Stop Living in the Past; Charter Schools Are Here to Stay

Remember when broadcast television was the only game in town? Rooftop antennas picked up signals from basically three major networks: ABC, NBC and CBS. Our options have vastly increased since those days. My son doesn’t even pay for cable. Instead, he live-streams shows online.

Amazon has joined Netflix in an effort to gain TV market share, allowing users to stream a seemingly endless variety of content. While the letter networks hope to cling to their ever-dwindling viewers, there’s no going back. A common theme in the disintegration of establishment is that monolithic institutions are loath to change. This mentality parallels the resistance to innovation in our public schools.

Santa Clara County is nearing the 10 percent mark for students enrolled in public charter schools, and yet opponents of that movement would prefer to maintain a status quo that no longer exists.

During last Wednesday’s Santa Clara County Board of Education meeting, I went to the dais prepared to oppose an appeal from Spark Charter School. The school wanted to open up at a public school campus in Sunnyvale. Spark’s petition was replete with exceptional examples of 21st century learning methods, which also aligned with common core standards. The discussion lasted more than two hours, with the public school district and the charter school arguing their positions. When it was over, I had changed my mind and, ultimately, my vote.

The county report was thorough and thoughtfully done. Staff recommended we deny the petition, based on Spark’s insufficient funding model and lack of curricular mapping for the sixth grade. Their application got conditional approval from Sunnyvale School District in 2013, but was denied this spring. Spark is a grassroots parent group that has worked for six years to secure a quality K-8 project-based learning model.

The district opened Fairwood Explorer Elementary School in Sunnyvale after parents petitioned the district for a school that emphasized project-based learning. But the county viewed Fairwood as a more traditional elementary school than one that focused on project-based learning.

Sunnyvale Superintendent Ben Picard gave me a glib answer when I asked how he would channel the district parents’ energy and passion if we voted to deny the project.

“Fairwood Explorer is thriving,” he said.

Yet Spark’s founders vehemently disagreed. They have patiently and creatively worked within charter school law to get their dream school opened in Sunnyvale with public funding.

Votes from the county board landed at 4-3 to approve Spark Charter’s opening in 2015-16. I was the swing vote. Had Picard convinced me he would honor parents’ wishes by working with them and bringing a project-based learning model to Sunnyvale, I would have voted “no.”

County school trustees Michael Chang, Darcie Green and Anna Song voted in line with the staff’s recommendation to deny—as I was poised to do. The next day a parent, Christine Hernandez, wrote me an email, thanking us for “restoring some faith in the system.”

Spark may struggle to open if it doesn’t get a $225,000 start-up grant by January, or if it has trouble finding a facility. Still, educators and policy makers should welcome the change brought about by these parent- and community-driven movements in public education. We should work diligently to have them succeed on behalf of children. Choice is the new norm. Let's embrace it.

Joseph Di Salvo is a member of the Santa Clara County Office of Education’s Board of Trustees. He is a San Jose native. His columns reflect his personal opinion.

40 Comments

  1. The title is incorrect; should say “Overpaid Administrator: For Profit Schools… Yay!”

    This clown is paid to manage PUBLIC EDUCATION, not help line pockets for Liccardo and his 1% financial backers.

    • In what way do you believe a grassroots group of parents (led by a bunch of mothers) are forming a for-profit school?
      You seem to be lashing out at something not based on the article you are commenting on.

    • Jate:

      What were you smoking when you wrote your comments? You are dead-wrong. Spark is a nonprofit public school started by 100% grassroots efforts: it was led by four moms and an educator. The founding team raised every dime they spent on the approval process through garage sales and parent donations. Some founders saved money from grocery bills every week in order to make a donation. You can’t get more grassroots than this.

  2. When charter schools start hiring credentialed teachers and administrators, and when they start paying teachers a livable wage, maybe then I will support them.

