CCSA Responds to East Bay Times Article on Richmond Zoning

May 16, 2016

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The following is CCSA's response to today's East Bay Times article, "Richmond considering regulations of charter schools." The story focused on The City of Richmond's proposed zoning ordinance that would require charter schools to obtain a conditional use permit in order to site a school.

This article, while well intentioned, overlooks key facts in the already-cumbersome process of siting charter public schools. There are over 1,000 students on charter school waitlists in Richmond.

By adding a requirement for a conditional use permit for charter schools, the City of Richmond is piling on yet another layer. The potential result? Public charter school students will be denied access to a quality education for an estimated additional year while they wait for their school to navigate the approval process. The new ordinance would place an unnecessary burden on educators and families.

Planning Director Mitchell cites the new process as a protective measure for students. Yet, charter school leaders and parents have no intention of putting kids at risk. They simply wish to educate students who are in need. Just as any prudent real estate buyer would do, charter operators conduct environmental site assessments to ensure the safety of school facilities.

Ultimately, any charter school operator is going to work to identify property that both meets the needs of the school and is safe for students. The planning commission has already stated that the intention of the ordinance was never to undermine charter school growth in Richmond.

The California Charter Schools Association (CCSA) believes that the City of Richmond can and should focus on providing the equitable tools necessary to enable charter public schools to open and to realize their most important return on investment: preparing Richmond students to succeed.

Charter school leaders are not going to build an unsafe school and put their students in harm's way. Families absolutely want charter schools. Richmond should be doing everything possible to partner with the charter school community to help build the schools to meet the needs of underserved children as fast as parents are seeking these schools. Do not increase barriers that make it harder to open schools and that delay school projects.