Tag Archives: Independent Charter School

Initiative That Would Shut Down Charter Schools In California Cleared To Gather Signatures


Charter schools in California have come under criticism over the past few years, due to waste, mismanagement and fraud. While there are some excellent charter schools, a number of charter schools that have failed due to poor student outcomes or financial instability, suggests greater legislation and oversight is necessary

The attached article was published in CBS Sacramento yesterday. This is a great place to start the conversation towards completely revamping charter law.

Rocketship Charter to Petition the California State Board of Education

Stakeholders for Transparency urges you to contact the California State Board of Education, and request they deny the petition for Rocketship Charter School. The board will be hearing the petition on March 9, so the earlier the better!

Rocketship charter is known for it’s intense “drill and kill” curriculum. which is not at all suitable for young children.

Rocketship charter has targeted students in the Monument Corridor, promising their families better schools. Rocketships main reason for targeting the Monument community is purely financial. With the new LCAP school funding, students who qualify as English Language Learners, and for free/reduced lunch are worth more money than students who do not. The current oversight of Charter Schools in California is abysmal, at best. There is no guarantee that the additional funding would be spent on ELL programs.

Placing Rocketship in Concord will not create additional jobs, or bring any additional funding to the city.

What it will do, is divide our communities. Our school district is zoned for neighborhood schools. Children and families need the support of their communities, and in turn, work to better their own schools. Rocketship has not been able to secure a site for their school, so MDUSD is forced to offer them equitable space. MDUSD has approved a resolution to place Rocketship at Ayers Elementary, and Silverwood Elementary. Both of these schools have major traffic issues already. Adding an additional 125 students, if not more, will make the traffic in these areas completely unmanageable, and unsafe.

Please, write to the State Board of Education, urge them to uphold the decision of our locally elected school officials, who have already denied Rocketship at the MDUSD level, and at the County Board of Education level.

You can email sbe@cde.ca.gov. Alternatively, you may also call the SBE at 916-319-0827 or send a facsimile to 916-319-0175.
In addition, we urge you to write, call or email the contacts listed at the bottom to express your wishes to deny Rocketships appeal to the state.

Limit your reasoning to not having Rocketship in the community at all!

To see the staff reports of MDUSD and CCBOE that support these agency’s unanimous votes to deny, please follow these links:


To see the report of why MDUSD has to offer space to Rocketship:

To see the proposal Rocketship has sent to the State: (item 7)

Additional info regarding Rocketship:

Additional info regarding “corporate” charter schools:

Urge the following to deny the Rocketship petition:
Contact Information
To contact the State Board of Education members or staff, please send an email to sbe@cde.ca.gov. Alternatively, you may also call the SBE at 916-319-0827 or send a facsimile to 916-319-0175.
charters@cde.ca.gov | 916-322-6029

Urge the following to contact the California State Board of Education and ask them to deny the Rocketship petition:

Mayor: Laura Hoffmeister
Vice Mayor: Ron Leone
Councilmembers: Edi Birsan, Tim Grayson and Daniel Helix
1950 Parkside Drive, MS/01
Concord, CA 94519
Phone: (925) 671-3158. Fax: (925) 798-0636
Note: For correspondence sent to City Council, City Clerk or City Treasurer, please put Attention; followed by the name of the specific elected official.

Walnut Creek:

Pleasant Hill:

Mayor Rob Schroder: 925-372-3501 rschroder@cityofmartinez.org
Councilmember Mark Ross: 925-372-3544 mross@cityofmartinez.org
Councilmember Lara Delaney: 925-372-3542 ldelaney@cityofmartinez.org
Councilmember AnaMarie Avila Farias: 925-372-3543 amafarias@cityofmartinez.org
Councilmember Debbie McKillop: 925-372-3541 dmckillop@cityofmartinez.org

Contra Costa County Supervisors:
Karen Mitchoff: supervisormitchoff@bos.cccounty.us
2151 Salvio St., Suite R
Concord, CA 94520

Ph: 925-521-7100
Fx: 925-646-5202


San Diego charter school king hit with felony

By Maureen Magee

San Diego Union Tribune


A former San Diego County superintendent who approved charter schools that later hired his consulting firm was arraigned Friday in San Diego Superior Court on one felony count of conflict of interest, according to the San Diego district attorney’s office.