      • Do either of you care what parents and children have to say in this, or are you only concerned about the teachers and administrators? Quite frankly I think that is the problem with our system.

        • I AM thiinking of the kids! I am a teacher that rails against the privatizitaion and corporatization of our public school system! We see that in our prison system already. Charter schools throw out low-achieving students because they want high scores. Our public schools are full of the unwanted, I know because I teach many charter school rejects. Many low income parents cannot give the time commitment, and their kids are thrown out, too. So yes, I AM thinking of the CHILDREN, not parents or big money.

          • Downtown Dweller:

            You wrote that you teach in a district school and see charter school rejects. But have you taught at a charter school and see the vast number of district rejects that end up there? Yes, this may shock you–most students attending charter schools have been failed or rejected by their district schools and many of those kids have special needs that the district schools refused to provide services for. Discovery Charter Schools 1 and 2 have over 800 people on the waiting list each and I can guarantee you that many of those are refugees from the district schools around the area.

            I know of a parent with special needs children in the Sunnyvale School District who was refused appropriate services by the district and the principal then told the parent to send the children to charter schools instead. So Sunnyvale School District is actively kicking out their special needs kids to charter schools to avoid having to pay for special ed services. You are welcome for this information!

            Not every child is suitable for charter school, or district schools. The whole point of charter schools is to offer families a choice. Neither district schools nor charter schools are meant to be a good fit for every child. Let’s just accept the fact that when it comes to public education, no one size fits all and charter schools offer A CHOICE. You live in America and presumably enjoy choice for yourself, so let’s let Sunnyvale families have a choice in public education.

            And as for your claim that charter school kicks out families who can’t give the time, it is absolutely false. No public school can force a child to leave. And if any family felt this has happened to them, they can report this to the county and the charter will be revoked. Lest you are implying that Spark will do this, from what I have read and heard, Spark encourages parent participation but does not require it. And its literature says no child will be kicked out if their parents or extended family cannot participate in any way. Again, you are welcome for this information!

    • Are you regurgitating FUD from the Teacher’s Union? Or you just failed to do some research on the topic?

      http://www.ctc.ca.gov/employers/charter-schools.html

      Certification for Teachers and Other School Personnel
      Since January 1, 1999, all teachers in charter schools are required to hold either a teaching credential or other document equivalent to that which a teacher in other public schools would be required to hold issued by the Commission on Teacher Credentialing.

      Teachers in core or college preparatory courses must hold a valid credential equivalent to that which would be required of a teacher in a non-charter public school. The statute does not affect the qualifications for any service personnel (administrators, counselors, librarians or others) employed by the charter school.

      Assignment Monitoring
      Statute requires charter schools to maintain ‘on file’ the credentials, emergency/teaching permits or waivers which authorize individuals to teach in the schools. The chartering authority has the responsibility to conduct ‘periodic’ inspections of such documents.

      http://www.calcharters.org/understanding/faqs/

      Do charter school teachers have to have credentials?
      In California, charter schools are required to hire credentialed teachers for core and college preparatory subjects just like all other public schools.

      • Sorry, but many only have “an equivalent credential”. Charter schools are just another attempt at union-busting. I work with stellar, dedicated teachers in public schools. The answer is parent involvement and raising living standards, two things out of our control. Charter schools, as “private schools” can make participation mandatory, public cannot. A credentialed teacher has at least 6 years of education, followed up by 2 years of class/support, and frequent professional development. Stop treating us as idiots!

        • I find it amusing how all unionized teachers speak of all other [unionized] teachers as being most wonderful and talented, with no faults. Our current teacher is an emotional nutcase. While all the children in our class seem to love her, I do about her affect on young children. But nope, I must be wrong as just being unionized makes her “stellar”.

          My comments are not to be taken as anti union — I am a child of a unionized family. But simply being in a union doesn’t make you automatically better than those in your profession not in a union.

