Diverse Schools Show Stopper | All the Nation Is Porter Ranch | International Validation | Running Faster With the Reds | The Blues Have Nowhere to Run

Good day, CharterFolk.

Atmospheric river travel complications knocked out a good chunk of writing time this weekend. My regrets getting this out to you later than I hoped.

Let’s get straight to it.

Diverse Schools Show Stopper

It was a great opportunity to be with the Diverse Charter Schools Coalition in LA last week, as well to publish Sonia’s great Contributor Column

… about the remarkable progress that the Coalition has made over its first decade and its goals for the future.

The show-stopper?

DCSC’s vision for doubling enrollment by the end of the decade.

DCSC has an ambitious goal, we hope that, by 2030 over 200,000 students will be in charter schools where they learn with and from students who don’t look, think, or believe as they do

Exactly the kind of moxie the entire charter school movement should seek to summon in the Era Beyond the Beginning.

What strengthens the barbell more than any other thing?

Growth!

Which is why I’d love to see the entire charter school movement emulating DCSC, setting aspirational goals for growth between now and the end of the decade.

How does five million kids in charter schools grab you, CharterFolk?

So to everyone at the Coalition, thank you for providing critically needed leadership right now, not just continuing to advocate so effectively for the diverse schools that your organization is known for, but also modeling for our entire movement as we venture further into the Era Beyond the Beginning.

All the Nation is Porter Ranch

Los Angeles, as it always does, provides a backdrop of educational brokenness that puts our work in broader repose.

At precisely the moment that DCSC – an organization committed to creating new schools that transcend education redlines walling kids of different backgrounds off from one another – gathered in the City of Angels, what came out?

The story of a school that is building those redlining walls anew.

Porter Ranch Community School has become, literally, the only school of 1302 campuses operated by the Los Angeles Unified School District to be over-enrolled.

Porter Ranch, for those of you who are not familiar with LA, is a new development providing housing to the affluent. In a recent “Top 10 Richest Neighborhoods” list …

… Porter Ranch ranked number four, behind Bel Air, Palisades and Brentwood.

It’s a project whose approval was first granted over 30 years ago …

… encompassing a 1300-acre parcel of land that became among the last areas to be developed anywhere in LA county.

The way the development got built, the school was completed in advance of many of the homes. So people from outside the area, unhappy with the schools they had been assigned to, choiced in to Porter Ranch. Early on the school was touted as some kind of trend-bucker.

But now the rest of the homes have been constructed. So the school is bursting at the seams. Apparently 70 families residing within Porter Ranch were turned away this year. So now the district is considering all sorts of responses. None of them are decided upon yet, except one:

Parents were told that about 63 students from outside the neighborhood attend the school on a permit — and that no new permits would be approved.

No more kids from outside Porter Ranch will be admitted.

The kicker?

18% of Porter Ranch’s students are eligible for free and reduced price meals.

Just down the hill, Chatsworth is 68%.

District-wide the rate is 81%.

So a school that had previously achieved at least a modicum of diversity for a moment in time is having that diversity erased as those with vested rights kick out others who have no such rights.

Showing that Porter Ranch is not a trend bucker.

It’s a trend revealer.

Demonstrating a phenomenon that plays out in community after community across our country:

More desired educational opportunity is allocated to families with means, and less desired opportunity is provided to those without.

Sadly, CharterFolk, all the nation is Porter Ranch.

Making the work of DCSC, and indeed of us all, among the most important endeavors being taken on in our society today.

International Validation

Last week charter schools got important validation from an international source.

The academic progress that charter schools are making in the United States constitutes international news.

The Economist thought the story so important, it essentially ran it twice on the same day, with slightly different headlines.

As we would expect from an international publication looking at things from a distance, the broad contours are right.

CREDO and other indicators show that charter schools are improving academic offerings at a multi-million-student scale.

But the nuance is missing, particularly the sub-headline asserting that “both parties are running away from charter schools.”

Let me explain.

Running Faster With the Reds

In red states like Tennessee, it is true, as we saw again last week …

… that policy makers are putting new energy into universal vouchers. And I have certainly highlighted here at CharterFolk how the quest for so-called “universal” vouchers, if they are not carefully designed …

… could end up creating even more Porter Ranches.

But a summary that reds are “running away ” from charter schools?

Really?

When the state not so long ago …

… created a statewide commission allowing charter schools to grow across the state and giving charter schools an appeal body when school districts unfairly deny their petitions?

That’s running away?

That commission is now turning over new charter school denials …

… coming in from communities across the state …

… and a new change in the state’s funding formula …

… is putting an end to the days where local public education funding would only go to support the local school district, rather than to charter schools also.

