One of Orange County’s largest school districts is calling for a temporary statewide moratorium on charter schools, accusing independently-run public charters of often caring more about making money than teaching students.
Orange County, meanwhile, is on the threshold of seeing more applications for charters in the coming year.
The superintendent and trustees of the Anaheim Union High School District recently issued a press release and an opinion piece accusing many charters of operating “in the shadows with no transparency, no accountability, and no public review.” They want laws regulating charters tightened.
In a Dec. 18 opinion piece published on the online news site Voice of OC, the Anaheim district leaders blasted Vista Charter, which has a school in Santa Ana and applied to open a campus in Anaheim. A day before, trustees rejected Vista’s application as financially and educationally unsound.
Trustees also criticized Magnolia Public Schools, a Westminster-based chain of 11 schools, including Magnolia Science Academy in Santa Ana.
Anaheim Union leaders wrote that Magnolia is part of one of the largest charter operators in the United States and is connected to a wealthy Turkish imam, Fethullah Gulen, whose schools and movement have attracted media attention, including a “60 Minutes” episode the district posted on its website. Gulen lives in the United States and is considered a powerful opponent to the Turkish government.
Magnolia officials say their schools are not affiliated to Gulen or his schools or the international Gulen movement, nor do they receive any funds from that organization.
Magnolia’s founders did include Turkish immigrants who are progressive Muslims who “believe in peace and interfaith dialogue and who see education as a priority, and Gulen is not the only world leader who is professing these things,” said Caprice Young, Magnolia’s CEO and superintendent. Magnolia’s schools do not engage in religious activities, she said.
Anaheim trustees’ are “pushing back because they want to have a monopoly over all the choices that families are allowed to make over public education,” said Young, a former Los Angeles Unified School District board president. “The truth is that without charter schools, only rich people can make choices in public education.”
Magnolia Public Schools, which emphasize science, technology, engineering, art and math, last month filed applications for 10 more schools over the next two years. In Orange County, Magnolia, founded in 1997, filed applications in Anaheim Union, Garden Grove Unified, Anaheim City and Santa Ana Unified school districts.
California Department of Education officials declined to comment Tuesday on Anaheim Union’s call for a moratorium. But they forwarded a related Education Code that states that for a school district to deny a charter request, it needs to find, in writing, that the application has not met one or more of specific required criteria.
Miles Durfee, of the California Charter Schools Association, said charters comply with federal and state laws and are held to high accountability standards. “The same old myths are tired, misguided and just plain wrong,” he said in response to Anaheim trustees’ opinion piece.
Ralph Opacic, founder and executive director of the county’s best known charter school – the Orange County School of the Arts in Santa Ana – called the Anaheim trustees’ blanket criticism about charters ridiculous and dangerous.
“We have over 50 families from the Anaheim Union district in the OCSA because their needs are not met in that district,” Opacic said Tuesday.
In Orange County, there are 19 charter schools, some denied by their home districts but approved on appeal by the Orange County Board of Education or the California Department of Education.
Al Jabbar, an Anaheim Union board member, said the Orange County Board of Education takes away local control when it approves charter schools denied by districts.
“The reason we’re taking a lead is we’re looking at the trend,” Jabbar said. “We don’t want to put our taxpayers and parents at risk.”
Charter schools receive state funding based on the same formula as traditional public schools, but many charters also have additional fundraising.
Orange County Board of Education members David Boyd, Linda Lindholm and Ken L. Williams said in interviews that charter schools offer parents more options for their children.
Boyd said he understands the concerns of local districts that have excellent schools and don’t see the need for charters: “But the law is about parental choice.”
Williams said charter schools have greater control and autonomy and charter teachers and other staffers can opt-out of union membership. He questioned whether Anaheim Union’s call for a moratorium was “political in nature” and influenced by ties to a powerful teachers’ union.
“They never called or approached us about any of their concerns,” Williams wrote in an e-mail.
Meanwhile, Magnolia’s hearing before the Anaheim Union school board is tentatively scheduled for Jan. 6.
Magnolia Science Academy is without a doubt a Gulen Managed charter school
The Gulen Movement is fantastic at advertising, PR, and bestwowing fake honors on their students, politicians, local media and academia. The Parents4Magnolia blog is NOT American parents it is members of the Gulen Movement in damage control mode. Magnolia Science Academy, Pacific Technology School and Bay Area Technology is the name of their California schools. They are under several Gulen NGOs: Pacifica Institute, Willow Education, Magnolia Educaiton Foundation, Accord Institute, Bay Area Cultural Connection. Hizmet aka Gulen Movement will shamelessly act like satisifed American parents or students. They will lie, cajole, manipulate, bribe, blackmail, threaten, intimidate to get their way which is to expand the Gulen charter schools. If this doesn't work they play victim and cry "islamophobia". Beware of the Gulen propagandists and Gulen owned media outlets. DISCLAIMER: if you find some videos are disabled this is the work of the Gulen censorship which has filed fake copyright infringement complaints to Utube