    • Spark has every intention of hiring credentialed teachers and a principal and will pay competitive wages. It will offer an alternative kind of education — hands-on, project-based, and facilitated by participating parents. But its students will take state standardized tests and conform to state educational standards. As a school of choice, if it isn’t excellent, it won’t draw enough enrollment to continue. Spark has no beef with teachers or other unions.

      • Can your teachers join a union, and do they receive benefits? Plus, you’re talking Common Core strategies, something we have already implemented in our classrooms. Teaching used to be an honorable prrofession. Now, we are underpaid, disrespected, and our financial future jeopardized by every “new idea” paid for by some billionaires who know nothing about education, just making money. Here, at the expense of teachers, who spend their own money in their classrooms.

        • Downtown Dweller, please articulate how Common Core has been implemented to date in the Sunnyvale School District. I’m just barely seeing it in our classroom. I’ve attended several BoE meetings and meetings at my child’s school. “Common Core” is the most over-used hyped phrase of the decade. Education’s version of “Java” for the software programming field.

    • Downtown Dweller: You should be able to rest easy on this one: California law requires ALL charter schools to hire credentialed teachers–Spark is no exception! And you should be glad to know that Spark will be paying a living-wage. Spark’s salary offer is comparable to a teacher in the Sunnyvale School District with 2-3 years of experience. So, thank you for your support of Spark!!!

  3. Yeah for school choice. I’m so tired of school districts serving the same product and expecting us all to just take it and say nothing. Only those rich enough to afford private schools have a choice in their child’s education, and that’s not fair. Charter schools and district magnet programs (when districts are willing to open them) are a great way to offer choice to parents who cannot afford choice through private schools. We need more forward thinking people like this. I’m happy to see parents are starting to have a say in their kids education, even if they are not wealthy. There are many new teaching models out there now. Let’s offer families a variety and let them choose which is best for their child.

  4. Charter schools have failed our kids, near universally. Their academic performance is across the board poorer than public schools, and they do not offer students important protection that public schools are required to, from religious proselytization to racial discrimination. Teachers are paid less and are less qualified.

    Spark is especially interesting, as they were denied in part by the SVL school district because Spark would not agree to be fully open to the public in a lottery. The organizer’s kids would have guaranteed admission. This is against Sunnyvale law. If you want a private school, then start a private school, with private funding.

    • @Lystal – I find your comment interesting. The article says these are parents staring the school, why should those parents who have spent so many hours – hours away from their family, friends, and most importantly, their children – not be guaranteed admission to the school they worked so hard to start? Also, these are parents in Sunnyvale who most likely pay property taxes, so it is their money. I believe this is typical for this type of charter school, and founders kids are usually capped at 10% of admissions so 90% of the school will be kids who benefit even though their parents didn’t do much (or possibly anything) to start the school. This sounds fair to me. I don’t think anyone would make such a sacrifice if their kids were not going to benefit. Let’s be reasonable.

    • LYSTAL: Your facts are incorrect. The Sunnyvale School District has failed students for decades. Look at the records of Discovery Charter School, Summit Charter and Rocketship Charter Schools and you will find that these schools easily outperforms most Sunnyvale District Schools.

      According to a recent Harvard study, which was cited by Joe Di Salvo on the Oct 1 board meeting, Sunnyvale graduates is among the bottom 3 districts in the South Bay for employment. And according to a report published by Innovate Public Schools, the district also has one of the lowest rates when it comes to Latino kids being Algebra ready after graduating middle school. This is an indicator for college readiness. Don’t take my word for it. Read the report yourself. http://innovateschools.org/files/IPS_Report-2013_v10-ONSCREEN.pdf

      Don’t you think it’s time that Sunnyvale families get a real choice in public education?

      Also, you seem to be misinformed about there being a “Sunnyvale Law” that does not allowing founder’s children to be given priority. First, Sunnyvale does not have a “law” on this. Second: federal and state law BOTH ALLOW for founders children to be given admissions preference, up to 10%. Spark did exactly what the federal and state laws allowed and Sunnyvale School District had no right to ask Spark to do otherwise. Next time, please get your facts right first.