So, while, it’s absolutely outrageous that places like Rocketship Nashville are having to go through the ordeal of appealing charter denials to the state commission, like they had to do last week …

… the time has come for us to expand our thinking.

Why not use the moment to advance an agenda that leverages the new language coming out of red contexts?

Universal vouchers?

Give us universal charter schools!

A way to apply directly to the state commission in a pre-check-like way so that charter schools can grow as intuitively as private schools can.

And get us an equitable share, not just of the local operating dollars that come to school districts, but their facilities dollars too so that we can acquire and develop the buildings we need to become truly universal.

CharterFolk, in many red contexts, it completely misses the reality of the situation to describe policy makers as “running away” from charter schools.

It’s more that policy makers are simply running faster.

And our job is to keep at the head of the pack, so that we have as good a chance as possible to keep school choice aspiring toward true universalness.

Perhaps our best way to get there?

Do like DCSC is doing.

Articulate a shared goal of doubling enrollment by 2030!

Come on, TennesseeFolk!

Give us a show stopper of your own!

The Blues Have Nowhere to Run

I’ll wrap up returning to the subject of the second article from the Economist.

Dems supposedly “running away” from charter schools.

Apparently, even people on the other side of the Atlantic can see that blue places like Chicago, Denver, Philadelphia and New York have gone through moments of greater consolidation of power under the local teacher union and other status quo interests.

What they miss, being an ocean away, is what happens inevitably thereafter.

The establishment drives their schools into the ditch …

… such that any politician in their right mind has to pivot.

The pivoting, as we have been writing about often here at CharterFolk, goes on and on.

The latest pivot is occurring right where DCSC met last week.

Los Angeles is having school board elections next month.

Status quo protectors are retiring.

And new candidates supportive of charter schools look to be in a very strong position to recapture majority control of the board.

So when you see reports of these patently absurd efforts to kick thousands of charter school students out of district facilities …

… try to keep focused on what is really happening here.

UTLA and other status quo protectors see what the Economist can’t yet:

That a pivot is coming.

So they’re trying to lock in some win while they still can. Thus, the huge rush to get things approved before the election occurs in March.

Their problem is the patent absurdity of the proposal they are attempting to advance.

It rivals, if not surpasses, any dysfunction we have seen in Denver or anywhere else.

LAUSD now serves roughly half the students its own projections identified when they went to the voters for their last round of bond financing.

And now they want to claim that they somehow don’t have enough facilities to share with charter schools?

Even Howard Blume, notoriously district-sided in his reporting for more than a decade now, included this zinger statement in his coverage about Porter Ranch.

L.A. Unified, whose enrollment is expected to plunge by nearly 30% over the next decade, has virtually unlimited classroom space in general, but not in Porter Ranch. 

Would that we could get Howard or anyone from the LA Times for that matter to cite the district having “virtually unlimited classroom space” anytime they are covering a Prop 39 story!

Or would that we could get them to point out the blatant nonsense that the district is supposedly going to operate program enhancement after program enhancement at the 350 under-utilized campuses they are trying to kick charter school kids out of.

Look at the very next item on the agenda that came up after the board considered its new Prop 39 policy.

New projections from district staff identifying a half billion dollar shortfall in 2025, and a 2.5 billion dollar shortfall in 2026.

And the district is claiming it will offer great new programs at empty campus after empty campus for years to come?

This, CharterFolk, is what’s really going on.

The status quo is experiencing profound, profound desperation.

And don’t get me wrong. I get it. Their Prop 39 ideas are scary.

None of us should be complacent. We’ve all got to do our parts here.

CCSA will have to sue yet again, and we all have to get out the vote for these elections.

But once the dust settles on the other side, the courts and the new board will recognize the patently obvious, which is that LA Unified has more than enough facilities to go around.

And a new day will emerge again for LA charter schools.

Underscoring the reality that all policy makers in blue contexts have to contend with, which is that, while status quo interests may want them to run away from charter schools, the plain truth is that they’ve got nowhere to run.

District schools are going to keep becoming ever more dysfunctional.

Meaning everyone – parents, students, educators and yes, policy makers – are going to keep turning to charter schools more and more.

Requiring that we become even more ready for the Era Beyond the Beginning that is now unfolding.

My recommendation?

Look to DCSC as an example.

Not just as individual schools, or small pods of schools, but as broad coalitions.

Dare I say an entire national movement?

Coming together to articulate aspirational plans that will play out across decades.

Generating levels of impact that will be seen across continents.

Such that even the Economist reporting from afar will get the entire story correct.

A show-stopper indeed.