Removing Renaissance Charter Language is Dangerous to District

Testimony of Lynda Rubin to the BOE, 11/19/20

I’d like to state, once again, that historical data about the specific reasons for the creation and monitoring of any program is critical to understanding whether that program is reaching its goals, or not, and any increasing costs to the District. The District’s and the Board’s homogenizing revisions and elimination of much of the “goals and guardrails” language about Renaissance Charters from other charter policies plays into the hands of whoever is looking out for the interests of Renaissance Charter schools to eventually morph into regular charter schools. Perhaps the elevated collaboration with charter companies and acceptance of money from PSP, and other wealthy backers, is seeping in. Lawyers use language different than us. Wording, or omissions of words, in regulations such as these is done for a reason.

For those shaking your heads, it may or may not be your purpose, but it is how these changes and exclusions will reshape the District’s future. For example, there is no mention of Renaissance Charters in the new policy 400 – Charter Monitoring Structures or their specific creation and status for monitoring.

The only language references to Renaissance Charters left in Proposed 401 – Charter Authorizing Functions – are “A Renaissance Charter is a former District school that serves students in catchment areas” – and by the way, Renaissance Charters have always remained District schools in District-owned buildings, not “former” District Schools. That needs to be corrected.
Also included is, “Renaissance Charters are granted greater autonomy in exchange for increased accountability” and “The provisions may be used as a basis to renew, not renew or revoke the Renaissance Charters.” Completely removed is the phrase; “the District has discretion to renew, terminate or modify the charter.” “Basis to” doesn’t mean the same as Discretion by the Board.

The proposed elimination of Policy 141 is currently on hold due to outrage by stakeholders. But the purpose and creation of Renaissance Charters is being removed from the record of all policies. The removal of the sentence, “Intervention into Renaissance Schools to “protect students’ academic interests, health or safety or to protect the fiscal interests of the School District”. is a critical removal. The use of no more than a paragraph or two defining and/or oversight of Renaissance charters, it is reasonable to assume that the Board and District are slowly removing the differences between Renaissance Charters and regular charters. Why else remove explicit language about Renaissance Charters, which former Board member Chris McGinley called a failed and overly expensive trial that should be terminated?

Let’s remember that the newly State-created MCSO – Multiple Charter School Organization – answerable only to the State, is just waiting for more charter chains to increase their number of schools before they secede from the District altogether. If Renaissance schools become regular charters, entire neighborhoods of schools could be severed from the District.