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Charter Schools Need Local Watchdogs

September 14, 2004

Re "Link Charters to Colleges," editorial, Aug. 28: I object to the recommendation that the state authorize the University of California and California State University to oversee their own charters. That's the job of local governing boards, and it's one they take seriously.

As a former school board member, I take issue with the assertion that local governing boards are often hostile or indifferent to the charter school movement. School boards are being vigilant, not hostile, when they critique flawed charter applications or take action against inept or unscrupulous operators. They are safeguarding taxpayer dollars when they insist that charter schools pay their fair share for the district facilities and services they use. Local districts are not afraid to learn from those charter schools that work.

In San Francisco, Oakland and San Diego, district officials are collaborating effectively with local charters to create smaller learning communities within the regular system. San Francisco's "Dream Schools" project is just one example.

Ironically, bringing higher education into the charter school business could have one advantage: If UC and CSU had to operate schools under the prescriptive provisions of the federal No Child Left Behind Act, we might finally get some of the changes we need in that misguided mandate.

Scott P. Plotkin

Executive Director

California School Boards Assn. West Sacramento

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