In Fontana, and in the entire Inland Empire region in fact, charter schools have received the cold shoulder for many years. The education choice “revolution” never quite made its way east into the Inland Empire. As a result, we have only a handful of charter schools and few educational options for parents and their children.
I remember as a board member in Fontana that I would get packets on proposed charter schools, but I knew that I was the only board member who would actually review the packages, and that the others relied on school staff to give their scathing report and recommendation for denial. In reality, it was a farce that any of these schools ever really had a chance. None of my colleagues were interested in supporting charter schools at all, mostly because they were beholden to the Fontana Teachers Association who has long enjoyed a reign of terror upon the schools and students in Fontana Unified. However, in retrospect, it may also have been because they just didn’t understand the concept of what public schools really are.
Often, school board members lack an actual working knowledge of schools, education, and academia background in education. That also, by the way, probably explains a lot about the hundreds of school districts throughout California that lack the same understanding. But I digress.
Last year around this time, the local newspaper published an article about the expansion of charters into the Inland Empire (IE). According to the article, the Inland Empire is home to some 64 charter schools. Up from just 41 in 2009. Although there seems to be a warming up to the idea of more charter schools in the rest of the Inland Empire. Fontana seems to be resisting hard. Recently, two charter schools reported that they would be closing their doors for good in Fontana. Options For Youth (OFY) currently has 2 school operating in Fontana. This organization does not have a charter agreement with FUSD.
The schools have been operating in Fontana through a charter from Victor Valley Unified. It was been announced that Options For Youth would in fact be closing seven (7) of their school sites on Saturday, July 1st, 2017 due to a recent supreme court ruling (Anderson Unified School District vs. Shasta Secondary Home School). The ruling restricts independent charter schools (about 250 across the state) to operate satellite campuses only within their authorizing district’s boundary. Therefore, the OFY schools operating under the Victor Valley charter are no longer qualified to operate in Fontana and other Inland Empire cities.
As a result of these closures, thousands of students will find themselves displaced for the 2017-2018 school year. Fontana Unified, of course, has no plans to authorize a charter for these schools. It is a tragic situation for the students who have chosen OFY for various reasons as they scramble to figure out what they will do in the fall when school resumes.
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