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Education Revolution in Orange County: Part I of III

Posted by Chris Nguyen on July 23, 2015

An education revolution has been brewing in Orange County.  We’re seeing massive change in Orange County thanks to charter schools, the Parent Trigger Law, and litigation against compulsory union dues by the California Teachers Association.  I’m going to do a three-part series on this.

Charter schools are a recognition that one-size-fits-all does not work for all students.  There needs to be competition because some students need a different kind of school, just like there are many different types of colleges and universities.

Despite Orange County’s conservatism, the education community has long known Orange County as an anti-charter school county.  It’s not the voters who were anti-charter school.  It was the school board members.

The 2007-2008 Grand Jury even issued a report where they recommended, “The chartering authorities should follow the intent of the legislature by encouraging the establishment of charter schools by granting more charter school petitions provided they meet the State requirements.”

At the time of the Grand Jury report, there were 11 charter schools in Orange County.  Over the next six years, just three new charters were approved.  Keep in mind there are 29 chartering authorities in Orange County: the Orange County Board of Education and the 28 local school districts.

Here’s what the state of charter schools looked like in May 2014.  This shows Orange County’s four neighboring counties, plus tiny Humboldt County.

County Number of Charter
Schools in 2014
Population
Orange 14 3,010,232
Humboldt 15 134,623
Riverside 26 2,189,641
San Bernardino 37 2,035,210
San Diego 120 3,095,313
Los Angeles 341 9,818,605

Then in June 2014, with assistance from the California Charter Schools Association, South County voters tossed the County Board of Education’s most virulent anti-charter school member, 32-year incumbent Liz Parker, who to the surprise of many, was a registered Republican.  By a 57%-43% margin, the voters sent in Linda Lindholm to replace Parker.

Things have changed significantly for charter schools in Orange County since Lindholm replaced Parker.  We have overtaken Humboldt County.  Local school districts got the message and approved two more charter schools in the latter half of 2014.  In the first half of 2015, the Orange County Board of Education approved another two charter schools.  Orange County has grown its charter schools to 19, still a bit behind Riverside and far behind San Bernardino, and way, way behind San Diego and Los Angeles Counties (even when adjusting for population).

 

As I noted in a post a month ago:

Trustee Ken Williams, elected in 1996, has a voting record generally supportive of charter schools.  Trustee Robert Hammond, elected in 2012, has a voting record consistently supportive of charter schools.  Between 2012-2014, Williams and Hammond often found themselves on the losing ends of 3-2 votes on charter school applications.  Lindholm’s victory in unseating Liz Parker shifted the Board to a pro-charter school majority.  To their credits, Trustees Jack Bedell and David Boyd, along with the Orange County Department of Education staff, recognized the sea change delivered by the voters.  Staff reports for both Vista Heritage and CCPA have recommended approval of the charter schools.  Bedell and Boyd joined a unanimous vote in favor of Vista Heritage’s application and are expected to join a unanimous vote for CCPA.

The Orange Unified School District provisionally approved a charter school in May by a 5-2 vote.  Unfortunately, due to absences, the OUSD Board’s vote on final approval was 3-2, one vote short of the necessary four votes.  That charter school, Unity Middle College High School, has appealed to the County Board of Education with a vote expected in August.  Considering OUSD’s rejection wasn’t a real rejection, and was more of a fluke, we should expect Orange County’s 20th charter school before the close of summer.

Next in the series: the Parent Trigger Law and Orange County’s 21st charter school…

2 Responses to “Education Revolution in Orange County: Part I of III”

  1. […] Education Revolution in Orange County: Part I of III […]

  2. […] Education Revolution in Orange County: Part I of III […]

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