The allegation facing Steve Van Zant, who currently is superintendent of the Sausalito Marin City School District, dates to May 2010 while he was superintendent of the Mountain Empire Unified School District.

According to the criminal complaint, Van Zant “did willfully and unlawfully violate the provisions of such (conflict of interest) laws.”

Van Zant, who is not in custody, could not be reached for comment. If convicted, he faces up to three years in prison.

The District Attorney’s Office declined to provide details of the case.

Van Zant, 53, has been a controversial figure among San Diego County educators. Long before he faced legal troubles, Van Zant stirred animosity among school districts for years as he brokered deals with charter schools to operate in their districts — often without providing the notice required by law.

Some of the charters that Van Zant ushered through soon hired his consulting firm for support services.

Van Zant worked in the tiny one-campus Dehesa School District, where the school board authorized several charters to operate in other districts, before he was hired to run Mountain Empire schools in 2008.

Under Van Zant’s direction, Mountain Empire authorized its first charter, San Diego Neighborhood Homeschool. Roughly a dozen more followed before he left in 2013.

None of the charters would locate in the district’s backcountry communities. Instead, they would operate in more populated reaches of the county — from Oceanside to San Diego to Chula Vista to National City.

Officials from small and cash-strapped districts approved charters to operate outside of their boundaries in part for financial reasons. The authorizing districts don’t stand to lose students — or the state attendance funds that accompany them — and they receive up to 3 percent of the charter’s revenue in exchange for varying degrees of oversight and often administrative services.

Although the trend didn’t start in Mountain Empire, under Van Zant the district played a key role in San Diego County’s spike in “out-of-district” charters — of which there are more than 80 currently in operation.

Van Zant didn’t just woo charters to earn revenue for Mountain Empire. The steady stream of charters helped bring money to his consulting firm.

A couple of years into his tenure at Mountain Empire, Van Zant and his wife, Ingrid, established EdHive, a consulting firm that offers administrative services and helps charters find districts to green-light their schools.

The company website claims, “We can find an authorizing district for your charter and cut a deal that provides the financial incentive for the district and still save your school money.”

According to profiles of company officials posted on the LinkedIn professional networking website, EdHive has represented at least 27 charters in California. Among them are several charters approved by Mountain Empire during Van Zant’s tenure as superintendent.

Charters that hired EdHive include Endeavour Academy, which was shut down last year after the San Diego Unified School District sued the charter and the Alpine Union School District, which authorized the campus to operate in a Clairemont church.

Most of San Diego County’s out-of-district charters are independent-study programs authorized by small districts in the eastern reaches of the region that have popped up in other districts only to serve their students and take the state attendance funds that accompany them.

The practice has sparked several lawsuits in San Diego County and elsewhere in California.

Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed legislation in 2014 that would have restricted where out-of-district charters can locate because of “retroactive language that could force existing charter schools to change locations.”

In September 2014, Brown said in his veto message he would assign a team to “examine the situation and come back with solutions.” That work is still under way, according to a spokesperson for the governor.

In San Diego County, out-of-district charters continue to pit districts against one another. In his veto message, Brown appeared to acknowledge the problem: “Unfortunately, it appears that some districts and charter schools have gone against the spirit of the law.”

He went on to say that “this has led to litigation and strained relationships among districts and charter schools.”

A Superior Court judge agreed with San Diego Unified last year that the Endeavour charter was a traditional school and not a independent-study hybrid as it was billed, and that organizers failed to notify the district as required under the law. Endeavour’s headquarters were based 150 miles away in Santa Clarita Valley.

Under the state education code, charters that cannot find facilities in their authorizing district may look for a campus in another district as long as they notify that district before the charter is approved.

San Diego Unified has also sent cease-and-desist letters to several out-of-district charters.

Since Kathy Granger was hired as Mountain Empire’s superintendent in December 2013, Mountain Empire has halted its trend of wooing and approving far-flung charters.

She would not discuss Van Zant but did confirm she had been contacted by the District Attorney’s Office about him.

“If anyone were to come to me to open a charter school outside our district boundaries, I would recommend they go to the district that represents the area they want to open a school,” she said.

“We are not opposed to offering education options for our students and we are not against charter schools. Our focus is to provide programs for our students.”

Since taking office in Mountain Empire, Granger has made a point to make personal visits to charter schools in the name of oversight.

