RICHMOND -- The head of the West Contra Costa school district's teachers union announced her opposition to a proposed campus of Silicon Valley-based Summit Public Schools at the district's Wednesday night board meeting.
That stance places the union at apparent odds with the private Chamberlin Foundation, which has contributed heavily to district programs
aimed at improving educational and career prospects for minority students and employees.
Foundation principals Steve and Susan Chamberlin are negotiating to house the charter in the former Windrush School at 1800 Elm St. in El Cerrito. The Chamberlins purchased the building in December for $6.9 million.
United Teachers of Richmond President Diane Brown cited the presence of Diane Tavenner, president of the California Charter Schools Association, and Hewlett-Packard CEO and former California gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman on Summit's board of directors as reasons to oppose the charter.
"Can tech industry leaders and venture capitalists help improve our public schools?" Brown said before district trustees. "Let's leave education to educators, not business people."
Charters have "only a small effect" on raising test scores, skim off the best students, and take lower numbers of disadvantaged and special education students, Brown said.
Trustees will consider a staff recommendation and decide whether the district will sponsor Summit's charter petition at their Aug. 12 meeting.
Meanwhile, district Finance Director Sheri Gamba told trustees that West Contra Costa may receive $6.4 million more in income from the state than it had planned under new funding rules passed by the Legislature.
Most of the increased income, if it materializes, likely would be used to reduce class sizes to 24 students per class in kindergarten through third grade by 2014-15, hire more police officers to work on high school and middle school campuses and maintain adult education at its current level, she said.
"We're basing this on information trickling out of Sacramento," she said.
According to trustee Todd Groves, West Contra Costa is one of two districts in the county expected to benefit the most from the so-called Local Control Funding Formula because it has comparatively high numbers of students who are learning English, students from low-income families and foster youth; the other is Pittsburg.
Trustees also formally voted to request that county supervisors return tax rates on its Measure D bonds approved by voters in 2010 to their targeted rate of $48 per $100,000 in assessed valuation from $31.40 per $100,000 in 2012-13.
Property owners will also be paying $48 per $100,000 in assessed valuation for the first time in 2013-14 to service about $120 million in new bonds to be issued under Measure E, which was approved in November.
Overall, tax rates on district school construction bonds have risen from $12.50 per $100,000 in the 1999-2000 school year to an estimated $285 per $100,000 in 2013-14, according to Oakland-based KNN Public Finance, the district's bond program adviser.
Dozens of district schools have been rebuilt or remodeled under the program.
Trustee Charles Ramsey emphasized that none of the current tax rates are above targeted rates announced to voters when the bonds were approved.