red hill

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!

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

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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.

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