In Anaheim Union High School District, the school board and Superintendent were confronted with the expansion of Magnolia Charter Schools in the district, and decided to take a stand.
Here’s the op-ed that focused conversation about the hundreds of millions of dollars lost to waste, fraud, and abuse by charter school operators around the entire state.
In 1813, towards the end of their extraordinary lives, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams exchanged a series of remarkable letters reflecting on the meaning of the American Revolution, and as Jefferson said, it all came down to, “Whether the power of the people or that of the aristocracy should prevail.”
Today, over 200 years later, billionaires are asserting their will over our public schools, institutions that Jefferson believed were necessary to uphold the foundation of democracy. And today, wealthy and disconnected elites — the “1 percent” — have successfully lobbied elected officials to pass overly permissive laws allowing “charter” schools, many of which operate on a business model whose main goal is to make money.
Although there is nothing wrong with making money, when it comes to public education, our children should be our first priority. Yet while charter school proponents may say they care about kids, many operate in the shadows with no transparency, no accountability, and no public review.
So we respectfully ask the public to consider: if kids really come first, why are charter schools continuing to hide their funding, ownership and financial relationships? Why not agree to the same accountability policies as public schools – policies that would build public trust?
Yet time after time, charter schools have refused.
For example: they won’t allow open access to financials, including budgets and salaries, even though they spend public money, just like public schools do. Charter schools are not required to comply with Freedom of Information Act requests, as required by other public entities. There’s little oversight to ensure that children are protected from asbestos and lead as required of public schools. And why aren’t charters required to have local boards so parents have access to real decision makers? Why aren’t there accountability measures for keeping (not just enrolling) all kids (including children with disabilities, English learners and children with social and emotional needs) in charter schools?
And finally, why do most charters not include teachers in decisions like governance that actually model democratic values? The loopholes make it apparent: laws governing charter schools were written to circumvent accountability so that the profit motive could be fully realized.