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Jeffrey Shapiro: Opposition to charter schools unfounded

Posted: November 1, 2012 6:53 p.m.
Updated: November 1, 2012 2:00 a.m.
 

Part one of this commentary, which appeared in Wednesday’s Signal, focused more broadly on the need for choice and innovation in public schools and the inherent conflict of interest the local elementary school districts have in their opposition to charter schools.

Today, let’s look more closely at the impact that this opposition has.

Let’s begin with some very real and irrefutable facts and accomplishments about the Einstein Academy:

After only two years, the Einstein Academy middle/high school is in the top 1 percent of performance for schools in the state. Number 40 out of nearly 2,800 schools.

There is an extensive waiting list to get into the middle/high school and an interest list for the proposed elementary school that are nearly 300 percent larger than our capacity would be in the first year.

At the middle/high school, the percentage of special education students served is higher than the district average.

39 percent of the student population is non-white.

The middle/high school is WASC accredited — the most prestigious and rigorous form of accreditation.

The middle/high school received the maximum five-year extension from the Hart district, even before the initial term was complete.

Three of the leading charter organizations in the state of California, all considered experts nationally, have reviewed and endorsed the petition and financial plan for the elementary school. These organizations are the California Charter School Association, Charter School Development Corporation and Charter School Management Corporation. They said:

“The Einstein Academy-Saugus financial plan is sound and well-crafted. It is based on very conservative funding assumptions, including many ‘worst case scenario’ ones.”

n “This financial plan greatly exceeds the legal requirements for such a plan. ... and one that is superior to the majority of approved charter petitions’ financial plans.”

 “Our school development team completed a thorough review, verifying that each element of the petition was complete, attainable, and aligned with a budget that reflects realistic financial projections for the coming school year.

Sen. Sharon Runner, vice-chairwoman of the Senate Education Committee and co-founder of Desert Christian Schools in Lancaster, stated: “After reviewing their application, reading background on their current operations, and speaking to members of the management team, I am confident that the foundation is fully capable of and committed to promoting and maintaining its high academic standards and excellent fiscal practices at Einstein Academy-Saugus. Indeed, it is clear from multiple sources including the foundation’s track record of academic, operational, and fiscal excellence at Einstein Academy-Hart, overwhelming parental support for the proposed K-6 campus, and the 1,000 students on the wait list, that Einstein Academy-Saugus would be another exceptional, high-quality public school in the Santa Clarita Valley.”

The school was approved for a municipal bond by Piper Jaffray after a thorough review of our finances.

We have formed a formal partnership with the SCV Latino Chamber of Commerce to assist us in maximizing our exposure to ELL and ELD (foreign language) households.

This information is quite contrary to the picture painted by three elementary-district superintendents in their recent commentary. We have some of the best schools in the state of California here in the Santa Clarita Valley and we should be very proud of that.

The Einstein Academy is one of them. The Einstein Academy is a proud part of the Hart district, meeting the needs of those students who need an alternative, a different environment.

I can tell you first hand, as a parent myself, that the educational environment at Einstein is what my child needs to thrive. He went through public elementary and middle school here. His education was sound, but he did not thrive, did not come close to his potential.

The elementary districts, through their thorough opposition to charters, is denying elementary age students who need this alternative, as my child did.

In closing, the invective filled commentary by the superintendents hurt the amazing and remarkable students and teachers of the Einstein Academy. These hard-working, committed and delightful young people and professionals deserve credit, not derision.

We, the parents of the Santa Clarita Valley, deserve more from our public servants.

Jeffrey Shapiro is executive director of the foundation for the Albert Einstein Academy for Arts, Letters and Sciences.

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