Rhetoric vs. Reality: The Charter School Debate Continues

Rhetoric vs. Reality: The Charter School Debate Continues

Reprinted by permission of authors.  Originally appeared on San Jose Inside: http://www.sanjoseinside.com/2015/03/30/rhetoric-vs-reality-the-charter-school-debate-continues/

It is rare these days for educators to be in agreement with Santa Clara County School Board Trustee Joseph Di Salvo, but the opening sentence of his March 17 column does speak the truth.

“It is an outrage that Silicon Valley education leaders continue to choose battle ground over common ground,” he wrote.

What Mr. Di Salvo fails to acknowledge, however, is he is one of those leaders at the root of the problem. It is his inflammatory rhetoric, misguided leadership and pro corporate charter school stance that set the stage for the current battle and continues to create a myriad of problems for local school districts and the children they serve.

As his column continues, it becomes clear his ideological position is interfering with his grasp of the current educational reality.

“Despite extraordinary innovation that occurs everyday in our region, our education leaders too often choose to protect the status quo. In the 21st Century, mid-way through its second decade and with huge demographic shifts, taking the traditional path will lead to a calamitous future,” he wrote.

Where exactly has Mr. DiSalvo been during the last few years? Here’s just a short list of the amazing innovation taking place in our neighborhood public schools: the Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP), Common Core implementation, STEAM schools, Smarter Balance testing, Project-Based Learning, the Eastside Alliance, and Professional Learning Communities. Clearly there’s so much more to educating every child than rubber-stamping the latest corporate charter school application.

Speaking of children:

“Charters are public schools funded solely by our public dollars,” Di Salvo asserts. “Should we not all demand high-level collaboration with our money on behalf of all children?”

Truth be told, there are two definitions of the word collaborate. First, to work jointly on an activity, especially to produce or create something. Second, to cooperate traitorously with the enemy. While giving lip service to the former, Mr. DiSalvo’s actions speak louder than words. Especially since public dollars are involved, should we not demand high levels of transparency of charter schools especially in terms of financial accountability and student equity?

Mr. DiSalvo ends the article by staking out his position very clearly:

“As long as I hold this seat on the county Board of Education, I will strongly and loudly advocate for common ground over battle ground. The open warfare on publicly funded charters hinders the achievements of our children.”

He certainly has been a strong and loud advocate for corporate charter schools like Rocketship, usually in direct opposition to the well-documented and logical concerns of local districts. His support of the open warfare on our neighborhood schools has hindered their ability to improve achievement for all children by decreasing funding. At the same time, those local tax dollars are being funneled as profit to corporate headquarters, often to be sent across county and state lines to fund unregulated expansion.

It is no surprise that Di Salvo would take time to bash the hard-working educators of this county, yet again. If Di Salvo would like to continue to indulge in graceless hyperbole and support charter after charter—sometimes in violation of California law and frequently in violation of good sense—that is his prerogative.

However, if Di Salvo is going to embark on a new tirade decrying districts forced to host charter schools for charging rents to these charter schools, that’s inexcusable. District taxpayers pay for district located facilities housing charters that often don’t educate district students. Those taxpayers have a right to demand fair market value to ensure the upkeep of that property and the district has a fiduciary and ethical responsibility to ensure this happens. There is no excuse.

There are many who now watch the actions of the Santa Clara County School Board very closely and wonder when trustees will demonstrate united support for local school districts. We look forward to November 2016, when several seats on the county board are up for consideration, including the one currently occupied by Mr. Di Salvo.


Jocelyn Merz — President, Alum Rock Educators Association

Heather Mumy — President, Sunnyvale Education Association

Fadi Saba — President, Luther Burbank Education Association

Scott Shulimson — President, Franklin McKinley Education Association

Jennifer Thomas — President, San Jose Teachers Association

Brian Wheatley — President, Evergreen Teachers Association

Michael P. Hickey — President, United Teachers of Santa Clara


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