Author Archives: schoolpoliticsandsociety

A Brief History of Charter Schools


   I consider it important, indeed. urgently necessary, for intellectual workers to get together, both to protect their own economic status and, also generally speaking, to secure their influence in the political field.

—Albert Einstein

(Commenting on why he joined the AFT)


The charter school movement was launched by two educators with impeccable liberal credentials: Albert Shanker and Ray Budde. Shanker was president of the United Federation of Teachers (1964-1985) and President of the American Federation of Teachers (1975-1997). Ray Budde was a teacher, a Junior High Principal and a teacher of educational administration at the University of Massachusetts. Both believed that autonomous public schools run by teachers freed from school bureaucracies would improve pupil learning and increase opportunities for all.

The Journal In the Public Interest (May 23, 2019) measured the financial cost for West Contra Costa Unified School District (WCCUSD) of fourteen charter schools. In The Public Interest calculated the revenue lost by the district and subtracted the savings realized by educating fewer students. “The difference between those two amounts is the net annual cost of charter schools for WCCUSD: $27.9 million…When students transfer to charter schools, funding for their education follows—but costs remain [and] districts are forced to cut services provided to traditional public-school students.”

In 1974, Budde presented his ideas for the reorganization of school districts to the Society for General Systems in a paper entitled “Education by Charter.” Budde’s paper remained largely unknown until 1988. That year, the idea of autonomous teacher-run schools was enthusiastically endorsed by more than 3,000 teachers at the 70th convention of teachers led by Al Shanker.

In 1991, the first charter school law was enacted in Minnesota, the next year California enacted the 1992 California Charter School Act. In 1993, 29 charter schools opened in California. Today in California there are more than 1,200 K-12 schools serving more than half a million students, approximately nine percent of the public-school student population. In the 2019-2020 school year, the percentage of students enrolled in charter schools in WCCUSD was 20%.

Despite a propitious start, the Shanker-Butte liberal utopian dream of teacher-run, community-based charters did not last long. Six years after Shanker’s call for school reform, he was among the first to denounce the takeover of the movement by academic bureaucrats and corporate and philanthropic entrepreneurs. In Where We Stand, his weekly column in The New York Times, July 3, 1994, he denounced the Detroit School District for …giving $4 million—for starters—to a group of people who are eager for public funds but could care less about public education.  Shanker argued that charters should not operate unconnected to the school district that sponsors them. Anticipating the reality, we face today he denounced corporate educators saying “…there are supporters of charter schools whose real aim is to smash the public school. Unless charter school legislation is carefully crafted, charter schools will not improve public education. We will see the money used to pay for educating kids whose parents are already looking after their education at home or to finance what are really private schools. And all this will take place without any public debate and totally out of the public eye. 

Ray Budde continued to champion the idea of charter schools and, like Al Shanker, he upheld the notion that charter schools should operate well within the public-school system and should never be thought of as alternatives to public education.

Charter schools are not “public schools” as their advocates often claim. Their “public” character rests solely on the fact that they receive public monies. Receiving public funds, as D. Ravitch has often observed, does not make a business a “public” one. If that were the case, the pharmaceutical industry and many others that benefit from tax-generated revenues would be “public” enterprises as well. 

What is to be done, then, to stop the encroachment of charter schools on our democratically-run system of public education?

A small but necessary initial step should be to repeal the charter of those schools that do not meet the General Provisions of the 2015 California Education Code, Part 26.8, Chapter 1, 47601. It reads as follows: It is the intent of the legislature…to provide opportunities for teachers, parents, pupils, and community members to establish and maintain schools that operate independently from the existing school district structure, as a method to accomplish all of the following:

  • Improve pupil learning
  • Increase learning opportunities for all pupils, with special emphasis on expanded learning experiences for pupils who are identified as academically low achieving
  • Encourage the use of different and innovative teaching methods.
  • Create new professional opportunities for teachers, including the opportunity to be responsible for the learning program at the schoolsite.
  • Provide parents and pupils with expanded choices in the types of educational opportunities available within the public-school system.
  • Hold the schools established under this part accountable for meeting measurable pupil outcomes, and provide the schools with a method to change from rule-based to performance-based accountability systems.
  • Provide vigorous competition within the public-school system to stimulate continual improvement in all public schools.

