One of the reasons given for approving charter schools is that they provide more choices for parents. However, about 30% of these schools are converted from existing public schools, actually removing the choice of a neighborhood public school for those families who live in the area. Parents who feel that the neighborhood school is the best option are left dealing with a school that “is free from most regulations that apply to school districts,” resulting in the loss of important protections.
Our neighborhood school is Granada Hills Charter High School (GHCHS). Having this charter as a homeschool automatically disqualifies two of our daughters from attending a school with their neighbors as GHCHS does not serve special education students who cannot be mainstreamed. The school does not provide their own special day classes so both girls are transported to schools outside of our area. Our two other children are current students and my oldest daughter graduated from the school four years ago. My wife also graduated from the school before it broke from district control. My family has experienced the tradeoffs of giving a separate bureaucracy control over a school.
The most recent issue that we faced was the school’s expectation that we sign away our rights in order for our daughter to participate in an academic activity that will take place as part of the regular school day. Without a plan for the campus, GHCHS spent $5.6 million to purchase the land that housed Pinecrest’s facilities in Northridge, depriving another set of parents of their choice. Two years after this purchase the charter school will use this campus for the first time to administer AP tests. Since these new facilities are “about a mile” from the main campus, a field trip slip is required for students to participate. Included in this slip is a phrase that states “all person making this field trip are deemed to have waived all claims against the District and its employees and the State of California for injury, accident, illness, or death occurring during or by any reason of the field trip.” When we called to inform the school that we would not waive these rights, we were told that they would find room for our daughter on the main campus. It is not clear why anyone should have to be sent off campus for these tests.
The school also violates their students’ privacy rights. “To participate in the graduation ceremony” seniors must submit a Senior Survey which is not anonymous. This questionnaire includes questions about college grants and scholarships that the student has been offered and the amounts of these offerings. These are questions that have nothing to do with the student’s high school experience and the school should not be forcing the students to divulge it to them, particularly without their parents’ permission.
Unfortunately, GHCHS does not seem to think much about a parent’s privacy either. I provided them with my e-mail address so that they could provide me with appropriate information about my child’s education, but in the past week they have sent me messages asking me to express my support for pro-charter school legislation that is being heard in Sacramento. In addition to violating the trust with which that e-mail address was provided, it also calls into question how public funds are being used. Charter schools are privately run but publicly funded, and these funds should not be used to promote a legislative agenda.
The charter industry promotes their schools as experiments in education and claims that they have superior results than public schools. In reality, these results are rendered moot by the failure to maintain a consistency among the two groups of schools. It is time for parents and taxpayers to demand an adherence to the rules along with measured academic outcomes.