Beauchman’s agenda: Usurpation

I’ve written before about SCCBOE’s October 2013 Charter Schools Study Workshop. I don’t remember seeing a meeting agenda. The discussion focused mostly on each of the SCCBOE members’ personal view of the role of SCCOE/SCCBOE vis-a-vis charters.

It’s not news to a frequent reader that I believe charter schools have always been intended as special remedies for traditional public schools or districts that suffer from intractable shortcomings and deprive students of a quality education.

The stated legislative objectives of the CA Charter Schools Act of 1992 never included establishment of a parallel system of quasi-private voucher schools operated under the aegis of ‘public education.’ It didn’t intend for charters to attack, undermine or replace California’s traditional school districts, yet sitting members of SCCBOE clearly feel it’s their duty to impose an aggressive pro-charter political agenda on our local districts.

When I listened to this audio recording from the meeting I was surprised by some of what I heard from each member. Here’s SCCBOE President Leon Beauchman’s quote regarding new charter petitions from the Oct. 2013 Charter Schools Study Workshop:

“Just to provide a little bit of context from what has been happening as far as our, particularly in the view of petitions that come to us from the districts, its… I think people should keep in mind where we started. We had several districts, several instances, where petitioners would take a petition to the district and the district would not even give it the kind of consideration that you would expect a district would if it was trying to be impartial when it was looking at that petition. As an example, we had one district that basically gave the petitioners their staff report the day before—or the day of—the hearing to approve or decline the petition. And so, it was obvious to, I think, the board, that in several cases, there was really no intention for some of our local districts to ever approve a charter. And so I do think one of the things that has been a consequence of what we have done, is that you don’t see the districts, uh… treating those petitions the way they used to. Uh, what I’m saying, there at least seems to be some semblance of consideration of what is being presented to the local board. Now, I want to be empathetic to the local board because they are put in a bit of a difficult position, and I think it is difficult for them to be impartial when they are considering these, because basically what the petitioners are saying is that the local school district isn’t doing its job. And I don’t believe that that is, a, uh… something that the districts is totally, uh… their fault per se, but I do believe that given the, uh… the structure of what we’re trying to do, it makes it a bit awkward for a local district to impartially review a petition, and I recognize that. Uh, be that as it may, I believe the appellate process, as it is in law as it is in charter schools, is a process that provides the petitioner at least a way to take it to a more neutral body to consider, uh… that particular petition in regards to the law. And so, ah… it is only, uh… predictable, I think, that if any, uh… county approves a petition that has been turned down by a local district there’s going to be some tension there. Um… and so I just think it’s inevitable, the law was written the way that it was, um… and hopefully we can come to some understanding between the districts, um… and the county office as far as what the expect… expectations are. Realizing as I said before, that the districts are not what you would say are in an impartial position, uh… in looking, uh… at these petitions.”

Now, I’m no stenographer and I’m not even a good typist, but I’ve listened to that tape a bunch of times to try to get this transcribed correctly. I think that’s pretty darn close.

Here’s my reaction to Beauchman’s monologue:

  1. Beauchman admits a strongly pro-charter agenda, it appears his fellow SCCBOE members share his agenda, and I think this agenda is to “boldly” pursue charter schools in Santa Clara County, and he’s claiming a lot of progress.
  2. Beauchman knows the SCCBOE’s agenda and aggressively pro-charter interpretation of CA Charter Law is a major pain in the backside of local elected school boards in Santa Clara County. Beauchman seems to think districts should be just as pro-charter as he is.
  3. Beauchman knows the standard of review used by SCCBOE for charter petitions is very different than that applied at the district level, calling the county board more “impartial” than districts. This is no surprise given that a district has an established community and existing operating model to defend, while the SCCBOE has no obligation to the REST of the students, staff and families in a district. SCCBOE’s “impartiality” is willful blindness to the impacts of a charter petition on the balance of the district from which the charter petition arises.
  4. Beauchman clearly seems offended that a district would supply its staff’s charter petition review report to a petitioner the same day as the petition hearing, but doesn’t go so far as to say this is unlawful. Is a district acting illegally in doing this? Why is Beauchman so gravely offended? Is this a reasonable, substantive basis on which to meddle in districts’ affairs to force a change in their standard of review and practice of notifying petitioners? We know now that SCCBOE works arm-in-arm with charter petitioners to help even unapprovable charter petitions improve to the point where they’re approvable. What district has the political mandate or the resources to do all that?
  5. Beauchman’s proposition that a charter petition implies a district isn’t doing its job is simplistic and certainly not in sync with the reality on the ground in Santa Clara County. That is, unless, you define a district’s “job” as asking “How high?” whenever a niche group demands the district “Jump!” to meet their demands. This is educational priorities getting muddled with political objectives. In Palo Alto, Grace Mah didn’t complain that PAUSD was delivering a bad education, she just wanted them to add a Mandarin Immersion program. In Los Altos, Craig Jones and the rest of the BCS founders didn’t say LASD was delivering a bad education, they said they didn’t want to drive across Foothill Expressway to get to school. In Sunnyvale, Fairwood Elementary parents didn’t say the Explorer program was bad, they said it was terrific—so they wanted their kids to stay in it for middle school. The common thread between all three of these charter petitions is 1) the district’s educational program was well liked, but 2) charter petitioners could only get their political demands met by invoking CA charter law.

Leon Beauchman, Grace Mah and the rest of the Santa Clara County Board of Education knowingly usurps the authority of local elected district boards when they aggressively promote charter schools in competition with local district boards.

Now you too have heard Beauchman reflect on his ‘progress’ even though he knows he’s creating conflict between local districts and charter approved on appeal.

Nice work Leon.

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