By Patrick Walsh
Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) recently published its annual “Enrollment Options Guide,” which was intended to be a resource for local families. However, the publication contained numerous errors and excluded the fact that charter public schools support students with special needs as well as those who are English Learners.
Both the guide and the Oakland Post story that followed only served to mislead families seeking quality education options for their children.
While OUSD has acknowledged their error, the California Charter Schools Association (CCSA) believes it is essential to clarify to the community that charter schools support all Oakland students, of all abilities.
Charter schools in OUSD are public schools and they serve all Oakland students. Oakland charter schools, like all charter public schools in California, have and will continue to fulfill their legal responsibility by both federal and California law to serve all students, regardless of ability or English proficiency.
Beyond their legal responsibility to serve all students, Oakland charter schools celebrate differences in learning and individualized attention is standard practice. Many Oakland families have sought out the charter public school option because of the individualized attention and education these charter schools provide.
We believe it is critically important for all families to have access to a high-quality education. The focus by some adults on differences between district-operated (traditional public schools) and district-authorized schools (charter public schools) detracts from efforts to ensure all Oakland students are learning.
It is time for detractors to stop building divisive walls between district and charter schools and to keep the focus on student learning.
We urge the District to assure accuracy in future publications. CCSA and our members in Oakland appreciate the prompt action by OUSD Superintendent Antwan Wilson to correct the record for the errors in the “Enrollment Options Guide.”
The online version of the guide has been corrected and a fact sheet has been inserted into hard copies of the uncirculated guides. However, these efforts don’t go far enough.
The updated guide requires that families contact each individual school for more information about special education services; this step creates an unnecessary burden for families that should be promptly addressed by the District.
CCSA encourages all families to learn more about charter schools and explore their options for public education in Oakland. Visit http://www.ccsa.org/understanding/truthaboutcharters/ to learn more about charter public schools.
Patrick Walsh is regional director of the Alameda County Charter Schools Association.