  5. Mr. Di Salvo:

    Thank you for doing right by the children of Sunnyvale. Your vote gave families a meaningful choice in public education in Sunnyvale.

    The Sunnyvale School District has failed our children for decades without any meaningful oversight from the local school board or any real consequences from the state department of education. The county may not have felt that Spark presented a strong enough education model for its students to succeed, but it should know that the district’s education model has proven to have failed students for decades. You made the right decision to give those parents a chance to prove themselves. I have been following them for a long time and have so much respect for the founding team–they are am amazing group of dedicated parents and educators.

    There seem to be a double standard in the charter approval process: a charter school must prove that it can succeed before it can be approved while the district schools are allowed to fail students for decades without being held accountable while the state pours gobs of money to in an effort to “cure.” Had the county staff reviewed the district’s performance with the same criteria that it examined Spark, I highly doubt that it will give the district a passing mark.

    Some county board members said they were concerned about the disruption on the families if Spark fails. My family is willing to take a chance with Spark. We already know we have no real chance of getting a sound education in our district school. And we cannot afford private school. And if Spark’s education model fails, it would be no worse than the education my child would have gotten from our district school anyway. For me, that is a risk worth taking. I am glad the majority of the county board members feel the same. Thank you, Joe, for your swing vote!

    Until Spark, Sunnyvale families who desires a good education has had to send their kids to private schools. Many are not wealthy families with a lot of discretionary income to spend on private school tuition. They borrow from grandparents, cash in their 401k’s, delay buying homes to pay the tuition. The district has always glibly maintained that those families have the “right to attend private school.” Now, thanks to your swing vote, Joe, those kids –and ALL kids in Sunnyvale — will also have a right to “attend a public school” that will meet their needs.

    The county vote should serve as a wake-up call for the Sunnyvale School Board, which has turned a blind eye to the district’s failures for decades and continues to rubber-stamp the district staff, rewarding top staffers with generous pay raises in the face of their incompetence. The county board members asked the Sunnyvale Superintendent the questions that district board members should have been asking all along.

    • You have used the word “failed” several times to support your assertion. By what evidence can you support the word “fail” in Sunnyvale?

  6. Don’t people realize that you are supposed to be involved in your child’s education, whether in public, private, or charter schools? Charter schools aren’t the magic bullet. If parents came to meetings, if they helped with homework, if they even stepped foot on school grounds, we would have better results. Where were these founding parents when their kids were in public school? This school is scary, because to me, it sounds as if the parents want to separate “the wheat from the chaff”, meaning segregation.

    • Downtown Dweller:

      You are absolutely right about engaged parents. As for your question of where those charter founding parents were when they are/were in the district school,they were volunteering thousands(!) of hours in their district magnet program, Fairwood Explorer, over 3 years trying to make improvements: they volunteered 2-hour shifts in the classroom each week, they spent their evening hours attending committee meetings on ffundraising, curriculum enrichment, gardening, fieldtrip, and research on the latest innovative education methods, and the parent board members also took time off attending board meetings during the day. They did this willingly and voluntarily.

      But a lot of those time/efforts went no where–the principal rejected any/all suggestions to explorer curriculum outside that the district uses, refused to let the teachers be trained on project-based learning, refused to let parents be given information about project-based learning(she said publicly in a board meeting that she doesn’t want parents to learn about what innovative educational methods are going on because then parents would demand it and the district would not provide it and there would be conflicts. (yes, true fact, even a Spark founder attested to that at the county board hearing).