Charters in WCCUSD have failed to accomplish these objectives.

September 2020

Mountain Lions and Swastikas

With two Right Wing rallies scheduled for the Bay Area (Saturday August 25, Crissy Field, San Francisco and Sunday, August 26, Berkeley) I would like to we weigh in on the raging national debate:Is it morally justifiable to “punch a Nazi”? I consider anyone displaying a swastika, or doing the Nazi salute, the political equivalent of an Elvis impersonator. Such individuals, however, cannot be dismissed as easily as one would steer clear of a would-be-Elvis. The East Bay Parks District has solved the ethical dilemma: when can you punch a Nazi? The public warning on Mountain Lions issued by the Park District provides  a clear answer. For the word “Lion” I have substituted “Neo Nazi”.

1.Do not approach the Neo Nazi.
2. Do not run from the Neo Nazi.
3. Face the Neo Nazi, wave your arms slowly and speak in a loud voice.
4. Do not crouch down or bend over.
5. Do all you can to appear larger.
6. Back away slowly, giving the Neo Nazi an opportunity to escape.

Do not forget the words of Frank Zappa: “The Meek shall Inherit Nothing.”

Stop the Goldman Sachs Gang

Text of two minute presentation before the West Contra Costa Unified School Board. Comments are in reference to Item F-1 on the agenda, “1. Decision to Accept or Deny the Caliber Schools: High School Charter Petition, Proposed for West Contra Costa Unified School District.”

Last Saturday [October 15] the Board of Directors of the NAACP [at its 107th National Convention] ratified a resolution calling for a moratorium on charter school expansion.
The resolution states: “We are calling for a moratorium on the expansion of the charter schools at least until such time as:

Public funds are not diverted to charter schools at the expense of the public school system.”
I am asking this Board to endorse this resolution.
Buzz words like “choice” and :competition” are often used by market fundamentalists to argue in favor of charter schools. They serve to confuse the issue.
I believe we can get a clearer picture of the relationship between charter and public schools if we re-frame the argument in the language of the biological sciences, specifically PARASITOLOGY.
That is precisely what takes place when tax-generated public funds are diverted to charter schools. That is precisely what happens when the charter school industry imposes on our District a business model that is completely inappropriate to public education.
We DO NOT need to add another million dollars to the financial hemorrhage.
We do not need another High School. There are other concepts in economics such as “SOCIAL COST” and “ECONOMIES OF SCALE” that argue against charter school encroachment.
What we, community members, teachers, parents, School Board members and superintendent must do is refocus our attention and begin a thorough academic reform and take the lead in the civil rights struggle of our time, the struggle for free, high quality, fully and equitably funded public education for the 30 thousand children for whose education and training we are still legally responsible.
To this Board I say, act like the PUBLIC SERVANTS that you are, stop the expansion of charter schools, HEAL THE SOCIAL BODY that is our District and DO NOT allow the Goldman Sachs Gang to take over the FUTURE of our children.

[Video Courtesy of]

Free Speech is a Right But Some Have More Than Others

The 2010 Supreme Court (5-4) decision established the doctrine that money is a form of free speech. Free speech is an abstract right guaranteed to all by the Constitution. The problem with the “money is free speech” doctrine arises from the fact that money–a store of value and medium of exchange–is not an abstract right guaranteed to all. Thus when your access to monetary wealth determines the amount of free speech you exercise the “speech” of some is louder than others. The current race for two seats in the Governing Board of the West Contra Costa Unified School District is a case in point. The chart below speaks for itself.


