Saturday, May 20, 2017

Trouble in California Eden: A Divided Marin County Community Gets a New Charter School | Alternet

Trouble in California Eden: A Divided Marin County Community Gets a New Charter School | Alternet:
Trouble in California Eden: A Divided Marin County Community Gets a New Charter School


On a recent idyllic Marin County afternoon, Manor Elementary School PTA President Heather Bennett sat on her outdoor deck and related the newest incident to inflame the Ross Valley public school community.
“Crazy stuff is going on,” she said, referring to what could be the longest-running conflict in California’s education wars. The ugly and divisive fight pits STAND With Ross Valley Schools — a group of parents who favor traditional public schools — against a breakaway alternative education program soon to become the Ross Valley Charter School (RVC).
“It’s a solution to a problem that didn’t exist, and it actually creates a problem that need not exist,” Bennett said of the charter school.
The dispute, she claimed, which had until recently played out in emotional Ross Valley Elementary School District (RVSD) board meetings, contentious lawsuits and chilly encounters in local supermarkets, had escalated into heated accusations of vandalism on the neighborhood-focused social network, Nextdoor, where many of the daily salvos between the warring sides are hurled.
STAND was formed last December after the not-yet-opened charter school, which was eventually co-located at the district’s lone middle school, filed a facilities request under the aegis of Proposition 39, a 2000 law passed by California voters that compels school districts to house charters on their campuses.
California’s 1992 charter school law waived much of the state’s education code for charters, under the theory that they would be dynamic classroom laboratories capable of closing the state’s education gap for children traumatized by the poverty and social stressors of their neighborhoods. What the law doesn’t do is limit charter schools to low-performing communities, and for small, highly rated districts like Ross Valley, charter schools carry substantial costs that STAND parents maintain have already negatively impacted classrooms.
“What concerns me is that [Ross Valley Charter] is going to eventually take over one of our neighborhood public schools,” said Eileen Brown, who is a STAND member but also a former parent of RVC’s predecessor, a district-run Alternative Schools program called MAP. “They will grow and they will get enough parents to buy in, so that one of our neighborhood public schools that serves all the children is not going to have enough numbers to justify staying open.”
Besides being California’s wealthiest county, Marin is one of its best educated. The high value its residents place on a quality education has given Marin County some of California’s highest-performing and most competitive schools — Trouble in California Eden: A Divided Marin County Community Gets a New Charter School | Alternet:

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