Comstock's magazine 0419 - April 2019 - Page 52

n EDUCATION G race Kampmeinert has to fire off a lot of emails before CHANGE ALREADY UNDERWAY the bell rings, signaling the end of fourth period. The After California’s law went into effect, the charter school sys- eighth-grader at Natomas Charter School, along with tem experienced a double-digit rate of expansion over the two of her peers, handles quality control for a website next two decades, until the pace of new schools slowed in of stock media, a seven-month-long legacy project in recent years, according to a report from the California Char- her technology class. These three students determine if sub- ter Schools Association. California’s roughly 1,300 charter mitted photographs, short videos and audio clips are good schools enroll about 650,000 students — or 10 percent of the enough for inclusion, and provide feedback on each piece via state’s public school students. email. Kampmeinert is a manager, overseeing production While charter schools are publicly funded, they’re pri- managers and their team advisers. vately managed and exempt from many of the rules, regula- “It’s a tedious process,” Grace says, “but somebody has to tions and statutes other public schools must follow. Former do it.” Gov. Jerry Brown, a charter advocate, vetoed bills that would Each October, eighth-graders in Natomas Charter have required charters to more closely follow regulations im- School’s Leading Edge Academy identify a problem — in posed on traditional public schools. In 2018, Brown did sign a this case, a lack of creative materials in the public domain ban on for-profit charter schools that goes into effect this July — and build a solution. Technology teacher Trisha Sanchez and gives operators a five-year grace period to comply. Crit- handpicks three managers ics say the law doesn’t go far in each of her classes, then enough to fix deeper prob- steps aside. “My main focus lems within what is widely is to teach collaboration and known as the wild west of to give them real-world job California’s charter system experience,” she says. — out of the state’s 1,300- Natomas Charter School plus charter schools (the ex- was one of the first charter act number fluctuates due to schools in the Sacramento the closing and opening of region following the passage new schools), only about 35 of California’s charter school are impacted. law in 1992. Charters are According to Sun, Cali- public, tuition-free schools fornia’s charter school law to which the law gives a wide has been patched up over berth for innovation and the years in a manner that - Ting Sun, flexibility in curriculum, in- doesn’t address deeper in- executive director, Natomas Charter School struction, hiring and man- frastructure issues. “I feel agement to help meet the di- like we have a little bit of a verse needs of students. The Winchester Mystery House law, however, hasn’t gone law right now — ‘Let’s ad- through much comprehen- dress this here, and address sive reform over the past 27 years, despite some tough les- this here, and we’re suspicious this abuse is happening, so sons learned along the way. With a new governor in office, let’s do this here.’ So we’ve got this kind of crazy patch quilt that may change. of legislation around charters.” Many of those working within and outside the charter But a new administration has alarmed many in the move- movement across the Capital Region believe the time for a ment — both Gov. Gavin Newsom and State Superintendent close and careful look at the law has arrived. Over the years, of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond express skepticism much of the interest in reform has focused on transparency over charter schools. Newsom defeated charter advocate An- as well as who authorizes these schools and what it means for tonio Villaraigosa and pro-charter groups spent $34 million where they locate. trying to get Thurmond’s opponent, charter school execu- “It is time for us to take a look again at the charter law tive Marshall Tuck, elected. Newsom and Thurmond instead and go back to what the original intent of that law was, garnered support from teacher unions (most charters are because we’ve evolved in all these different ways,” says not unionized). Ting Sun, cofounder and executive director of Natomas Under the new administration, legislation has been in- Charter School. troduced to cap the number of charter schools in California, “It is time for us to take a look again at the charter law and go back to what the original intent of that law was, because we’ve evolved in all these different ways.” 52 | April 2019