Future of American Indian Model Schools Hangs in Balance

Ben Chavis

American Indian Model (AIM) Schools in Oakland are awaiting a decision from the Alameda County Board of Education to reinstate their accreditation, which has been revoked by the Oakland Unified School District.Countering allegations made by school district officials, AIM administration recently released a report that it says provides “documented facts that prove the (school district) staff and certain members made false claims.” TheAIM charter schools have been praised for their academic rigor, excellence, and accomplishments over the years – opening in 2000 with only 34 kids and growing to a student body of 1200 students. “The Washington Post says AIM is the number one school in the nation. If they close us, they think they are going to get 1200 students back,” said Ben Chavis, the schools’ founder. Despite being ranked in the top 25 of U.S. schools and one of the finest schools in California, according to Newsweek, the Oakland school board recently voted (4-3) to revoke the school’s accreditation, which would force the schools to close. AIM’s 30-page report rebuts each claim made by OUSD staff and supplies evidence to counter the allegation that Chavis had misused AIM funds. Some of the controversy surrounds Chavis’ purchase of property to help with the school’s rapidly growing population. OUSD claims Chavis did not inform the school district and is profiting from the purchase. However, the report says that both Chavis and his wife complied with the law and filed the required state forms. “It is not a violation of law for a person affiliated with a charter as long as the person’s interest is disclosed,” the report says. “AIM schools have formally separated themselves from the founder and have a property management company for facility-related issues in lieu of dealing with the founder,” the report says. According to Chavis, the attack on AIM is based on politics and money. OUSD receives roughly $14,000 per student counting state, local, and federal money, he said. Multiplying that amount by the 1200 AIM students, OUSD is losing nearly $20 million a year. He says the report is self-explanatory and, if read, leaves the Board of Education with no other choice than to vote for the school. AIM parents and supporters have written to the county board members calling on them to keep the school open.
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