Charter School Workshop...Or...Legal Briefing

I attended BUSD’s board meeting on Tuesday so you don’t have to. 

A more appropriate description for the charter school workshop presented this week would be a “legal briefing” on charter schools. I was looking forward to this workshop because, as I’ve said before, I know very little about charter schools and I was hoping to learn about the pros and cons. It was disappointing for me to watch the BUSD once again miss an opportunity to educate the public and about the advantages and disadvantages of charter schools. This shows me they aren’t serious about considering anything other than the status quo.

The briefing was presented by a representative from the Riverside County Board of Education; I believe she is the CBE liaison for charter schools. Her presentation explained that as long as a petition for a charter school has been prepared according to state law and it includes, and fully explains, 16 required items, the board will be required to approve the petition. 

The board, specifically Mrs. Lara and Mr. Hackney, appeared to be looking for any reason to reject the petition. I believe they will find one. Mrs. Lara asked if the district would be required to provide facilities for a charter school. The petition they are considering proposes using BUSD property (Chavez Elementary) to house their school. She was told that if at least 80 BUSD students would attend the charter school, the district could be required to provide facilities. Then Mrs. Lara wanted to know if BUSD could charge rent. The answer was no but if facilities were provided by the district, they could increase their oversight fee from 1% to 3%. 

Another concern of Lara’s was the charter school’s requirement to provide special education services for students with special needs. Charter schools are required to provide Special Ed services comparable to what the district is required to provide. The CBE rep said if the charter school is unable to provide the level of services required, they could contract with the district. Mrs. Lara wanted to know if this happened and the cost to the district to provide comparable services exceeded the amount of money the school would receive from the state, could they charge the school the difference? The CBE rep said this should be part of the district’s requirement in their Memorandum Of Understanding (MOU), a written agreement between the district and the charter school once the charter is approved. 

The issues of benefits (STIRS), tenure, and the rights for BUSD teachers moving to the charter school to return to the district were also discussed. The charter school wouldn’t be required to provide benefits, they would probably at least provide social security. Regarding tenure, it was pointed out that most charter schools contract with teachers on an “at will” basis and the teacher would lose any tenure they have with the district. The district would not be required to rehire any teachers going to work for the charter school. Message: Teachers, don’t do it. 

It was interesting to see how concerned the trustees were over expenses when it came to a charter school but they don’t question cost overruns in the millions of dollars for their stadium and district office building. Honestly, I think most of the concerns expressed by Hackney and Lara was to lay a foundation for rejecting the petition. I will be very surprised if the petition is approved. 

One piece of good news, the 21st Century Classroom project seems to be on track. Tournament Hills (I think) should have the upgraded classrooms complete by the end of this week and they will start on Brookside next week. 

Finally, other than approving a $140,000+ change order for BOGH’s work on the stadium, not much was said about the out of control costs on the district’s projects. We were told by Dr. Kayrell that enrollment was up and the district needs to begin working on the new high school. Assistant superintendent Mays Kakish told us that the funding options discussed at the last board meeting will be discussed in more detail at the next meeting. I wonder if she and other administration officials have looked at their tax bills yet to see what they are already paying for the Measure Z bonds. Oh wait, how many of them actually live in our district and are paying anything? That would be an interesting report.