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Sacramento Schools Lose Charter Over Controversy

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Summary: The role of charter schools in education at Sacramento Schools is constantly emerging and evolving. Sacramento Schools have been involved in the on-going battle between privately run charters and the public systems that fund them for years. The enormous impact of this inability to form a cohesive working relationship will come to a head on June 14th when the Sacramento Visual and Performing Arts Charter (VAPAC) closes its doors. VAPAC was originally a part of the Sacramen...

The role of charter schools in education at Sacramento Schools is constantly emerging and evolving. Sacramento Schools have been involved in the on-going battle between privately run charters and the public systems that fund them for years. The enormous impact of this inability to form a cohesive working relationship will come to a head on June 14th when the Sacramento Visual and Performing Arts Charter (VAPAC) closes its doors. VAPAC was originally a part of the Sacramento Schools system. It began as a program within the Sacramento High School. When Sacramento Schools decided to make that a charter in 2003, VAPAC leased separate space and established its own charter. Part of what makes the Sacramento Schools' charter programs difficult is determining who is in charge. Charter programs like VAPAC are fully funded by public funds, yet have their own governing boards. This is what landed VAPAC and the Sacramento Schools in court this past year. Sacramento Schools demanded the authority to fire administrators governing the charter school, citing budget and student safety concerns. VAPAC leaders disagreed. The lawsuit was finally settled in September of 2006. However, when VAPAC tried to get a new charter from Sacramento Schools, they were denied. Officials in the Sacramento Schools district office said that the charter was not able to produce the necessary curriculum and budgets requested. So where does this leave VAPAC students, the charter, and Sacramento Schools? VAPAC Director Arbatel de la Cuesta and some others are opening a new private school, the Sacramento Art Conservatory. About two dozen students are currently enrolled. But for many the $7,000 annual tuition eliminates private school as a possibility. This leaves many of Sacramento Schools' students scrambling to locate a new school. It also leaves Sacramento Schools without an arts school. In an error of mandatory testing and higher standards, many Sacramento Schools' educators and parents are already concerned about the lack of balance as time for art, music and physical education give way to academic test preparations. Tom Barentson, Deputy Superintendent for Sacramento Schools, has stated that Sacramento City Unified will have another arts program. He just can't say when it will be, or whether it will be another charter or part of an existing program. That eliminates one option of school choice for many Sacramento Schools' students. And this is not a controversy likely to fade away soon. Sacramento Schools are trying to look at all the options it can to use a public school budget to meet rising standards for its many students. But until local school boards, like the Sacramento Schools, find a better way to govern charter schools, the controversy will continue.
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