Bruno: The Slippery Slope of Charter Conversions
Back in March, the Oakland Unified School District begrudgingly approved charter conversions for two schools dissatisfied with district control. This week, a third conversion proposal was rejected over concerns about the budgetary impact to the district.
Nevertheless, at least one CMO advocate maintained that "the tide has shifted" in favor of charter schools, and the district seems to agree that they've begun sliding down a slippery slope. The same night that the Lazear Elementary charter conversion was rejected, the school board passed a resolution stating that it intends to "Provide school governance teams increased decision-making responsibility and authority" and "Strengthen the ability of school governance teams...to determine the composition of their employee teams."
It's a little hard for me to see how or why this should stem the apparent swelling of support for charter school-like school site autonomy. The district can't afford to keep all of its schools open - for example, Lazear is slated for closure - but nobody's ever happy about losing a public good they've become accustomed to. And if it's staffing autonomy a school really wants, the district doesn't have the authority to grant exemptions from union contracts anyway. (The school board's resolution concedes that staffing autonomy must be consistent with "established collective bargaining protocols and agreements".) It actually seems to me like there's not much in the way of substantive autonomy that the district can grant.
In other words, most of what people are demanding they can only get through a full charter school conversion anyway. The district may be able to temporarily slow such conversions down, but ultimately appeals will make their way to the more charter-friendly county board. So OUSD's resolution on school site governance signals that they are concerned about losing more schools, but it probably won't do much to prevent that outcome. - PB (@MrPABruno) (image source)