Charter Schools in Berkeley
Archived Q&A and Reviews
I am wondering if anyone has thought about founding a K-5 charter school in Berkeley? I know there is a new 6-8 charter school called REALM, but I'm curious to know why there isn't already a K-5 charter school. Has one been attempted and failed in the past? Have any community groups formed to begin working through the process? Does anyone have any idea why there isn't already a K-5 charter school in Berkeley? Do you think there would be interest in starting a progressive K-5 charter school? Thanks! Curious about charter schools
Since people are generally very pleased with the quality of public K-5 education in Berkeley, no one has felt a need to start a charter school there. In fact, I'm kind of surprised to see Realm there, as the Berkeley middle schools are pretty solid as well. But even if you live in Berkeley, that doesn't mean you are not eligible to attend charters in other districts, like NOCCS, for example. I'm not a fan of charters, however, and would happily send my kid to any public non-charter school in Berkeley. And many in Oakland as well... We need fewer charters, not more
Why is there no charter elementary school in berkeley? Not sure but could be that the array of public elementary schools and private and catholic elementary schools, in and near berkeley all combine to meet the needs of most students and their families. I understand that typically charter schools are set up to address an unmet need in public schools. In your experience what is (are) that (those) unmet need(s)? I dont think the school district nor many BUSD families would be supportive of a charter school just for the sake of having a charter school. Could also be an issue of unions as most (but not all) charter schools are not unionized. Personally i believe that unions are good things for teachers : not perfect but good. The teacher union in the BUSD is strong and generally well supported by BUSD families. Another BUSD Parent and union supporter
There are no K-5 charter schools in Berkeley because our school board directors have rejected every charter school application brought to them except for one: Realm, which is a 6-12 founded by a former BUSD principal. According to a Daily Cal blog from Oct 2011 ''the district had found fault with every proposal brought forward, rejecting numerous over the past several years .... officials in the Berkeley Unified School District have said multiple times that charters are typically looking to make a profit, not educate students.'' see http://www.dailycal.org/2011/10/10/staff-recommends-berkeley-school-district-reject-charter-proposal/
Although charter schools are not administered by the school district they are located in, they must still be approved by that district, and BUSD has never approved one except for Realm, which was started by one of their own. Why is this? We are not allowed to know. BUSD has no information on its own website about the charter school approval process, and has not provided information to the website for the US Dept of Education's Charter School Catalog that keeps track of how many applications have been submitted for each school district nationwide, and how many were approved. (See http://catalog.charterschoolcenter.org/authorizer/berkeley-unified-school-district).
My guess, as a long-time BUSD parent, is that BUSD's history of strong loyalty to teachers' unions has influenced its decisions when it comes to charter schools. Teachers' unions strongly oppose charter schools because charter schools are not obligated to adopt the contracts between unions and the local school district. Charter schools can hire and fire teachers according to the school's own needs and goals, not according to contracts that are designed to protect jobs and benefits. By refusing to allow charter schools, the Berkeley School District is protecting the teachers unions' interests and serving their needs, not the needs of kids and parents in the district. BUSD is deciding for parents what options we will have for our kids.
Bottom line: if BUSD schools aren't working for your child, and you can't afford private school, you are just out of luck. Check out one of the 30+ charter schools in Oakland.