Remember when people used to ask, "Heard any good gossip lately?" With the rise of social media and its instant access for just about everyone to share just about anything, perhaps the more appropriate question today should be, "Is that a rumor or a fact?" The purpose of this page is to answer the latter question in regards to the rumors we hear and read in our own RVSD community and sometimes beyond. Sadly, it seems to be much easier to post or spread a rumor than a fact. Rumors can be scintilating and even entertaining sound bites, whose hyperbole can stir us emotionally. Facts on the other hand, can be complex, detailed and a bit dry. We'll do our best to respond to the rumors we hear and read in a succinct and straightforward manner, with the goal that we not only provide accurate information, but also keeps you awake!
Rumor: In verifying addresses of students attending the charter, Ross Valley School District is "targeting" certain student populations.
Fact: Not only is this rumor wholly inaccurate, it is offensive.
Before going further, let's begin with some context. In the waning hours before California voters approved Proposition 39, little-known, lesser understood and completely un-related language was inserted into the legislation. As a result of this lack of transparancy, few Californians realized that by passing Proposition 39 they would also be passing an obscure set of new laws, requiring local school districts to allocate facilities and other school space to charter schools, based on the number of in-district resident students enrolled in the charter school.
The fact that school districts are required to allocate facilities and other school space even when another entity (i.e. the State Board of Education) authorizes a charter school, is an issue for another discussion. The bottom line is, whenever a charter school files a Proposition 39 request for facilities and so long as it has at least eighty (80) in-district resident students enrolled, the school district is required to allocate "reasonably equivalent space" to what those same students would be entitled if they enrolled in the local school district. An interesting nuance is that students may enroll in a charter school no matter where they live. in other words, a student's physical address is irrelevant for purposes of enrolling in and attending a charter school. Residence is important only for purposes of determining the charter's space allocation under Proposition 39.
You may be wondering, "If a charter school can enroll students from anywhere but is allocated space only for students who reside within the boundaries of the local school district, how is space provided to students who live outside of the district?"
The answer is that Proposition 39 does not directly provide for the allocation of district space to out-of-district students who attend a charter school. What Proposition 39 does do, however, is create a situation in which charter schools want to enroll as many in-district residents as possible in order to maximize the facilities and space allocation for all of their enrolled students. This means there is a dis-incentive for charters to spend a great deal of time and effort verifying the accuracy of their students' in-district addresses. By contrast, school districts have an incentive to verify a charter's in-district student actually reside within the district, because it must allocate space based on that particular number of students.
If this all sounds confusing and complicated, it can be. There are two essential points to remember:
- Proposition 39 creates inherently competing interests between charter schools and school districts, which frequently (read the stories in the news) causes conflict, and
- While a student's ongoing enrollment in a school district may be compromised if he/she turns out to not live within the district's boundaries, that same student's adddress is irrelevant for purposes of attending a charter school.
Please take a moment to read the second point again. What this means is that if you want to enroll your child in a charter school, there is no need for you to have an in-district resident address. And, once your child is enrolled, you can move anywhere you want and your child can remain enrolled. The only reason an in-district address matters in the context of a charter school, is because that chater school depends on in-district resident enrollment to gain access to more district facilities under Proposition 39.
Back to the original rumor.
Charter schools are required to provide their local school districts with a list of enrolled students who live within the district's boundaries. Ross Valley Charter (RVC) provides us with such a list on a monthly basis AND whenever they file their request for facilities under Proposition 39 (annually on November 1st). As stewards of our community's schools, we are responsible to be certain that the facilites we ultimately allocate to the charter, are accurately and appropriately allocated in compliance with the law. We therefore check all in-district resident addresses the charter provides to us, against publicly available address verification data. When the address verification data matches , we consider the student a valid in-district resident at that point in time. When the data does not match, we investigate further - up to and possibly including an on-site home visit. We do not know, nor are we concerned with, a student's ethnicity, gender, socio-economic status, home language, citizenship status, race, etc. We are provided a simple list of names and addresses and we investigate only those in-district resident addresses that do not match publicly available data. Remember, even if the district determines that a student with an in-district resident address does not actually reside within the boundaries of the Ross Valley School District, there is absolutely no impact to that student's enrollment status in the charter school.
The rumor above falsely accuses the District of "targeting" certain student groups, a tactic which may be interpreted as designed with intent to stir controversy, outrage and perhaps most egregiously, to frighten the very students the spreaders of these rumors claim they seek to protect. The implication that some negative consequence will be brought upon a charter student who is found to live outside the district, is not only inaccurate and hurtful, it's just plain wrong on so many levels.
Now that you know the facts, you can help put this offensive rumors to rest.
Rumor: The ongoing community debate regarding the Ross Valley School District and its Prop 39 tenant, Ross Valley Charter, is discouraging families from moving to the area.