Meanwhile, Granger is hopeful that Brown will address the ambiguity in the law when it comes to charters operating outside their authorizing districts.

“I have learned a lot about charter schools since coming here,” she said. “I definitely think there needs to be clarity in the law.”

Ricardo Soto, chief attorney for the California Charter School Association, told The San Diego Union-Tribune in November that school districts are threatened by non-classroom-based charters that he believes operate legally.

Still, he said the law could use some clarity.

Van Zant was arraigned one day after he requested a leave from his three-day-a-week job as superintendent in the two-campus (including a charter) Sausalito district.

Citing personal reasons, Van Zant was put on indefinite paid leave. His salary was $172,000 in 2014.

Interesting article re: Charter Schools published in the Arizona Republic

The free-market case for district schools

The Free Market Case for District Schools

Andrew F. Morrill – AEA president: Despite a wealth of choices, more than 80 percent of Arizona parents still choose neighborhood public schools.

Over the last six years, Arizona has suffered some of the largest education funding cuts in the country. Now our governor proposes cutting more while prioritizing private prison expansion over public education investments. Is this the path to an Arizona that offers opportunity for all?

In this choice-rich state, more than 80 percent of Arizonans with school-age children still select neighborhood public schools as their education choice.

This is a staggering majority with so many options available. Where is the support for parents who make this choice? Can a governor truly claim to uphold parent choice when he is not supporting the choice that the majority of parents annually make?

Gov. Doug Ducey and the GOP leadership have negotiated a budget that proposes to cut more than $100 million from district additional assistance. The only increases our schools will see come from Arizona voters in a formula driven by student growth and inflation, in which our state’s leaders still fail to fund at the appropriate base level.

Are those parents wrong, or is this budget out of touch with true parental choice?

8 things to know about the budget:

Arizona leads the country in school choice options. In the 1990s we pioneered the charter school movement on the promise of better education delivered more cost effectively.

It is troubling, then, that at least two prominent national studies — including one out of Stanford University — show that Arizona charter school students lag behind district students in academic achievement, despite charter schools receiving more state dollars per student than district schools, according to the Joint Legislative Budget Committee.

Charter supporters will argue that school districts receive money through bonds and overrides not available to charters. But many districts cannot get these passed in their communities. School districts also get federal funding because they serve special-needs students.

Charters need oversight

The number of new charter schools continues to grow at taxpayers’ expense while neighborhoods watch their public schools close due to budget cuts from the state Legislature.

According to the Washington Post, charter schools have become a booming industry for hedge fund investors who use federal tax credits to double their investments in seven years. Many charter schools are run by for-profit out-of-state corporations, putting their profits ahead of children’s well-being and classroom learning.

Without doubt, there are in Arizona many quality charter schools with committed teachers and leaders working in them; however, a quick review of headlines from other states reveals the waste, fraud and abuse committed by too many charter school operators, including some who operate several schools in Arizona.

CHARTER OWNERS: Budget cuts go way too far

In 2012, The Arizona Republic described the conflict of interest of many charter school board members, who provide vendor services to charter schools and pay themselves and family members with taxpayer money. In other states this practice is illegal, just as it is for those elected to district governing boards. But it is permissible in the charter structure. Are Arizona taxpayers aware and approving of this use of their money?

The Center for Popular Democracy and In the Public Interest recently released surveys that show the American people overwhelmingly favor common sense proposals that strengthen charter school accountability and transparency, improve teacher training and qualifications, prevent fraud, serve high-need students, and ensure that neighborhood public schools are not adversely affected by the charter industry.

Common sense dictates that schools receiving public money should be open and transparent to the public, require open board meetings, release financial reports with annual budgets and contracts, submit to regular state audits, require teachers and principals to be certified and serve all students, especially those with high needs.

Arizona’s parents should be included in the decisions made about their children’s education; the state should ensure schools provide that access.

Foundation for democracy

Our country was founded on the value that we are all created equal and that everyone has the opportunity to achieve the American Dream, regardless of race, religion or socioeconomic status. One of the mechanisms our founding fathers supported as a foundation for democracy was a public education system funded by the public for the public.

America’s neighborhood, public education system is as expansive as our country’s Constitution. Our inclusive system means that all — not just the wealthy and privileged — should receive a free, quality public education. This mandate is based on the belief that an educated citizenry benefits communities and our country. It is, therefore, the responsibility of those we elect to support our public education system.

