The bizarre law that’s overcrowding California’s public schools

Jeremy Mohler
Oct 4, 2018 · 3 min read

You’d think Independence High School would at least get to use all of its sprawling campus on San Jose’s east side. Its state, California, ranks 41st nationwide in how much it spends per public school student. And its district, the East Side Union High School District (ESUHSD), is losing nearly $20 million a year because of charter schools in its boundaries.

But, due to a little-known state law, Independence is being forced to share space with two charter schools — that’s right, two.

Prop 39, passed by voters in 2000 as part of a school funding ballot initiative, allows the private operators of charter schools to “co-locate” at traditional, neighborhood schools. It allowed both KIPP San Jose Collegiate and ACE Charter School to take space from Independence, which is creating problems for students and districts officials.

One student wanted to use the gym. “My school’s black student union wanted to hold an art show for Black History Month, and we weren’t able to use our own school’s small gym due to the charters’ extensive reservations,” she says in a new video on Prop 39’s impact statewide.

Another has to walk home from school late at night because on some days charter students get first dibs on the sports fields.

“As a school district, we have to allow them comparable time and use for fields, gyms, practice spaces. In many instances, that does displace our own students,” says Marcus Battle, former Associate Superintendent of ESUHSD.

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Independence isn’t the only California school dealing with problems.

In San Diego, students at one of the charter schools operated by a chain called Thrive Public Schools have bullied the neighborhood school students they share a campus with, according a teacher at Carver Elementary.

In Los Angeles, students at North Hollywood High School recently protested and won to keep a charter school from sharing their campus. There are total of 102 charter schools co-locating in the Los Angeles Unified School District.

In San Francisco, Malcolm X Academy was forced to co-locate with KIPP Bay Area Charter, losing space used for garden and art classes, one-on-one support, restorative practices, and wellness services. Malcom X, a school that serves predominantly low-income black and latinx students, had no say in the matter.

​​​​​​​Until California reforms its charter school laws, the problems will likely continue, particularly for schools and students already struggling with dwindling resources.

Watch the video on Facebook.


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Jeremy Mohler is a writer and communications strategist for In the Public Interest, a nonprofit that studies public goods and services. He’d love to hear from you: jmohler@inthepublicinterest.org

In the Public Interest

In the Public Interest is a nonprofit that advocates for democratic control of public goods and services.

Jeremy Mohler

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DC-based writer and meditation teacher. jeremymohler.blog and inthepublicinterest.org. Sign up for my email list: jeremymohler.blog/signup

In the Public Interest

In the Public Interest is a nonprofit that advocates for democratic control of public goods and services.

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