Fact: According to a January 31, 2019 article in the Marin Independent Journal by reporter Keri Brenner, 2018 home sales in Fairfax and San Anselmo are up 4% and 31% respectively, over home sales in 2017. The same article also reports that 2018 median home prices in Fairfax and San Anselmo were up by 7% and 11% respectively, over 2017. It should also be noted that these increases in home sales and median home prices occurred during a year in which tax laws changed significantly, interest rates rose, the stock market suffered losses and forecasts of an "economic slowdown" (i.e. recession) are looming.
Rumor: The instructional program, pedagogy and methodology in public school districts is traditional, rigid and ineffective at addressing the unique needs and interests of the whole child.
Fact: As both a parent and educator, my first response upon hearing this rumor would be to ask, "What makes you think that?" In other words, what specific evidence supports this assertion? In the world of education we love buzz words and tend to use them a lot. We are very fond of words and phrases such as "innovative," "creative," "student-centered," "choice," "project-based," "whole child" and "21st century teaching and learning." But what do all these buzz words and phrases really mean in describing programs, schools, districts or education in general? In his landmark 2008 book, "Visible Learning: A Synthesis of Over 800 Meta-Analyses Relating to Achievement," Professor John Hattie reported that when it comes to analyzing the many possible influences on student achievement, "everything seems to work." Fancy buzz words aside, the question is to what degree does a particular instructional program, pedagogy and methodology maximize the magnitude of student achievement and progress? Are we seeing at least one year of growth for each year our students spend in school and if so, what is the evidence beyond anecdotal claims? To get a better sense of whether the rumor above is fact or fiction, particularly in regard to RVSD's schools, my best advice is to come see for yourself. Take a tour of one or more of our schools. Talk to our principals, teachers, students and parents. Ask what we teach and how we teach it. Find out more about our District's offerings in the core subjects as well as in art, music, poetry, STEAM, world languages, drama, physical activities and more. Chat with leaders in our YES Foundation. And, if you want to learn a bit more about my vision relative to visible learning, check out my blog post titled, "Focus on the Process Rather Than the Result."
Rumor: The Ross Valley School District’s financial position has diminished since 2014.
Fact: While it is true that RVSD has experienced a decline in enrollment since the 2013-14 school year and increased expenditures in many areas, including State-mandated contributions toward employee retirement plans and special education, utilities and more, the District’s ending fund balance has increased from $4,162,938 in 2013-14 to $5,136,457 in 2017-18. It is important to note that school districts throughout California are bracing for a recessionary cycle that UCLA's Anderson School predicts has a 1 in 6 chance of occurring this year (2019) and a 1 in 3 chance of occuring in 2020. After the last recession in 2008, the State of California routinely "deficited" K-12 education by, for example, funding education at less than 80 cents on the dollar. Districts and charter schools with insufficient reserves were hurt by the sudden shortfall in the State's commitment, in many cases forced to utilize short-term forms of borrowing to make payroll and meet other expenses. It is therefore important, particularly given the cyclical nature of the economy and inevitable downturn that eventually will come, that we continue to maintain a strong ending fund balance and healthy reserves. Our Board of Trustees and all of us in RVSD, are committed to this effort and encourage anyone with questions about the budget to reach out to us. Education finance is complex and nuanced. It is truly one area where a sound bite (such as the rumor above) can easily be spread and in some cases be believed. It is therefore critically important that such mis-statements be checked and vetted carefully.
Rumor: White Hill Middle School is projected to lose 40+ students next year (2019-20).
Fact: No. Based on current information and projections, White Hill’s enrollment for 2019-20 is expected to remain flat and may even grow slightly, to approximately 750 students.
Rumor: The Statewide cost of providing students with special education supports and services, is increasing.
Fact: This is true. The chart above illustrates the annual Statewide increase or decrease in student enrollment compared to the annual Statewide increase or decrease in student enrollment in special education. For 2017-18, public school enrollent actually declined a bit on a Statewide basis, while enrollment in special education programs increased. As the "gap" between new K-12 enrollment and new special education enrollment widens, so too does the cost of providing these services. This is particularly significant whenever overall K-12 enrollment declines, because declining enrollment means less revenue (except in Districts funded under the "Basic Aid" model). Neither the State nor the Federal Government have ever fully funded the mandate to provide these specialized services, which means a significant portion of the costs associated with special education are paid from each school district's general fund. This is referred to as the "local general fund contribution." At present, it is estimated the Federal and State combined contribution toward the cost of special education is about 38%. The local general fund contribution makes-up the rest. For more information on the funding of special education, EdSource published an article on March 8, 2018, titled, "Special Education Funding is a Morass; Straightening it Out May Not Be Cheap or Easy."