Sausalito: A Lesson in School Desegregation

The city of Sausalito has provided us with a recent example of state mandated desegregation, something that has not been practiced in California for a few decades. As it stands, there are only two schools in the Sausalito community, one being a charter school and the second being a traditional public school. The district was accused of creating a segregated school and of violating state anti-discrimination laws. The Washington Post reported that almost the entirety of the charter school’s student population consists of white students, while almost none of the traditional public school’s students are. The article went on to further report on the settlement reached by the Sausalito Marin City School District on Friday. This settlement would “unravel the segregation, compensate graduates who were harmed by it and build a more equitable system.” 

A common myth held against charter schools and an argument commonly used against school choice is that charter schools are responsible for separating students based on race and socioeconomic status. The Sausalito Marin City School District’s actions, in dividing their students predominantly by race between their two schools, is harming the narrative around school choice across California. This outcome is not the intention or the purpose of charter schools, instead it is presenting a false narrative that has the potential to harm the rights of parents in need of strong academic choices for their students in their home communities. The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools clarified that “like all schools, anyone can go to a charter school regardless of socio-economic background…charter schools do not discriminate against students based on their household incomes, race, gender, or academic backgrounds.” 

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra told The Washington Post, “Every child — no matter their stripe or stature — deserves equal access to a quality education,” in a statement regarding the school district’s actions. I currently teach about 30 minutes away from the city of Sausalito in Richmond. While parents and caregivers in my local community are fighting for their right to school choice in seeking better outcomes for their students, it’s infuriating to see the people of Sausalito perpetuate the inequities for black and brown children locally. Let’s continue to hold every school district accountable for the academic outcomes of their students and hold true to our mission of providing just school choice for the families who so badly desire and fight for it.

 The average income in Sausalito is over $110,000 dollars a year, with the median property value exceeding $1 million dollars, according to a Data USA reporting.

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Daniela Felix

Daniela Felix

Daniela is a first generation college student who is heavily involved in education in her home district, West Contra Costa Unified. After becoming a mother at a young age, Daniela’s passion for education justice only intensified and she began to fight for an equitable education for all children, regardless of background or zip code. Daniela played a key role in organizing parents with the California Charter Schools Association and is a firm believer in school choice for all families. She is currently a Lead Organizer with Students for Education Reform, organizing college students around education justice issues in her home district. She was recently accepted into Teach for America and plans to continue impacting the lives of children in her hometown of Richmond, CA as a high school social studies teacher. Daniela is a UC Berkeley senior pursuing her B.A. in Legal Studies and Education along with her 4 year old daughter and husband. Daniela is a firm believer in that every single child is capable of meeting high expectations if given the correct support. Daniela hopes to be a provider of that support.

One thought on “Sausalito: A Lesson in School Desegregation

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    Sebastian Ferrando

    Daniela, I would like to invite you to cover our district. Since your story was written, the district board has essentially defunded Willow Creek Academy (WCA), the district’s public charter school that educates 80% of the kids. The current funding arrangement calls for 100% of the basic aid excess, around $4 million, to go entirely to Bayside Martin Luther King Academy (BMLK) so that BMLK now gets around $6.5 million for 115 kids and WCA gets around $3.5 million for almost 400 kids. All-in once you adjust for overhead, it works out to around $45,000 per student at BMLK for 20% of the kids and the mandated state minimum at WCA, around $8000, for 80% of the kids. This is a district that generates around $20,000 per student and in a state that funds at around $12,500 per student.

    Does that sound like fair funding to you?

    My name is Sebastian Ferrando and I am the Vice President of the Willow Creek Foundation (WCF), set up to support public education in our school district by financially supporting WCA. It is very clear that you’re well versed in the issues around WCA and our district, but I wanted to set some things a little straight. Firstly, the majority of Marin City kids go to WCA as do most English learners, most low-income kids, and most of our vulnerable kids. In fact, 40% of the WCA student population qualifies for free lunch or for reduced-price lunch (that’s a family of 3 on annual income of $27,014 or less).

    Secondly, one of the key issues that has held BMLK back is how poorly run the school is. For example, many people talk about two incidents as evidence of unfair funding at BMLK but unfortunately, they are both untrue. One is that when the school year started in 2016, there weren’t any text books available to students. Not true, I was there when they found them misplaced in a random cupboard. My youngest child went to BMLK during the 2016-17 school year so I am one of the rare parents who has sent their kids to both schools. The second story is about the 5th grade math teacher and how the school didn’t have one for a long time. That is true, but it isn’t because there was no funding. The funding sat there unused because the administrators couldn’t arrange to interview candidates and when they did, they either didn’t make offers or the candidates didn’t accept when offers were made. It was never about funding in either case.

    Lastly, your story gave the impression that WCA is and was very well funded. That is simply not true. For as long as I have been involved (my kids are almost 11 and 8), BMLK has received multiples of the WCA’s per student-funding. The only reason that WCA has been able to provide its students the experience people hear about is through private fundraising, predominantly parents who give over-and-above the property taxes many of them pay. That fund raising is largely coordinated through WCF.

    To put this funding disparity into context, Marin county is home to a very expensive private school called Marin Country Day School (MCDS). If this district closed the only school they run and sent every single kid to MCDS, they would save about $13,000 a year. That isn’t a typo – this district spends $45,000 of tax payer money per student at BMLK but MCDS “only” costs $32,000.

    WCA receives $8000 per student.

    I encourage you to come to our district, please, and learn more about the educational travesty that is unfolding in this district. The best thing to happen to this district is WCA and it has taken almost 20 years. It may disappear in a matter of months, and for no good reason. This district has a surplus that is approaching $1 million that it does not need and it refuses to fairly (maybe even legally?) fund WCA out of spite, out of a feeling of retribution, and out of politics. You should make sure people know what is going here.

    Thank you in advance for your time Daniela.

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