"Colocation is eviction... It doesn't mean sharing, it means displacement." — NY State Senator Bill Perkins
Passed with the backing of the multi-billion dollar charter school industry, Proposition 39 is a law that forces public school districts to provide space for private charter corporations on existing public school campuses. The deceptively worded legislation demands our schools make any "free space" available to charters. In most cases this free space turns out to be computer labs, English Language Learner rooms, arts and music rooms, and other vital services that are surrendered. Once established on public school campuses, charters create a divisive two tier system which are frequently based on class and race. In addition to dividing communities and causing ill will, these charter corporations often begin to encroach more and more public schools space over time.
We saw this terrible scenario played out at Logan Street Elementary School, which has been collocated by the Gabriella Charter Corporation for several years. Not satisfied with occupying more space than they were originally allotted under their Prop 39, Gabriella seized Logan's auditorium over the summer of 2011 and turned it into their office for several weeks. Following this incident, they also annexed several classrooms that had just been painstakingly restored by the Greater Echo Park Elysian Neighborhood Council. In the process of taking over these rooms, Gabriella's staff removed all of the existing furniture, computers, and materials, haphazardly piling these items up in adjacent rooms, damaging both rooms and items in the process.
The photos on the right were taken during these events at Logan. We have seen many similar incidents at other collocated schools throughout the district. The following online articles chronicle the Gabriella incursion:
Gabriella Charter Corporation further encroaches Logan Street Public Elementary School
Occupation of Logan Street School Rooms by a Corporate Charter Continues
The film The Inconvenient Truth Behind Waiting for Superman also exposes the damage that collocations cause, especially in terms of the charters taking over the best parts of school facilities for themselves while relegating the public school students to basements and other undesirable locations. New York communities have long been fighting the scourge of collocations, and community groups like the Grassroots Education Movement (GEM) are on the forefront of that struggle.
Charters Are NOT Public Schools
Despite all the marketing hype promulgated by deep pocketed trade associations like the California Charter Schools Association, charter schools are not public schools. Instead charters are privately managed entities whose only claim to the word public is the fact that they drain public funds. Dozens of court cases have ruled that charter schools are not "public entities." Two well known examples include the following:
The California Court of Appeals (2007-01-10) which ruled that charter-voucher schools are NOT "public agents."
The 9th Circuit US Court of Appeals (2010-01-04) which ruled that charter-voucher schools are NOT "public actors."
Moreover, the US Census Department expressed difficulty in obtaining information from charter-voucher schools because the are NOT public entities.
Charters Exclude the Local Community
The private, unelected boards of charter schools ignore the needs of communities. More often than not charter schools boards have no educators or community members. For example, the fourteen member board of CNCA Charter Corporation, which was awarded the local CRES 14 campus against the explicit wishes of the Echo Park community, is packed with bankers and venture capitalists with no connection to the community or the families enrolled at their school. Likewise, Gabriella Charter Corporation's board has repeatedly refused to inform community members where or when they hold their board meetings.
Photo by Lisa Baca-Sigala