Compiled November 8, 2016 by

1. Education Matters (Steve and Susan Chamberlin’s PAC
#1372949): $82,023
2. 860 Harbour Way LLC, Richmond: $1,500
3. Harbor Gate Partners, LP/Crosspoint Realty Services,
in San Francisco: $1,400
4. Interstate Storage Richmond LLC in Lafayette, CA:1,200
5. Marina Bay Crossing LLC in Lafayette, CA: $1,000
6. California Charter School Association-
“Parent Teacher Alliance” PAC #1367043, Sacramento,CA: $155,394
7. Students for Education Reform in New York, NY: $53,321
8. In WCC (from 24 donors – avg. amount $258): $6,200
9. Outsidde WCC (from 6 donors – avg. amount $150): $900
10. Loans from self to campaign: $43,000
11.Donations from self to campaign: $56,000

1. Education Matters (Steve and Susan Chamberlin’s PAC
#1372949): $25,461
2. 860 Harbour Way LLC, Richmond: $1,200
3. Harbor Gate Partners, LP/Crosspoint Realty Services,
in San Francisco: $0
4. Interstate Storage Richmond LLC in Lafayette, CA:1,200
5. Marina Bay Crossing LLC in Lafayette, CA: $0
6. California Charter School Association-
“Parent Teacher Alliance” PAC #1367043, Sacramento,CA: $199,850
7. Students for Education Reform in New York, NY: $58,131
8. In WCC (from 24 donors – avg. amount $258): $600
9. Outsidde WCC (from 6 donors – avg. amount $150): $0
10. Loans from self to campaign: $0
11.Donations from self to campaign: $0

FINAL 12/05/2016 FINAL
Mister Phillips 28,018 22.63%
Tom Panas 22,290 18.57%
Stephanie Sequeira 19,777 15.98%
Ayana K. Young 15,529 12.55%
Antonio Medrano 14,954 12.08%
CARLOS TABOADA 13,683 11.05%
Don Gosney 8,468 6.84%

With the election of Tom Panas and current members Valerie Cuevas and Elizabeth Block, the California Charter School Association now has a three-to-five majority in the Governing Board of the West Contra Costa Unified School District.
Welcome to the lair of the Goldman Sachs-Betsy DeVos Gang of School Privateers. Not bad for a measly investment of $355,244, when you consider that WCCUSD has an annual budget of more than $350 million. ¡LA LUCHA CONTINÚA! CONGRATULATIONS MISTER PHILLIPS. WE WILL BE THERE TO REMIND YOU THAT MAKING CHARTER SCHOOLS “ACCOUNTABLE” IS NOT ENOUGH. WE ALREADY KNOW HOW MUCH $$ THEY TAKE FROM THE GENERAL FUND/LCFF AND TITLE II. WE WANT THEM OUT OF OUR DISTRICT!!!

We Do Not Need Another Charter High School

10/19 Defend Public Education-STOP Ron Beller’s Caliber High School In Richmond
Fight For Strong Public High Schools Strong In Richmond And Keep Them Open
Stop Union Busting And Privatization

Press Conference And Rally
Wednesday October 19, 2016 5:15 PM before WCCSB Meeting at 6:00 PM
DeJean Middle School
3400 Macdonald Ave, Richmond, CA 94805

Failed billion dollar UK Peloton hedge fund operator Ron Beller and his wife Jennifer Moses are now trying for a take-over of public education in Richmond and the West Contra Costa School District. They tried to set up a sweet heart deal to buy the Adams Middle School with 8 acres for $60,000. After a community and labor campaign, the school board voted to reject this deal. Now privatizer Beller is back with a new proposal to build a charter high school in West Contra Costa County.
How many high schools does Richmond Need?
There are already enough high schools in Richmond and they need more support. Richmond High and others are desperately short of supplies and financial support. These schools have long time teachers and staff who are doing their best to keep their schools going and make them the most successful schools in the community. WE need to support these schools and make them great for our kids.