      The district also rebuffed an attempt by those parents to expand the magnet program from k-5 to k-8, after misleading the parents that it was supportive–and making parents waste hundreds of hours of their collective time to design and create a k-8 program presentation. The district told parents that they wanted to see interest. Thinking that the k-8 expansion proposal had a real shot of getting approved by the district, many parents voluntarily spent their weekends at local farmers market gathering signatures to fulfil the district request of “demonstrating interest.” All the while, the district staff thwarted any attempt for those parents to reach out to district families. The parents wanted to go into the local district schools to tell parents about the program but the principals of those schools would not let our parent volunteers inside their school and had parents who stayed by the gate to pass out fliers about the k-8 proposal shooed away. After putting parents through all this work, the district then recommended denial and the school board voted unanimously to deny the k-8 expansion request.

      So, Downtown Dweller, in case you are now wondering why a school district would drive away a group of such passionate, engaged parents by refusing to collaborate with them? I am wondering the same. If you can figure out the reason, please share it here and enlighten us all.

    • Downtown Dweller, I do step foot on the school grounds often. My wife *IS* volunteering in the classroom at our Sunnyvale District Elem. school. In fact, this year’s teacher is kicking parents out of the classroom by reducing the number of hours she’s allowing is to be in the classroom.

      NO, we’re not trying to separate “the wheat from the chaff”. We’re trying to separate from a school system that has and is limiting our ability to enrich our children’s education because it isn’t the traditional “done this way for decades” manner.

  7. Too many parents are drinking the Charter School Kool-Aid. Figures lie, and liars figure, so we will see where thiis goes. Teachers in public school are doing the best job with what little money we receive. As a Title 1 school, we have to beg for technology donations. Hey, Bill Gates, how about throwing some of your money into improving the lives and education of students in public schools? Public schools fail because parents let them.

    • Downtown Dweller: You keep on talking about teachers in “public school” are doing the best job with what little money they receive. I assume the “public school” you mention are district schools. Charter schools are also public schools and face exactly the same issues. And yes, they are also doing the best they can with what little money they get from the state.

      About your statement: “Public Schools fail because parents let them.” I assume you mean “district schools fail because parents let them.” If so, this is completely erroneous in the case of Sunnyvale. Spark was born after every effort by parents to collaborate and engage with the district has been rejected.

      The parents who started this charter school tired valiantly to make improvements within the district before deciding to go charter.

      Several key founders of Spark first founded a district magnet program, the Fairwood Explorer. For three years, they and many other parents in that school volunteered a ton of their time and effort to get the district to make improvements, to bring in innovative programming, to give parent education about those programming and to train teachers to learn how to teach project-based learning. But the district refused to collaborate with those parents or make any changes. It refused to let teachers get training on how to do project-based learning. The district lied, cheated and double-talked those parents with false promises and downright refusals. It finally dawned on those parents that the district did not want to make any improvements but rather wanted to keep the status quo and retain power. And the district board blindly supported that by not holding the staff accountable. It wasn’t until Spark started its charter process that the district finally allowed Explorer teachers to get training on project-based learning. Competition does wonders! And children in Sunnyvale are the winners because of it.

      So, a better assessment of why Sunnyvale School District fails its students for decades on end is is perhaps best summed up thusly: “Sunnyvale School District fails because those in power want to keep control to protect their careers and salaries. And the district board is enabling that.” It is definitely not for lacking of trying to collaborate or engage on the part of the parents, as you suggested in your posting,

      So, yes, hopefully, Spark will be a public school that SUCCEEDS because parents let it!

      • I am very familiar with the Fairwood Explorer program and can attest to everything Pamla W. wrote. How sad to see the district squandering such passion and good will from those parents. Glad that they finally got their charter approved. Spark will be phenomenal. Best of luck!

    • Downtown Dweller, if you’re a teacher in the Sunnyvale Elem. School District (SESD) you don’t get “what little money we receive”. SESD is a Basic-Aid district. SESD gets much more in per-student property-tax money than ADA districts. So SESD has the money.

