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Setting the Record Straight

For a number of years, there has been persistent misinformation circulating in our district. Unfortunately, our opponents are making this misinformation a centerpiece of their campaign. Here, we set the record straight on the facts.

Misinformation Point No. 1:

As of 2009, Bayside MLK was a thriving school, as reflected by its receipt of a California Distinguished School Award in 2008.  However, when candidates associated with Willow Creek Academy became a majority of the District Board in February 2009, the programs were cut and the school’s performance declined.

Fact:

Academic performance did not decline at either Bayside Elementary or Martin Luther King, Jr. Academy middle school (which were separate until 2013) beginning in 2009.  In fact, beginning in 2009, test scores plateaued, then rose, then plateaued again.

Bayside Elementary (but not Martin Luther King, Jr., Academy middle school) did receive a California Distinguished School award in 2008.  The award was given for progress in closing the achievement gap; it was not a determination that a school is high-performing in general. The award was based on performance in earlier years:  the Academic Performance Index (“API”) score at Bayside peaked in 2007, and began declining in 2008 and 2009, before the change in composition of the Board.  In the subsequent years, Bayside’s test scores plateaued, then rose markedly in 2012, the final year of API testing.

During this 2009-2012 period, API scores at Martin Luther King Academy, Jr. rose slightly in 2008, 2009 and 2010.  They dipped in 2011 and were materially unchanged the following year.

Since the new testing regime was implemented starting in 2015, scores have effectively plateaued at Bayside MLK.  

Misinformation Point No. 2:

Programs have been cut at Bayside MLK due to excessive allocation of discretionary resources to Willow Creek Academy.  

Fact:

Program cuts in 2014-2016, were not due to allocations to Willow Creek Academy.  In fact, the allocation of discretionary resources to Willow Creek declined in this period (see below).  

Instead, the program reductions were the consequence of a planned phase-out of grants from the Marin Community Foundation. Unfortunately, these five-year grants had been used to support permanent positions and programs. When the funding was lost, so were the positions.

Misinformation Point No. 3:

District Board members owe their primary duty to the traditional school, and therefore any allocation of discretionary resources to an “independent” charter school is at best suspect and at worst illegal.

Fact:

This assertion is the opposite of California law and guidance issued by the California School Board Association that require that Board members act in the best interests of all public school students, regardless of whether those students attend a traditional public school or a public charter school.  

  • The law does not recognize a distinction between “independent” and “dependent” charter schools, and the distinction has no bearing on the duties of district Board members.  

  • The Education Code expressly authorizes district Boards to allocate discretionary resources to charter schools, specifically calling out excess property tax funding that districts like ours receive.   

Misinformation Point No. 4:

The current MOU between the district and Willow Creek Academy was a give-away of district resources to which an “independent” charter school is not entitled.  

Fact:

As one of the 10% of California school districts that are “community funded” or “basic aid,” we enjoy millions of dollars more in public funding than we would if we were “state funded” or “revenue limit” like the other 90% of school districts in California.  We have about $9 million in public funding for just 530 or so students -- about $3 million more than what we would receive if we were “state funded.” 

From its inception in 2001 through today, Willow Creek has been funded at dramatically lower levels than Bayside MLK.  Willow Creek receives less than 50% of our public funding even though it serves 75% of the students. On a per student basis, WCA’s public revenue is about $10,000, while Bayside MLK’s is between $30,000 and $40,000, depending on how much “district overhead” one puts into the calculation.

The basic structure of the current Memorandum of Understanding (“MOU”) allocates this excess, first, to support required programs for both schools (mainly Special Education and facilities).  Anything left over is allocated according to the need-based formula used by the state to allocate school funding. This formula is already weighted to favor disadvantaged students with higher funding levels, and results in substantially higher per-student funding at Bayside MLK.

The current MOU froze Willow Creek’s public revenue for 2015 and 2016, absent windfall growth in property tax revenue.  For 2017- 2019, Willow Creek shares in any excess funding based on student need. In 2017, however, there was a negative balance resulting in a charge to WCA. In short, not only is the MOU far from generous to WCA, it represented a reduction in the allocation of discretionary resources to Willow Creek relative to prior years.  

Misinformation Point No. 5:

Having a child in one of our two public schools creates a conflict of interest.

Fact:

Throughout the county, the state and the nation, parents of school-age children attending public school populate local School Boards.  Being a parent of local students is generally considered a credential that demonstrates commitment and knowledge. Often the most effective Board members are parents. We are the only candidates with this credential.  

In our district, there have been allegations suggesting that having children at one of our two public schools creates a conflict of interest for School Board members.  But that theory has now been debunked. Since the County Superintendent first raised the issue, counsel for the Sausalito Marin City School District has advised that no such conflict exists.  Now, thanks to an effort led by Jen Conway to obtain clarity from the Marin County Superior Court, the County Superintendent has clarified that she never intended to suggest that being a parent creates a conflict.  She agrees it does not. In addition, the district has now formally taken the position in court that a Board member does not have a conflict of interest by virtue of being a parent of a charter school student.

Misinformation Point No. 6:

Electing candidates who are parents invites adverse scrutiny by the California Attorney General.

Fact:

Over two years ago, the County Superintendent requested a legal opinion on certain topics from the California Attorney General, including conflict of interest issues relating to Board members’ parent status.  The AG has never responded directly to that request.  A different section of the AG office has opened an investigation relating to the district -- a very different process from the formal opinion requested -- but it is not clear whether this is a response to the County Superintendent’s request for an opinion.  No one outside the AG’s office knows the nature, scope or timetable of that investigation.

Misinformation Point No. 7:

Merging the schools is code for “charter takeover” and/or impossible because we don’t have the capacity to merge the schools, the union wouldn’t allow it, or any number of other speculations.

Fact:

We have just 530 or so K-8 students attending public school in the district, with roughly 400 at one school and 130 at the other.  The smaller the school the more challenging it is to be cost-effective, because the district cannot take advantage of economies of scale. In addition, one of the major impediments to progress in our district has been an “us vs. them” mentality around the two schools, draining time, money and energy from our classrooms.

Even though merging the schools could address many of these issues, it has never been seriously studied by the district.  For example, a single school would have financial benefits by reducing per-student costs (e.g., one principal instead of two, one faculty, etc.).  It would become impossible to blame one school as a drain on the resources of the other. But options on structure, unionization, etc. have not been explored at all alone fully analyzed.  Unlike the other candidates, we have been advocating to undertake this study without pre-judging whether it is feasible or what format (traditional or charter) might work best.

 

Paid for by Team Up For All Kids
PO Box 1130, Sausalito, CA 94966
FPPC# 1411500
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