Beller has told people in Richmond that he wants every school to be a charter run by private operators like himself. If the school board votes to open up another non-union anti-labor charter school, this will likely lead to the closure of one of our public schools in Richmond and further segregate our schools. All school teachers, staff and parents and students need to stand up to protect our public high schools in Richmond. The NAACP has called for a moratorium on all new charters because of their racist policies and the ACLU has exposed that these schools illegally cherry pick students in California.

Come to the press conference and rally on Wednesday October 19 at 5:30 to defend our public high schools and oppose the Beller Caliber charter high school which is being funded by billionaires like Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and the Gates Foundation. These multi-billionaires don’t want to pay more taxes and at the same time they are helping to shutdown public education so they can turn schools in to profiteering centers run by private corporate boards that want to use our public taxes and money for making money with more computers and testing.
It’s time to Stand Up For Public Education and Equality For All.

Sponsored By
Defend Public Education NOW!
For information

Service Employees International Union Local 1021 On Strike

Retired UTR Teachers Carlos Taboada & Eduardo Martinez Rally For Striking SEIU1021 Costra County Social Service Workers In Richmond

Carlos Taboada who is a retired teacher and running for the West Contra Costa School Board and Eduardo Martinez who is the Vice Mayor of Richmond California attended a rally for 1300 striking SEIU 1021 Contra Costa County Social Service Workers. The workers are fighting poverty wages and for more staffing to provide services to poor and homeless people in Contra Costa County.
Taboada and Martinez both oppose more charters in Richmond and Contra Costa County and the Ron Beller Caliber High School which is being pushed.
The rally took place on Friday September 30, 2016 in Richmond.

Defend Public Education NOW

On Wed, Sep 28, 2016 at 7:43 PM, Steve Zeltzer wrote:

Don’t Help Privatizers And Charter Supporters In Their Take-Over Of WCCSD
Statement of Defend Public Education NOW!

The millionaires and billionaires supporting more charters in the WCCSD are giving hundreds of thousands of dollars to their candidates to completely take-over the WCCSB. They have active plans for many more charter schools in Richmond and the WCCSD. In the past, the United Teachers of Richmond UTR when endorsing candidates contributed thousands of dollars for these pro-teacher candidates. These funds were matched by the CTA.
In this critical November 2016 election, the president of the union Demetrio Gonzalez has unilaterally decided that there UTR endorsed candidates will not receive a penny from the PAC funds. This could mean that as a result of the lack of financial support the UTR candidates would lose and the board would be completely taken over by pro-charter funded candidates.
This raises serious questions about the political character of the UTR president. He in the past was campaign manager for Valerie Cuevos who since winning the election has been the most vociferous voice for more charters. She told the Mira Vista school meeting with Beller and the school district that they had to accept the Caliber school being built at the Adams Middle School site and also denied that she had taken money from the charter supporters/industry.
In fact she has taken thousands of dollars from the charter builder Chamberlin and has been the biggest pro-charter advocate on the board.
The same Chamberlin who built the non-union charter Aspire School on Hilltop used non-union construction workers from Nevada who were paid $15.00 an hour and of course opposes the unionization of these charter schools.
Chamberlin has also spent millions of tax-deductible funds financing more Teach For American teachers in the CCSD. Teachers who need funds for their public schools are not getting the money from Chamberlin and instead he wants to bring in TFA teachers who end up being used to get rid of senior teachers since there is a financial incentive to save money. That is in fact what this is all about and it is having a deadly, racist and dangerous affect in our public education system. That is why the NAACP now supports a halt on new charters and the ACLU has exposed the illegal cherry picking by many charter schools in California.
Despite the fact that the UTR has opposed charters including any new charters and endorsed the NAACP resolution Demetrio Gonzalez wrote a letter to the newspapers saying that he supported charters but was just opposed to the Caliber charter at the Adams Middle School. At the recent school board meeting, where Ron Beller and his Caliber charter chain proposed a Caliber Charter High in the WCCSB Demetrio was silent and there were no calls on the website or on the UTR facebook page warning teachers about this threat and the need to oppose it by going to the school board meeting. As most teachers know, a Caliber High school would likely mean the closure of Richmond High or another public high school in Richmond. Why is Demetrio silent about this? Is it because he really supports a Caliber High School?
The UTR endorsed candidates need to get immediate financial funding from the UTR and all UTR teachers need to demand that this happen soon. The election of more pro-charter candidates to the WCCSB must be stopped and those officials whoever they are in the UTR who are blocking this by their actions need to be not only challenged but removed by the membership.
The future of public education is on the agenda and threatened. It is time to take on the charters to defend public education before they destroy all public schools in Richmond and WCCSD.
Statement of
Defend Public Education NOW! Contact UTR President 510-222-5112 and ask WHY TODAY !

