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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 18, 2014
Anaheim Union High School District Calls for a Temporary Moratorium on Approval of Charter Schools
ANAHEIM—Board members of the Anaheim Union High School District and Superintendent Michael Matsuda on December 18 called for the state of California to implement a temporary moratorium on the approval of charter schools until legislators fix the overly permissive law that enables charters to operate on a business model whose main goal is to make money.
“Although there is nothing wrong with making money, when it comes to public education, our children should be our first priority,” Superintendent Matsuda said. “While charter school proponents may say they care about kids, many charters operate in the shadows with no transparency, no accountability, and no public review.”
The superintendent cited the example of Magnolia Science Academy, one of two charter applications recently submitted to AUHSD. Magnolia Science Academy is one of the largest charter operators in America, with 155 campuses and ambitious expansion plans. According to an expose on 60 Minutes, Magnolia Science Academy is overseen by Fethullah Gulen, a wealthy Turkish national who controls an international chain of Gulen schools.
The 60 Minutes piece exposed the fact that American taxpayer money—hundreds of millions of dollars nationwide—is being funneled into the pockets of Turkish foreign nationals in the form of contracts for building schools and hiring teachers. At the same time, Gulen’s financial health and practices have been called into question and investigated by local and state agencies. Fethullah Gulen, himself a Turkish national, is wanted by the government of Turkey and is in hiding in the United States.
“Because of lax charter laws that favor privatization, we are the only nation where taxpayer money is used to fund schools operated by foreign nationals,” Superintendent Matsuda said. “Although the Gulen officials insist there is no ill intent, enough questions have been raised about Magnolia’s charter school operations that it is a prime example of why we need an immediate temporary moratorium on charter schools until the laws are fixed and accountability is restored.”
Added Trustee Al Jabbar, “We respectfully ask the public to consider that if kids really come first, why are charter schools continuing to hide their funding, ownership, and financial relationships? Why don’t they allow open access to financials, including budgets and salaries, even though they spend taxpayer money, just like public schools do? Why not agree to the same accountability policies as public schools, policies that would build public trust?”
The entire AUHSD Board signed off on an opinion piece calling for the immediate moratorium, which was published December 18 in the Voice of OC. The day before, at a special school board meeting, AUHSD trustees unanimously rejected a petition by Vista Charter Middle School as educationally and financially unsound.
“It’s open season on neighborhood schools in Orange County, because the Orange County Board of Education, which, mind you, was elected to represent the public school children of the region, is now a 3-2 vote in favor of overturning virtually every local school board’s decision against a charter,” Mr. Jabbar noted. “The Orange County Board wants us to assume all the liability for failure. They want us to assume financial authority over charters when we just heard on Thursday night from a charter operator (Vista) who won’t have enough resources to make it through the first year. They want us to take back the special education and English learner students that they routinely ‘disenroll,’ or drop, to game the system and boost their academic reputation. Let the Orange County Board of Education assume that fiscal and moral risk. Don’t put it back on us as our responsibility. We don’t want it.”
The fact that the Orange County school board has the authority to grant charters without the consent of local school boards undermines the concept of local control and makes a mockery of the Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP), said AUHSD Board President Annemarie Randle-Trejo.
“The 27 school districts in Orange County have to ask themselves if they are OK with the Orange County Board of Education deciding the composition of each of our school systems,” Ms. Randle-Trejo said. “I’m not OK with that and you shouldn’t be, either.”
“If you look at donations to politicians, you will see a lot of money being funneled to them from charter school operators and special interests. These charter people are very smart,” Ms. Randle-Trejo added. “They have wined and dined politicians from the federal level down, providing junkets and campaign contributions. They stage openings of their schools and invite the local politicians. They certainly know how to play the political game.”
The submission of the petitions by Magnolia Science Academy and Vista are part of a coordinated strategy in Los Angeles and Orange counties by charter proponents to establish a stronghold in Southern California.
Here is the 60 Minutes piece on Gulan schools:
Here is the link to the Voice of OC piece:
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