Public charter schools continue to be point of contention after teachers settle contracts

ByLyanne Melendez via KGO logo
Thursday, March 7, 2019
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Public charter schools receive millions of dollars from the state -- money that would otherwise go to the traditional public schools.

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- Oakland and Los Angeles Unified School District recently settled their contracts but one point of contention continues to be the public charter schools, which receive millions of dollars from the state -- money that would otherwise go to the traditional public schools.

When Oakland teachers were out on strike, the animosity toward public charter schools was apparent.

RELATED: Oakland teachers approve new contract ending 7-day strike

At the end of the walkout, Oakland Unified sided with the teachers agreeing to ask the school board to request that the state of California place a moratorium on all charters.

A 2018 study done on the cost of public charter schools for Oakland Unified may help explain why. It came from the Oakland-based nonprofit "In The Public Interest."

"When the charter school takes those students away, that amount of money per student goes with the student," said Bob Lawson, director of special projects for In the Public Interest.

According to that study, Oakland Unified misses out on $57 million a year -- money that goes to the public charter schools.

Today, one in four students in Oakland attends a charter school.

The $57 million is a significant amount given that two days ago, the school board voted to approve more than $21 million in cuts for next year.

RELATED: Contentious post-strike board meeting in Oakland after $21.7 million in budget cuts approved

But the California Charter Schools Association says whatever financial impact charter growth has had on school districts is overblown and a scapegoat for issues outside of charters' control.

And grandparents like Jean Martinez insist charters were born out of the need for better schools in Oakland.

"They're not getting the education to be able to get out there in the world and compete, where the charter school is giving the kids that," expressed Martinez.

In response to the demands of Los Angeles, Oakland and other districts, Governor Gavin Newsom signed a bill that would require more transparency from the charters and asked the Superintendent of Public Instruction to put together a panel of experts to look at the impact of public charter school growth on school district finances.

"Once a charter is set up by the state, they have no oversight but it still drains the money from Oakland," said Lawson.

When a charter school is denied a petition by their local school district, that charter school can appeal to the county and then the state. In the past, the state has been rather generous with charter schools, approving 75 percent of all appeals.

See more stories and videos related to the Oakland teacher strike.