The Tragic Story of the Maxwell Park “Charter School” Takeover and it’s Role in the 14 of 16 OUSD Campuses “Taken” by Charters; or Not

My neighbors were bemoaning the loss of our local school and the replacement by a charter.  How Maxwell Park Elementary, had been taken over by a charter school.  How it used to be a Black school and now, you see a lot of new faces driving into the neighborhood and driving off after dropping their kids off.  Not a lot of Black ones.

Worst of all neighborhood kids don’t really go there, you have to apply, there is a lottery, and it seems like it’s mostly White and Latinx now.  Not sure if it welcomes the neighborhood kids anymore, you know how that can go.

Only thing is, like many of these stories, it is just that, a story.  The perpetrator of the “takeover,” Melrose Leadership Academy, is a district school. Yes there is a lottery, yes there is a waitlist and yes, there are lots of folks driving into the neighborhood and a lot less Black kids than were at Maxwell Park, but don’t blame a charter school for that.

Facts Matter and Non-Facts Around School Closings Matter Too

Which brings a larger point, around the need for a fact-based debate, especially as it comes to closing schools.  I have seen a bunch of non facts flying around, that I have to correct, and they are just like the Maxwell Park issue. 

Facts matter because they help us reach rational decisions, non facts matter because they impede decision making.

You may have seen one of these flyers or infographics, with no author, flying around “16 OUSD schools have been closed and 14 were taken over by charters.”  Yeah maybe like Melrose took over Maxwell Park, but for anyone who has been here for any length of time it’s a patently absurd claim.

Off the top of my head I can name 4 schools closed by OUSD, that aren’t used as sites at all—Edward Shands, Rudsdale, Cole and Foster, and can name probably a dozen schools like Maxwell Park that were closed and are now used by another OUSD school—Lockwood, Havenscourt, Elmhurst, Washington, Manzanita, Burbank, Stonehurst, Highland, Sobrante Park, and Maxwell Park.  And I am sure there are more, that’s off the top of my head. 

So next time you hear some stat about charter takeovers, and chatter about giveaways to outsiders, please check your facts.  You can’t rely on some of these folks for them.

Yes there are some closed sites that house public charter schools, and yes the law says that public charter school students should have “reasonably equivalent” facilities from the district, and yes at times that does inconvenience district schools.

But in a district with 12,000 empty seats. Those resources should go to public school children, and in a district where we will continue to have school closings for the near future, we owe the public at least an honest debate, something that is sorely lacking right now.

What do you think?

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