Tuesday, August 05, 2003

NEA Charter School Initiative Fails In California

The Education Intelligence Agency tells the little-known story of one of California's failed charter schools:

Kwachiiyoa was one of a projected six charter schools that were to be part of the NEA Charter School Initiative, launched in 1996 and funded with $1.5 million. Only four charter schools ever opened. Then-President Bob Chase told a Congressional subcommittee that NEA’s main goal was “to learn from this project and share its findings with traditional public schools.” He added that when “charter schools are created along the lines that our members have chosen – professional educators applying best practices and teaming with parents and community members – they do indeed offer hope for positive changes within our public system as a whole.”

The Charter School Initiative was part of the new NEA image. It was promoted in NEA publications, and cited as an example of new unionism at work. “What better way to lead in one of the hottest areas of school reform?” read one article in NEA Today.

By the time Kwachiiyoa’s initial charter expired on January 14, 2003, enrollment was at half-capacity, three classroom teachers were jointly running the school without benefit of an administrator, and the school was the lowest-performing of the 121 schools in the San Diego Unified School District. It ranked lowest even when compared to other California schools with similar student socioeconomic backgrounds. For the 2002-2003 school year, Kwachiiyoa was forced into a state intervention program for underperforming schools. Similar poor academic results were reported in 2000 and 2001.

What is most ironic about this story is the union’s blatant opposition to other potential charter school authorizers like Mayor Jerry Brown or various public and private California universities who want to invest in charter schools and monitor their accountability. The unions have come full circle in California--from opposing charter schools, trying to co-opt the reform and failing, and back again to militant opposition.

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