GOP, Tea Party Influence Permeates Local Charter School

An original post for K12NN by LiberalMama (@liberalmama on Twitter).

Earlier this year, the city council in my community voted to close a heavily-used library branch. While the city was indeed dealing with a budget shortfall, the branch seemed a bargain with operational costs of around $200,000 per year. The city had $34 million in reserves and had recently sold an asset for $230,000. In addition, a group of private citizens raised half a year’s budget and would donate it to the library on the condition the branch be kept open a minimum of four years. However, the Republican-dominated council wasn’t interested in any of these solutions and insisted they had no other choice but to close the library in order to balance the budget (sound familiar?). Turns out they’d already been showing the city-owned property to a potential renter – a local charter school looking to expand.

As a regular patron of the library branch and a skeptic of the barely-regulated charter school system, I was alarmed when I learned of this. And as the parent of a preschooler who would be entering the educational system in the next few years, I’d been reading up on the so-called school “reform” movement.  The more I learned, the more obvious it was becoming that “reformers” are far more interested in pushing a right-wing political agenda than educating students. Privatization, union busting, even injecting religion around the edges of the curriculum seemed to go hand-in-hand with “reform.” Curious whether the right wing was behind the charter schools in my community, I decided to do a little digging on the school poised to take over the space of our beloved little library.

After a few Google searches, this is just some of what I found:

Escondido Charter High School is just one charter school in one community – and it didn’t even make the Charter School Scandal website.

While many of the above-named activities may be technically legal, it’s highly unethical to use our public schools as a training ground for a particular political party.  Using scarce educational funds to further a partisan political agenda when the real public schools in our communities are hurting so badly is unconscionable.

Note: To the best of my knowledge, no one occupies the library suite at this time. My guess is that either the charter school’s plans to expand are on hold, or they will move into the building after the library closure controversy blows over.  However, whether they move into the building or not, they should not have been in discussions to lease the property given the fact that the council hadn’t yet voted on closing the facility and the executive director of the school serves as an economic advisor to the city’s mayor.

 

I'm Cynthia Liu, Owner/Founder of K12 News Network. I'm the proud product of public schools through post-grad, the mom of a child in public schools, and the daughter of two teachers. Connect with me professionally on LinkedIn.

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5 Comments

  1. Sharon - September 20, 2011, 7:34 pm

    This is a great post and I'll add the school to my list. Also, the Wikipedia entry for ECHS states: “The curriculum emphasizes American Civilization and United States History.”

    The charter schools in your community provide a pretty clear example of how one of their purposes — in addition to privatization — is to serve as a protective, isolation strategy for a group of educated, White families. Despite what "Coach" Snyder of ECHS might say, his school is an abuse of the original intent behind CA charter school law.

    Here are a few stats about the five high schools in the Escondido Union High District (2010-11 reporting; from DataQuest)

    Classical Academy High: White 74%; Hispanic or Latino 15%; Participants in FRPL 17%; English Learners 0%; Students w/disabilities 5%; Average Parent Education Level (PEL) 3.92; API 853
    —-
    Escondido Charter High: White 68%; Hispanic or Latino 20%; Participants in FRPL 15%; English Learners 0%; Students w/disabilities 2%; Average PEL 3.55; API 850
    —-
    San Pasqual High: White 42%; Hispanic or Latino 48%; Participants in FRPL 40%; English Learners 14%; Students w/disabilities 9%; Average PEL 2.86; API 795
    —-
    Escondido High: White 24%; Hispanic or Latino 65%; Participants in FRPL 53%; English Learners 21%; Students w/disabilities 9%; Average PEL 2.25; API 747
    —-
    Orange Glen High: White 14%; Hispanic or Latino 76%; Participants in FRPL 73%; English Learners 28%; Students w/disabilities 10%; Average PEL 1.99; API 695

  2. Cynthia - September 21, 2011, 12:15 am

    Sharon, glad you saw this. You're an incredible charter school watchdog! Glad you had these very relevant statistics to add to the conversation.

  3. Rebecca Nutile - September 21, 2011, 12:53 am

    Sharon — Thanks for the information! I was telling my husband last night that the group photos I've seen taken in the school didn't seem to reflect local demographics — and that I was going to look into the stats. I've consulted your site many times — it's a fantastic resource! What the charter movement has morphed intois one of the biggest threats to our democracy and the damage will take a very long time to undo.
    I'm grateful there are watchdogs like you out there. Please let me know if I can help. — @liberalmama

  4. Sharon - September 21, 2011, 3:03 pm

    It's good to connect with you!

    Are you aware that ECHS (EIN 330841097) checked "No" to the 2009 Form 990 question "Did the organization engage in direct or indirect political campaign activities on behalf of or in opposition to candidates for public office"? The 2010 form isn't available @ NCCS yet, but I bet they checked the same box.

  5. Parent - January 30, 2012, 2:13 pm

    Great job!

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