      In fact one reason they have more money is they get to keep the property tax $$$ even if a child resident does not attend SESD schools. I don’t know which bright person in Sacramento came up with this scheme… I’ve heard the ex-Asst. Superintendent say that SESD was not interested in the SESD magnet programs being too good, as they could pull kids back into SESD from private schools. SESD enjoys the $$$ they get for the ~20% “flight” from the district to private schools.

  8. Let’s agree on one point, sir.

    Charter Schools are here to stay. That is acceptable to me.

    I will stand by you in complete agreement.

    Now can I just make a few points about the rising political power of charter schools, and I know, and I know that teacher unions are powerful, perhaps too powerful?

    a. Jude Barry and Jay Rosenthal, two political consultants with a colorful record, formed a Santa Clara County Charter Schools PAC and pumped over a 100 grand into the election process, and I am sure they took a few dollars for their own fees,

    b. Among the politicians to receive all this money was Magdelena Carrasco.

    c. from what I see, Mr. Barry is now a college trustee of USF. Somewhat akin to Boss Tweed become a member of the Harvard Board of Overseers.

    Also, the Charter Schools PAC took a direct aim at Chris Stampolis, a person who seems to like to shove women, and Anna Song, who apparently shoved back, and they lost. Yes, Jude Barry claiming to be an expert in Santa Clara not only spent thousands of dollars collected from “marks,” or should I say contributors to defeat Stampolis and Song and he missed the mark badly.

    Now Barry is apparently working for Related, and perhaps walking through the raindrops to assist candidates without declaring it, and also giving a ton of help to charter schools like Magnolia Science Academy which employs one time critics of Jude, Michele Ryan and Christine Koltermann. But, hey, fellas, he can be flexible, when a quarter is loaded into his meter.

    What is my point?

    If we are to accept Charter Schools, and we have to accept them, no doubt about it. Then why do we have to accept the political machine and the hired henchman like Barry, they employ?

    Again aren’t charter schools different than powerful teacher unions?? Aren’t they supposed to be??

    You all tell me. What is next, Joe Trippi and Rich Robinson are going to be working for Oxford University?

  9. I am glad to see the county board realized the value of choice and that there is room for charter school in the public school system. It is incorrect to say that charter schools are against teachers. Teaching is a noble profession and teachers play a valuable in the development of our children.
    It is the incompetence of the Sunnyvale school district, Dr. Picard and his staff that we should directing our ire.

  10. I think it’s really interesting that with so many comments, no one has brought up the freedom that charter schools can provide for learning. We started our child in a local district school (with good ratings) and had amazing teachers. That said, those teachers’ hands were bound in so many ways, and all of the kids were being taught the exact same thing in the exact same way, at the exact same time. They also spent from Jan – April each year on test prep for the STAR testing. The teachers hated this but were forced by the district to comply. They were, as stated previously, doing their very best in a restricted situation. My child was stifled, bored, and getting bombarded with homework every night. So, we moved him to Discovery Charter School. His love of learning has blossomed, he is hungry for knowledge, and he has so much choice in the focus of his education. He’s helping to shape what and how he learns because his voice matters. He didn’t get that at the district school. The charter is also able to make changes as needed without going through tons of red tape because they aren’t bound to the same restrictions.
    In terms of unionizing, I can say that (as someone who worked on a CTA branch executive board) I was concerned about this. When we moved over to DCS, I spoke with many teachers on this matter. Their responses? They were happy to trade union safety for academic freedom. These teachers could go teach in the district schools (they are credentialed, experienced, and fantastic), but they choose the charter. I’d support offering them union coverage in an instant, but that’s a little hard when so many district teachers are screaming about the un-credentialed charter teachers failing our students — you can’t bash them and then try to say you want them protected at the same time. It would be awesome to see these incredible educators brought into CTA and respected for the very difficult work they do.
    The district model works for some kids and not for others. It also works for some teachers and not for others. As an educator myself and a parent who has seen both systems, I am a huge advocate for having this choice.

