Plan to Create Local Charter School Source Of Controversy

Protesters Say Charter Secondary School Will Lead to Segregation in Berkeley School District

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A controversial Berkeley charter school proposal that proponents say would provide an alternative education is drawing fire from protesters, who claim the school would create segregation.

Members of the Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, Integration and Immigrant Rights and Fight for Equality By Any Means Necessary attended Wednesday's school board meeting to express their concerns with a charter school, which could start as early as the 2010-11 school year.

The Berkeley Unified School District is working to create an alternative secondary education program. The charter school proposal, which was crafted by Berkeley Technology Academy Principal Victor Diaz, is only one option the district is considering, said Mark Coplan, district spokesperson.

"We're looking at ways for a secondary education program ... to address the needs of kids from 7th to 12th (grades)," Coplan said.

If approved, the charter school would replace Berkeley Technology Academy, the district's only continuation high school diploma program, Coplan said.

"It's really more likely we're going to define our own model for an alternative secondary education program based on Berkeley's history of creating its own models," he said.

Coplan added that while the district is seriously considering implementing some sort of an alternative program, it is far from deciding what the program will look like.

Berkeley High School's Parent Teacher Student Association Vice President Mark Van Krieken said despite the ease of teaching students at the same educational level, he is still concerned a charter school would increase segregation.

He added that although there has not been enough information about the proposed charter school, he respects the validity of Diaz's proposal to create an alternative education program.

"It's certainly food for thought," he said.

BAMN organizer Yvette Felarca, who attended the Sept. 23 school board meeting, said charters operate on a system of deregulation which goes against the city's history of integrating education.

"BAMN is 100 percent against opening any charter school in Berkeley," said Felarca, who teaches at King Middle School. "(It's) an attack on fundamental rights of public education."

Because Berkeley's school district i the first of its size to voluntarily integrate, a charter school would reverse the city's historical efforts in education equality, Falarca said.

"We responded to (Martin Luther King Junior's) fight and his dream," she said. "We can't give up on that dream now."

Although the proposal was not discussed at this week's school board meeting, Falarca said BAMN is gaining support from the community to organize at the next meeting on Nov. 19.

Tags: BERKELEY TECHNOLOGY ACADEMY


Contact Stephanie Baer at [email protected]



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