Visit to Vista High School and Transition Program



   Today I had the opportunity to visit with teachers and staff from Vista High School and the Transition Program. I had not seen some of you since my retirement last June, 2015. To the teachers that met me in Room 8, let me thank you for sharing your concerns.

Don’t forget to VOTE on November 8, 2016:

  1. Yes on Proposition 55: The Children’s Education and Health Care Protection Act extends current income taxes on the wealthiest Californians (singles earning more than $250,000 and couples earning more than $500,000) for 12 more years. Revenues from Prop. 55 go into the Education Protection Account, a dedicated fund that directs monies to K-12 public schools and community colleges. It will also improve access to health Care programs for low-income children.
  2. Yes on proposition 58: The California Language Education, Acquisition and Readiness Now (LEARN) will expand opportunities for our students to become proficient in English as their primary language while also having the chance to learn in other languages. Monolingualism is a Curable Disease!
  3. Yes on Proposition 52: Medi-CAL Funding and Accountability Act. It will help maintain billions of dollars in federal funding to support health care for low-income children and seniors.
  4. Those residing in West Contra Costa, Yes on Measure T. This is not a new tax, it simply extends the existing parcel tax. Measure T is the ballot question that asks voters to renew the parcel tax that supports public school students in West Contra Costa County. The measure continues the 7.2¢ per square foot of building area that is assessed to local property owners (with exemptions for senior citizens and disabled persons). We must support it even though corporate education privateers will get 20% of the revenue .

You are an integral part of our District and you can count on my support when I am elected to the School Board.


All Power to the teachers!




Caliber Charter School’s Attempt to Buy Public School Property Rebuffed

No Sale picAfter five months of public debate, the West Contra Costa Unified School District met in closed session to decide the fate of the Adams School site.  Our School Board decided not to “move forward” with the sale of Adams Middle School property to the Caliber Charter School chain, owned by Ron Beller. “Thanks Board members!”

Patrick Duffy, WCCUSD’s Superintendent, stated:

The Board provided direction to staff to not move forward with the sale of the Adams property. The District understands its responsibility under Proposition 39 to find a long-term solution to the housing needs of Caliber School. We look forward to reaching out to Caliber and finding a solution that works for both organizations.

In a last minute attempt to court the Union vote, Ron Beller signed an agreement with the Carpenters Local 152 agreeing to use a Carpenter Signatory General Contractor for the construction of a new charter school on the Adams site. Reversing the position taken a month ago, the political organizer for the Carpenters Union, under Ron Beller’s watchful eyes and ears, publicly supported the sale of Adams Middle School to Caliber. We should add that the Carpenters Union Local 152 was the only labor organization voicing support for the sale.

We want to express our heartfelt appreciation to the other Unions present who maintained their opposition the the charter expansion. Namely, United Teachers of Richmond (UTR), Public Employees Union Local 1, and the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers (IFPTE).  Special thanks to the Vista Hills neighbors, Pastor Brian Adkins from the Open Door Methodist Church,  Richmond City Council member Eduardo Martinez and all the parents and concerned citizens that came together to defend public education. All these individuals, groups and labor unions showed us what it means to work for the common interest. Yesterday we saw democracy at work.

[Video  courtesy of Labor Video Project]