it overlooks the greater good. In an ideal world, every child would have an education perfectly designed for him or her, but our public education system does not have the resources to turn this dream into reality. As long as charter school advocates continue to force privatized public schools upon our educational system, children in truly public schools will suffer.  DeVos’ privatized education model is not right for our country, and it’s not right for our community.

Heather Bennett
Eileen Brown
Robin Goldman
Stephanie Goldsborough
Samantha Lyman
Kelly Murphy