Response to East Bay Express "Oakland Needs a Moratorium on Charter Schools"

December 2, 2013

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On November 27, 2013, the East Bay Express published an opinion piece, "Oakland Needs a Moratorium on Charter Schools." CCSA wrote the following response.

To say we are disappointed by this opinion piece is an understatement. Many of these assertions are not only inaccurate, but disheartening considering the success charters are having in Oakland. Shame on anyone who would suggest that kids in Oakland don't deserve or should not have access to the best possible public schools.

Charter schools located in Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) are a bright spot in a community served by public schools that for far too long have not served students and their families well. It is true that, over the past few years, the number of charter schools in Oakland has increased dramatically to serve more than 25% of public school students in the district. And the reason for this is simple: families are choosing charters because they are getting outstanding academic results for their students.

According to the most recent academic performance results released by the California State Department of Education (CDE), on average, charter schools in OUSD outperform OUSD traditional public schools by 52 API points, averaging a 780 API to the district average of 728. These same charter schools are also outperforming with every key subgroup, including African American, Latino, English Learners and Socioeconomically Disadvantaged students.

Charter schools in Oakland serve all students. In fact, because charter schools are designed to offer innovative educational strategies, they are uniquely situated to provide individualized support to meet the needs of students with disabilities and other unique challenges. The percentage of students with special needs served by a charter school however, largely depends on whether or not a charter school has the flexibility and access to the special education funding necessary to run its own special education programs.

There are currently 32 charter schools authorized by OUSD. Of those, 16 schools have left the District's Special Education Local Plan Area (SELPA) to gain the necessary access to special education programmatic flexibility. As a result, those charter schools now serve a population of over 8% of students with special needs. The schools that remain in the district SELPA serve a lower percentage of students with special needs, but that is explained by the fact that, under the current arrangement, the District, in most cases, is ultimately responsible for student placement decisions. For those schools, the District retains all of the state and federal special ed funds. Unfortunately, due to financial and logistical considerations, the placement option offered by the District for students with more significant needs is often back at a traditional school site rather than the charter school. The California Charter Schools Association (CCSA) is working in partnership with Oakland charter schools to negotiate more flexible arrangements. In the meantime, we encourage you to read more about what charter schools are doing in the area of special education, by visiting our website: /advocacy/special-education-adv/.

The facts are inescapable: Oakland students deserve an excellent education, and their parents have made their voices heard by asserting that they want to send their kids to the best schools available. And those schools are charter public schools.

Jed Wallace

President and CEO

California Charter Schools Association