Commentary

Big, Bad Public School Monopoly: Charter Edition

The Sacramento Unified school district is unwilling to share the school enrollment process with Sacramento charter schools. Even though Sacramento charters are legally public schools, the district treats them like private competitors when it comes to providing information to parents. Here are the rules the district has set up for charter school enrollment. The Sacramento Bee reports:

The proposed policy has some terrible parts that require a start-over: ï Access to placement on the district Web site. Charter schools from New Technology High School to the Language Academy to Sacramento Charter High School would be listed only on a “case-by-case basis.” Placement would be a “privilege.” These schools would have to show they are in “good standing” and then “enter into an agreement.” This is nonsense. The district already does annual reviews of its charter schools and extensive reviews during the five-year renewal process. ï Access to schools for open houses and “Options Nights.” The district has six comprehensive high schools and six small high schools (some charters, some not). These schools recruit at the middle schools leading up to the open enrollment process. In the past, individual principals could decide to include charter schools or not. That arbitrary policy was bad enough, but now things are worse. This year, charter schools run by nonprofits (independent charters), such as Sacramento High, will not be allowed access to middle school campuses for recruiting.

Where is the level playing field? Perhaps the fix should be that only district schools that are in “good standing” should be listed on the district website or allowed to recruit at district schools.

Lisa Snell is the director of education and child welfare at Reason Foundation, a nonprofit think tank advancing free minds and free markets.

Snell has frequently testified before the California State Legislature and numerous other state legislatures and government agencies. She has authored policy studies on school finance and weighted student funding, universal preschool, school violence, charter schools, and child advocacy centers.

Snell is a frequent contributor to Reason magazine, School Reform News and Privatization Watch. Her writing has also appeared in Education Week, Edutopia, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, San Francisco Chronicle, Orange County Register, Los Angeles Times, and numerous other publications.

Ms. Snell is also an advisory board member to the National Quality Improvement Center for the Children's Bureau; is on the charter school accreditation team for the American Academy for Liberal Education; and serves as a board member for the California Virtual Academy.

Before joining Reason Foundation, Snell taught public speaking and argumentation courses at California State University, Fullerton. She earned a Master of Arts in communication from California State University, Fullerton.