It turns out that growth of charter school students San Diego Unified hasn’t been much of an explosion at all – more like a steady inflation.

The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, which we’ve cited in stories, miscounted charter school students in a previous report, the group said Wednesday.

The error made it appear as though the number of students who attend district charter schools jumped by about 35 percent in 2012-2013, which would have been the second-largest growth in the nation.

The real number was less than 7 percent. On a list of 50 districts that have the most charter school students, San Diego Unified was actually ranked 18th – behind 34 school districts (some districts were tied in rankings).

Katherine Bathgate, a senior communications manager at the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, said her group missed about 3,000 San Diego Unified charter school students in its 2011-2012 count.

Bathgate said the mistake happened like this:


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In San Diego Unified, there were three schools they thought were “virtual schools” – which they didn’t count toward charter numbers – but were actually charter schools. So really what was wrong was the percentage change from the 2011-2012 school year to the 2012-2013 school year. It was a smaller increase than they thought.

The new numbers add an interesting wrinkle to the school board’s recent claim that San Diego Unified is one of the charter-friendliest in the nation.

School board trustees haven’t said the district has too many charters in general, although it has called areas of town like City Heights “charter-school saturated.”

Trustees John Lee Evans and Richard Barrera have pointed to a rash of failed charters as a reason why the school board should play a greater role in scrutinizing charters’ likelihood of success before they’re approved.

Evans said that if charters fail, it’s the district and taxpayers that pick up the pieces.

Miles Durfee, a regional director for the California Charter Schools Association, said that he questioned the numbers from the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools report when he heard increased chatter from San Diego Unified trustees about charters’ explosive growth in the district.

“What happens is that when we perceive this dramatic growth it gives some people reason to say that we’ve come too far, too fast, and that we need to dial it back,” Durfee said. “The truth is that there’s been more of a steady growth of charters.”

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    Written by Mario Koran

    Mario is an investigative reporter focused on immigration, border and related criminal justice issues. Reach him directly at 619.325.0531, or by email: mario@vosd.org.

    7 comments
    James Wilson
    James Wilson subscriber

    David, we have an elected school board that has numerous responsibilities. Two of these responsibilities are to evaluate schools and their personnel. The district takes these responsibilities very seriously. The charter schools must meet a variety of evaluation criteria or they must be closed. There are various unusual people and reasons for charters where the board must make a call. The judgement to make this kind of call is precisely why we elect our school board. Part of the school business is dealing with several unions. This is also true of cities and the State of California. There is no evidence that the school board has done anything improper regarding the teacher's union.


    When President Obama won the first election, the Republican Party noticed that the national teacher unions had supported the President. They have proceeded to make a series of untrue representations about teacher unions. This is political nonsense. There is no evidence that non union schools do anything better than unionized schools-period. On the other hand teacher unions deal with improper administrative actions on an ongoing basis. And last, the idea that a school can not fire a teacher is also nonsense. The district trains its administrators on how to properly document incompetent teaching on an ongoing basis.


    The school board has had a tough series of years in resolving enormous financial issues. I trust that they have good judgement in regard to evaluating charters. We all should applaud their excellent efforts.


    James C. Wilson, Ed.D.

    Author, Disposable Youth: Education or Incarceration? available on Amazon and Kindle.

    David
    David subscriber

    @James Wilson  ? Charter schools are not SDUSD employees. Please understand the laws before stating?

    James Wilson
    James Wilson subscriber

    @David LaRoche @James Wilson  David, there are different kinds of charters. Some utilize union teachers and some do not. The original point of charters was that they could operate outside of unions which would somehow magically turn into higher teat scores, particularly for children living in poverty. It was a notion that didn't make much sense to begin with and now that charters have been thoroughly researched it makes no sense whatever. 


    And the school board, county school board and ultimately, the State School Board must set quality standards and make judgements as to the efficacy of particular charters.

    James Wilson
    James Wilson subscriber

    The original intent of charter schools was to improve the achievement  of poor children. There are numerous studies that prove that there is no magic bullet to chatter schools. They do not improve test scores of poor children. Now charter schools are being used for special groups to provide an alternative to private schools. I suppose this very different objective does no harm, but it certainly doesn't actually help kids either.


    The school board has an obligation to evaluate these entities and when not successful, to close them. If they didn't they wouldn't be doing their job. The whole discussion is a waste of time when the larger issue of how to improve schools goes unattended.


    James C. Wilson, Ed.D.

    Author, Disposable Youth: Education or Incarceration? available on Amazon and Kindle.

    David
    David subscriber

    @James Wilson  Hi James, I actually agree to evaluate all public schools. We should hold both charters and traditional schools to the same renewal condition? Charters are held to a much higher standard if one truly knows California state law (not opinion, but CDE fact). The problem is the SDUSD board is ran 100 percent by the unions. The board meets with the union before they make any decision. It is an unmoral alliance to have districts authorize their own charters. There is extreme competition, but school districts call all the shots and fabricate issues. If you truly want to understand charters, call the charter schools and ask for a tour. 

    David
    David subscriber

    Hi,

    A friend of mine worked at Tubman Charter School. This issue is drummed up by the unions; they are out to stop students from having opportunities. The story is so twisted and slanted. The principal is very dedicated. Look at the history of the union: they unionized Promise, Nubia, and Tubman - two were closed and now Tubman. When will charters learn that when you unionize charters schools you will be closed (a if you are foolish enough to unionize, then be it). This will force the students into the failing traditional educational system. Remember, the traditional school system is an employment house for the unions. Students are a means to the teacher's end. 

    James Wilson
    James Wilson subscriber

    @David LaRoche  Your notion that teacher unions have a deleterious impact on schools is entirely without foundation. This was the original concept of charter schools. Just remove the awful limitations of the teacher's union and test scores will skyrocket. It was a failed premise with little to recommend it. Charter schools have been well researched and they have no magic-period. Teacher unions are not the bad guys and never were.