California Education Board Approves New Charter School

Published February 2, 2016

California’s State Board of Education (CBOE) unanimously approved a request to transform an alternative education program at a local traditional public school into a public charter school, now called the Ross Valley Charter School.

CBOE determined on January 14 the Ross Valley School District’s (RVSD) Multi-Age Program met all the state’s criteria required to establish a new charter school, which will now be allowed to relocate its operations and operate independently from the school district’s supervision. Some RVSD officials, such as Ross Valley Superintendent Rick Bagley, had opposed allowing the program to become its own school.

Long Waiting Lists

Vicki Alger, a research fellow with the Independent Institute, says RVSD students—who live in Marin County, which is located in the northern region of the San Francisco Bay Area (SFBA)—have fewer alternatives to government-run schools than other California children.

“More than 9,900 students are currently on charter school waiting lists throughout the [San Francisco] Bay Area, and Marin County has fewer charter schools than most other [SFBA] counties,” Alger said.

Alger says California charter schools have a proven track record of producing a higher level of student achievement.

“California charter schools, in general, have a strong record of success,” Alger said. “They have higher median performance on the state accountability system than traditional public schools, and charter schools serving historically disadvantaged students are more likely to be among the state’s top-performing schools.”

Emphasis on Diversity, Outreach

Rana Barar, a spokeswoman for the new Ross Valley Charter School, says the school will work to include students of all backgrounds.

“Diversity was one core tenet of the charter,” Barar said. “Another core tenet was being able to expand the program, and a third was to be able to provide choice in a community that has nearly no choice. Even in a community that’s not particularly diverse, there are students who simply cannot afford to go to private school and deserve to have choice.”

Barar says the charter school will give everyone in the region more educational options and additional opportunities to attain success.

“Parents and teachers [who supported creating] this charter wanted to take control of outreach and marketing and be able to reach a more diverse population,” Barar said. “We’re committed to having a higher percentage of underrepresented communities and free- and reduced-price lunch students. [We not] only want to attract them, but really support them in our program and make sure they thrive.”

Community Benefits

Judy Wilson, a regional director for school development and support with the California Charter Schools Association, says Ross Valley Charter Schools will market itself to underserved populations in the area.

“They have done outreach to these communities in particular, who will benefit from a high-quality free public school option that emphasizes hands-on, individualized learning,” Wilson said.

Wilson says everyone benefits from having more educational options, including teachers.

“The community at large will also benefit [from] having a high-quality educational option, from parents who are clamoring for choices to teachers who are attracted to teaching in an empowering setting,” Wilson said.

Ashley Bateman ([email protected]) writes from Alexandria, Virginia.