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Global Tides Petition Being Reviewed by Districts; Torlakson Seeks Additional Requirements

By Jeff Hudson - October 30, 2009

Scores of California school districts have been evaluating charter school petitions for the proposed Global Tides online charter school.

In an unrelated development on the charter school front, Assemblyman Tom Torlakson (D-Antioch) has introduced a bill that would put additional requirements on new charter schools and existing charter schools that are renewing their charter – while also lift the state cap on the number of charter schools, a move sought by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, federal Education Secretary Arne Duncan, and others.

The Global Tides story is evolving in 91 school districts located in 14 different counties scattered around the state, where Global Tides filed charter petitions in September – which generally arrived by mail a school district offices.

Given the large number of districts impacted by the 91 petitions – and for some districts, it was the first or second time they’d received a charter school petition – the Association of California School Administrators (ACSA) and Total School Solutions (TSS) organized workshops examining the basics of charter school law and the petition process, held in Northern and Southern California during the final week of October.

An article in the Contra Costa Times last weekend reported that about a third of those 91 districts have either rejected the Global Tides petition, or told Global Tides organizers that they will not consider the petition. Another third of the 91 districts are still considering the petition, while the remaining third have not responded at all, according to Marco Salazar, a vice president of Charter School Development Systems in Newport Beach, which backs the Global Tides petitions. (Charter School Development Systems is not to be confused with the Sacramento-based Charter School Development Center, which is a completely separate organization.)

Salazar indicated to the Contra Costa times that the Global Tides petitions had gotten a “supportive” response from some districts in Siskiyou, Placer and Kern counties, though it is not clear whether that comment means those school districts have granted a charter, or have given a cordial response at a public hearing.

The Global Tides petition has not been well received by some school boards.  One school board member in the Davis Joint Unified School District described the petition as “frivolous,” and complained that reviewing the petition was consuming valuable administrative time as well as running up the district’s legal bill.  A parent activist in the Orange Unified School District characterized the Global Tides document as a “spam application,” akin to unsolicited e-mail.

In Yolo County, several districts pooled their financial resources and retained a lawyer to advise them on the Global Tides petition.  In another county, several districts reportedly split up the task of evaluating the petition, with each district working on a different section of the document.

Stephanie Farland, senior policy consultant at the California School Boards Association, rapped Global Tides’ strategy of filing 91 nearly identical charter school petitions, telling the Contra Costa Times that “We don’t support the ‘throw it against the wall and see what sticks’ approach.”

Through it all, Salazar has repeatedly said “We are not a threat.” He also told the Contra Costa Times that Global Tides will appeal any denials of the petition at the County Office of Education level.

Another unrelated development on the charter school front occurred this week in Sacramento, as Assemblyman Tom Torlakson introduced Assembly Bill x5 3, which would make some changes to the charter school petition process.

In a press release, Torlakson’s office said “Under current law, charter schools must outline outcomes for student academic and enrichment performance, and how these outcomes will be measured, in their charter petition to the authorizing school district.  Also under current law, charters must be reviewed at least once every five years for renewal, by their authorizing school district.  However, current law does not connect these outcomes to charter renewal requirements.  Additionally current law and measurements do not provide a complete picture of their successes that are consistent with the skills, knowledge, and attitudes specified as goals in the school’s educational program.”

Torlakson’s press release went on to describe the proposed bill in these terms: “AB x5 3, the Charter School Accountability Act of 2009 will require applicant charter schools submit specific student academic and enrichment data and ways of measurement in their petition.  This data will be used by the authorizing school district to consider the petition and charter renewal.  Individual charter school data will be submitted annually to the authorizing agency, the State Department of Education, and the State Board of Education. Existing charter schools will be required to submit outcomes to their authorizing agency no later than 2012, and this data will be used for charter renewal decisions.  Additionally, the legislation would also remove the statewide charter cap.  Charter schools will be encouraged to develop standards that are beyond those currently required of all public schools.”

Torlakson said, “To get a true sense of achievement within a school, we must provide a complete evaluation that focuses on the goals of the program.”

“Charter schools are an important part of our educational system that encourages innovative instruction, but they must be subject to adequate oversight and demonstrate success, just like any other public school,” said Torlakson.  “This measure puts parents, teachers and schools in the driver’s seat by allowing them to measure their success in reaching their own set objectives and goals.”

Editor's Note: Jeff Hudson is the editor of EdBrief and an award-winning education reporter and writer in print, radio and television media.