As it continues to study sustainability options for Hermosa Beach schools, the in a meeting Wednesday night looked closely at how a charter school system would affect the and community.
Board member Lisa Claypoole, who presented a report on behalf of the board's charter subcommittee, said that charter schools would bring in additional revenue to the district.
"That gain is in the Average Daily Attendance rate," she said.
State and federal governments fund charter schools on a per-student basis, according to the California Charter Schools Association.
"Each year the state of California decides we get less money to educate... Why wouldn’t we want more money per student?" Claypoole told Patch.
Private donors or foundations can also fund a charter school.
In order for the district to convert to a charter, a 51 percent majority of teachers would have to vote in favor of it.
Some teachers might vote in favor for charter schools because they allow a more free curriculum and are exempt from some of the rules governing traditional public schools.
(However, the state education code does require the charter "include a reasonably comprehensive description of the school’s governance structure," according to the California Department of Education.)
Since charter schools are exempt from most provisions of state code, they are free to innovate and experiment with curriculum inside and outside the classroom.
But due to that exemption, some teachers might not be in favor of charters as they aren’t required to follow some of the code governing employee due process, according to the California Federation of Teachers.
"It’s a tough sell," Claypoole said.
But unlike other charter schools, the Hermosa school district would aim to continue to employ unionized teachers if it went through with a charter conversion, Claypoole said.
Board member Ray Waters said that the charter conversion might bring in additional revenue, but he doesn’t think teachers would support it.
"They don’t want to give up the protections in the education code, and they don’t like the loss of control. I don’t want to go towards privatizing schools, where there isn’t public control," he said. "It’s an odd form of government. ...Charters are how corporations are formed, you know, and I’m very reluctant to go that route.”
Waters added that the additional funds Hermosa would receive from a charter conversion would better benefit a district with lower performance scores and less access to resources.
A study conducted by Mathematica Policy Research center has suggested that charter schools do not outperform public schools on average, but they do perform well in low-income areas.
For example, the Green Dot charter system has more than 10 schools in underperforming areas of Los Angeles, as well as a high school in Venice.
The Hermosa Beach community has stepped up through fundraising efforts to help pay the bills so far, Waters said, but he worries about the board’s ability to overcome forces like the economy and legislators in Sacramento.
As the idea of a charter conversion as well as other sustainability options, such as implementing a sales or parcel tax, are still in discussion, board member Carleen Beste said that she is open to the idea of a charter conversion.
"I don’t know if it’s right for Hermosa yet—but in general I’m in favor of charter schools. I love walking into those campuses," Beste said. "There’s a great vibe and energy; collaboration, enthusiasm, and innovation. It’s a great experience, and I think any time you can have that be part of your school system you should."
School Board President Cathy McCurdy said that she has a hard time seeing a charter conversion work for such a small district as Hermosa.
But McCurdy has maintained that she’s more than open to hearing what the charter subcommittee has to report.
The subcommittee will make a final report in October, after it consults with more teachers and school staffers about how a conversion charter should look.
"We’re willing to provide an outline of what our school charter will look like but we can’t write the outline without the input of teachers and staff," Claypoole said.
Charter schools have become a popular alternative statewide as budgets have tightened and students have continued performing poorly in some areas.
The subjects of the popular documentary Waiting for Superman, charters are often seen as offering parents with choice and flexibility.
While proponents argue that charter schools provide the perfect laboratory for ideas to implement in the wider public school system, detractors assert that it’s the increased funding from government and private sources that have made certain charter schools successful.
Coming up on Patch—we’ll take a look at the school board’s discussion on the potential parcel tax or sales tax option.
What are your thoughts on charter schools in Hermosa?