The very term “public schools” means that they are funded and owned by — and accountable to — the public. Taxpayers own the public school system. Locally elected school boards provide oversight for the education of our children and hire district administrators to lead our schools.

Parents and community members attend and speak at public school board meetings. And the public interest in academic and financial accountability requires districts to hire certified teachers, report annual financial records and submit to state financial audits.

Community members know that strong public schools mean strong local neighborhoods. Schools hire professional, degreed teachers and administrators. Dozens of essential support roles mean hundreds of jobs for those who live within a school district. District employees spend money in their local economies; further, a majority of the money spent by school districts remains in Arizona since districts contract for services with local and state businesses.

Research by national economists shows that personal income increases as a result of investments in a state’s public education system; in fact, tax cuts often underperform school funding increases in measurable job growth. Well-educated students today mean an able and robust workforce tomorrow. And businesses often cite quality-of-life indicators, including public school quality, as more important than low taxes as criteria for relocation or expansion.

If tax cuts, rather than education funding, provided a lever for state economic growth, Arizona would certainly know it by now.

Sadly, the education choice of our elected leaders differs sharply from the majority of voters.

We talk a lot about education reform, but that talk focuses almost exclusively on district public schools. Arizona must expand that conversation to include all schools that receive public funds and hold them to an equal standard of accountability and transparency. Consistent with America’s promise, we must ensure that public dollars are invested in high-quality schools owned by and accountable to the public.

Andrew Morrill, AZ I See It 3:09 p.m. MST March 6, 2015

Andrew F. Morrill is president of the Arizona Education Association

Parent Volunteer Fired For Speaking Out Against CVCHS Administration

This letter was submitted to us by a current CVCHS staff member:

Parents Beware!

A few weeks ago an efficient and popular parent volunteer was fired from doing her volunteer work in the copy room! This volunteer went beyond the call of duty in her ability to take on a task of any size, organize, staple, collate AND greet all teachers who crossed her path with unfailing support and patience. She saved teachers many hours with her work and will be greatly missed. Continue reading

A Teacher in the Trenches – Clayton Valley Charter High School

This letter was submitted to us by a current teacher at CVCHS:

There are 81 teachers at Clayton Valley Charter High School. 100% of those teachers are part of the Union (CVEA). Roughly 44 of those teachers are considered Veterans, many of which helped to write the Charter in 2011 and have stayed on the campus through the past two years. The first year, teachers were excited as they embarked on a brave new adventure. By the second year, all teachers- veteran and new- were buried under Benchmarks and testing rubric.  Clayton Valley has much to celebrate with its 62 point rise in scores but it is old news now, and based on a test that no longer exists. Do they complain about the workload? No, they do not. The reason is that they love what they do and are invested in a school that brings the brightest and best out in all kids to reach their potential. These teachers keep office hours, spend countless lunches tutoring students or going the extra mile to help that one student who is struggling.   The teachers are the pulse of the school. So, it makes sense, that someone should now take that pulse. Continue reading


While there has been much discussion on campus and in the community about the immediate and remarkable improvement of Clayton Valley when it converted to Charter, it seems that one person has been given full credit for this. This has misled the community to believe that he is the most important element that made up the charter improvement. This person walked into a community that was already united and taking its high school to new heights. The element of who stepped in was not what matters the most– the school community had already set the course for CVCHS to go from “Good to Great.” Continue reading

Clayton Valley Charter High School – WE ARE CONCERNED!

Stakeholders for Transparency is a grass roots group that was formed to advocate for the transparent operation of Clayton Valley Charter High School. We are Parents, Teachers, Staff, Community Members, Students, and Alumni. We are stakeholders united in the effort to provide the highest level of education to the children of our community. We battled long and hard to convert Clayton Valley High School to a Charter School. We won that battle on January 11, 2012 and immediately proceeded full speed ahead to move our school from “Good to Great” and we never looked back… until now. We had a common vision to make Clayton Valley a school that we could all once again be proud of and could bring its students to the highest level of academics and character development. But now others have used our passion to further their own ambitions. They have an AGENDA, which does not seem to put CVCHS as their highest priority. What is their agenda—could it be for personal gain or personal recognition? They seem to be obsessed with the need to grow, no matter what the risk, no matter what core values are lost or what ethics may be ignored. Continue reading