Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Taxpayers Get Billed for Kids of Millionaires at Charter School

Business Week with a real hatchet job on a charter school that serves a wealthy community in CA:

In Silicon Valley, Bullis elementary school accepts one in six kindergarten applicants, offers Chinese and asks families to donate $5,000 per child each year. Parents include Ken Moore, son of Intel Corp.'s co-founder, and Steven Kirsch, inventor of the optical mouse.

Bullis isn't a high-end private school. It's a taxpayer- funded, privately run public school, part of the charter-school movement that educates 1.8 million U.S. children. While charters are heralded for offering underprivileged kids an alternative to failing U.S. districts, Bullis gives an admissions edge to residents of parts of Los Altos Hills, where the median home is worth $1 million and household income is $219,000, four times the state average.

"Bullis is a boutique charter school," said Nancy Gill, a Los Altos education consultant who helps parents choose schools. "It could bring a whole new level of inequality to public education."

The growing ranks of U.S. charter schools in affluent suburbs are pitting neighbor against neighbor and, critics say, undercutting the original goals of the charter movement. Families who benefit cherish extensive academic offerings and small classes. Those who don't say their children are being shortchanged because the schools are siphoning off money and the strongest students, leaving school districts with higher expenses and fewer resources for poor, immigrant and special- needs kids.

Bullis Charter School offers its 465 students a rich, interdisciplinary education unavailable in regular schools, said Principal Wanny Hersey. She compared Bullis to Silicon Valley companies such as Apple Inc. -- whose leader, the late Steve Jobs, grew up in Los Altos.

I think ALL communities should have access to high-quality, innovative schools, and I know for sure that there are lots of regular public schools in wealthy communities that are delivering a mediocre education, yet nobody says anything because the test scores are good and most kids are going to college – but that's because of the parents, not the school.


Here's a response to the article by Caprice Young, former Chair of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools and the CA Charter School Assoc:


Bullis is a great school!  I would send my kids there in a heartbeat.  And, I wouldn't pay the $5,000 because I can't -- but my kids still could go there and benefit from the fact that those who could donate large sums do.


Every school I know fundraises: traditional, charter, private alike.  The fact that billionaires send their own children to public schools benefits everyone.  They could easily put their kids in private schools and their tuition would only benefit rich kids.  Great public schools, including charters, keep our society from getting more divided.  


Urban public school systems too often feel hostile to middle class families of all ethnicities, as if their kids aren't needy enough to warrant personal attention or a welcoming environment for parents.  That has to stop or our communities will become increasingly divided.


PS. Bullis Charter was created because the school district closed down the only elementary in a wealthier section of town.  The existence of Bullis has drawn those families back into a great public school.  Despite Bullis' growth and success, the district has refused for years to provide a facility -- something that is legally mandated in California.


Taxpayers Get Billed for Kids of Millionaires at Charter School

November 16, 2011, 10:20 AM EST

By John Hechinger

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