Sac City Unified charters could grow 50 percent next year

The ABCs of charter schools

Charter schools are one option in the growing "school choice" movement. Funded by taxpayer money, these schools are growing nationally, though some states have yet to pass related laws. Find out what sets them apart from traditional public and pri
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Charter schools are one option in the growing "school choice" movement. Funded by taxpayer money, these schools are growing nationally, though some states have yet to pass related laws. Find out what sets them apart from traditional public and pri

Sacramento City Unified is ground zero for new charter schools in the region.

The school district could add as many as five more charter schools by the beginning of next school year – a 50 percent increase to the current count of 10 independent schools.

On Thursday, Sacramento City Unified held public hearings on proposals for four new independent charter schools. The district also is anticipating an application for an adult education charter in October, according Alex Barrios, district spokesman.

The school board is expected to vote on whether to approve the charters at its first meeting in November, Barrios said. If a charter is denied, it can appeal to the Sacramento County Office of Education and then to the state Board of Education.

Barrios isn’t sure why the school has so many charter petitions pending.

“It’s an urban school district issue,” he said. “You have older facilities, older teaching staff. You have an established school system in these urban districts and charters come in and apply to bring something new to the table.”

He said there are fewer charter schools in suburban districts because they offer new facilities, teaching and curriculum.

“The best thing our district can do if we want students to enroll in our schools is to have a high level of satisfaction,” he said. “The best thing we can do is compete.”

California has 602,837 students enrolled in the state’s 1,254 charter schools, according to the California Charter Schools Association. Fifty-six of those charter schools opened in the 2016-17 school year.

Amethod Public Schools is asking to open an elementary and a middle school in an office building near Bradshaw Road and Highway 50 in Rancho Cordova at the end of next August.

The charter school system has five schools in Richmond and Oakland. It was founded in 1993 to offer a small and safer school environment for students from East Oakland, according to its charter petition.

Sonia Sotomayor Elementary would open with 220 students in transitional kindergarten through fifth grade, with the potential to grow to 480 students in five years, according to the petition.

Sacramento Charter Academy Middle School would open with about 60 sixth- through eighth-grade students. It would be expected to grow to 270 students in five years.

The area is served by Abraham Lincoln Elementary School and Albert Einstein Middle School, both Sacramento City Unified schools. About 20.5 percent of Abraham Lincoln Elementary students met English standards and 26 percent met math standards in 2016-17. Forty-four percent of the students at Albert Einstein met state standards in English and 35 percent met standards in math last year.

The schools in the Amethod Public Schools charter system have mixed scores, with a high of 79 percent of students at Oakland Charter High School meeting standards in English, while 32 percent met standards at Benito Juarez Elementary in Richmond.

Officials from the charter school did not return a call for comment Friday.

The Sacramento City Unified board also is considering a request from Urban Charter Schools Collective to open a middle school at the district’s New Tech High School next August. The charter school organization operates Yav Pem Suab Academy Charter School, a kindergarten through sixth-grade school, in South Land Park.

Hidden Figures Academy would focus on science, technology, engineering, arts and math. It would serve sixth- through eighth-grade students and is expected to open with 150 students, according to the charter petition. It would have expanded hours.

The fourth charter being considered is Gateway Community Charters: Sacramento Academy and Vocational Academy, a seventh- to 12th-grade school without classrooms. The program has been chartered through Twin Rivers Unified. But it needs to get new approval from Sacramento City Unified under a court decision requiring resource centers to be authorized within the school district boundaries in which they operate, according to California Charter Schools Association spokeswoman Caity Heim.

The charter school will be housed at various locations in Elk Grove and Sacramento, according to the charter petition. SAVA-SCUSD would be one of eight charter schools operated by Gateway Community Charters.

District officials would not name the proposed adult charter school because the petition has yet to be submitted.

The Sacramento City Teachers Association, the district’s teacher union, is opposed to the charter school petitions. The union says the district loses $10,000 in state funding for each student that leaves the district to attend a charter school.

Teachers union president David Fisher said he doesn’t think there is a need for charter schools in the district. “Our district has Waldorf schools, dual-immersion schools, dependent charters, small high schools and all kinds of innovative and flexible arrangements for students,” he said.

Editor’s note (Oct. 5): This story has been updated to include context about why Gateway Community Charters is seeking authorization from the Sacramento City Unified School District.

Diana Lambert: 916-321-1090, @dianalambert