  11. Mr. Di Salvo:

    Thank you for voting to support Spark. Now families in Sunnyvale will have a reason to stay. I was so sad to see a number of my good friends and neighbors sell their homes and move to districts with better educational programs and choices. They told me that they didn’t want to sell but had no choice. I don’t understand why the district doesn’t want to do more to keep families. I am not against district schools. But so glad to see a choice, too. I’d like to see families stay in Sunnyvale.

  12. Our school districts are being run like cold-hearted corporations… like charter schools. After seeing the carnage corporations create, and how districts reacted with lay-offs of tenured teachers in the early 2000’s, I would NEVER trade the union for “academic freedom”. Exactly what is “academic freedom”? Freedom from state tests? From Common Core? From benefits and pensions?

    • @Downtown Dweller. According to the teachers with whom I’ve spoken, it’s freedom from the restrictions imposed by district schools. More so, it’s freedom TO: make learning student centered; let students guide their own education and to serve as a facilitator rather than a classroom dictator; plan a curriculum around student interests instead of teaching exactly what a district board wants you to teach; freedom to take the time to let kids enjoy their learning and to explore topics in depth; freedom to work outside of a regulated schedule.
      At Discovery Charter, we don’t have a whole classroom of kids reading the same book at the same time. Students are given options, pick from those options what interests THEM, and have small group book clubs with other students and parents. They don’t use textbooks; they don’t have to stop having an important conversation because they are ‘out of time’ — what’s important to the students takes precedence, and they care about important matters because they are taught to care about the world around them: they are taught to take hold of their education rather than just receive a schooling. The 5th grade kids at this charter school are — by far — stronger critical thinkers than the majority of the college students from district schools who step into my community college classrooms. It’s inspiring to see these kids work and think and grow everyday, and it’s sad that more district schools aren’t seeing the same results in their own schools.
      I’m sad that you have such a close-minded and negative opinion of charter schools and that you lump all of them into one category. I’m not sure in which district you teach, but I encourage you to come by Discovery Charter School — meet up with our principal, take a tour of the school, check out what’s happening in some of the classrooms. Rather than drawing battle lines, maybe come and see for yourself. No school is ‘perfect’, and we could all learn a lot from each other. If you do decide to come, I’d be really interested to meet up with you to chat about your observations, about what you saw and liked and also about where you think our classrooms could make improvements. Education is not about one way — kids are all different and they need different options. But, we can all provide helpful feedback for one another.

  13. Spark is a true grass-roots initiative by parents. These families saw a need and they put in the hours (years, in fact) of hard work to improve Sunnyvale schools and meet the needs of kids who are not thriving in the Sunnyvale district’s public schools. They did this all this work and now every family in Sunnyvale benefits from it because parent will have one more choice in education.

    There is no greedy corporation here. Supporters of Spark held garage sale fundraisers and gave up restaurant meals and movies to save money and donate it to this cause. Spark was put together on nothing but donations and the sweat and toil of its supporters.

    Should I volunteer in my neighborhood school and make it better rather than sending my kid to a charter school? Oh puhleeze. I threw all my time and energy into our local school, and it barely made a dent. The teachers and administrators are not interested in taking input from parents. My favorite quote from our time in the Sunnyvale district schools came from an administrator who held up her hand in front of my face and said, “Stop. We don’t take parent input on your child….” And that attitude is pervasive in the entire district. They don’t want your input. They don’t want your help in problem solving or your expertise (and silicon valley parents have plenty of expertise to offer!) They would like your money, but they don’t want your input on how to spend it.

    Is there any question that Sunnyvale schools need to be shaken up? My hope is that having a progressive, thriving charter school in the mix will convince all the district schools to start adopting the techniques that succeed at Spark. Everyone will benefit.

    • Well said!

      But, don’t settle for half measures.

      The political establishment is not doing us any favors by allowing US to spend OUR tax dollars on schools that they still control indirectly.

      We need a full school voucher system.