A private nonprofit charter school chain wants the city to act as a conduit financer for a $35 million loan to build another campus and make improvements at a couple others. Rocketship Education, owned by San Jose-based Launchpad Development Company, will ask the City Council to approve the bond issuance when it meets Tuesday.
The loan would pay for a fourth Rocketship in the Alumn Rock Mayfair neighborhood on South Jackson Street ($11 million) and for projects at already completed campuses on Story Road ($14 million) and Dobern Avenue ($10 million).
If approved, the loan would come from the California Municipal Finance Agency, an organization lambasted by State Treasurer Bill Lockyer for its lack of oversight. Rocketship critic Brett Bymaster pointed to an op-ed Lockyer wrote earlier this year.
“They’re governmental entities operating with authority provided and limited by state law,” Lockyer wrote for the Sac Bee. “But in practice, they’re private businesses masquerading as governmental entities. Their business models provide fertile ground for conflicts of interests and virtually no oversight of how their public funds are spent.”
Rocketship has been lauded for improving standardized test scores among primarily low-income students, and it’s in the running for a Race to the Top grant. But it’s also met with fierce opposition from some residents and educators, who argue that the nonprofit chain siphons off state and federal money that would otherwise help improve public schools. Bymaster and a group of other San Jose residents launched an anti-Rocketship website to stifle the company’s expansion.
Bymaster says he’s worried about the loan being financed through a cagey joint-powers agency and that money going to Rocketship could get diverted to expand the company in other states.
More from the San Jose City Council agenda for December 10, 2013:
• The city needs to be more transparent in the way it calculates overhead versus direct costs, according to an audit up for review.
• Residents wouldn’t mind another ¼-cent sales tax or renewing a library parcel tax for another nine years, according to a recent city-sponsored poll.
• Instead of rebuilding a burnt-down historic home, the city may accept a $1.9 million insurance settlement and have it totally demolished. The Kelley House was built in the 1860s and was rebuilt after a fire destroyed it in 1909. More than a century later, in 2012, another blaze gutted the home. The city suspected arson, but couldn’t prove it. City staff said the home could be rebuilt, but propose accepting the insurance payout instead.
• That labor agreement between the city and the Police Officers Association that would give officers a 10-percent raise over the next few years comes up for approval.
• Plans to crack down on medical marijuana collectives are up for review. But we already told you that.
WHAT: City Council meets
WHEN: 1:30pm Tuesday
WHERE: City Hall, 200 E. Santa Clara St., San Jose
INFO: City Clerk, 408-535-7611