Parents, teachers, school board candidates and labor union representatives said Thursday afternoon at a protest at the Mission Education Center that they would not mind sharing space with some charter schools, but opposed the district’s decision to place the non-profit KIPP in six of its 13 classrooms at 1670 Noe St.
“There are some great charter schools out there,” said Alida Fisher, a member of the San Francisco Unified School District’s Community Advisory Committee for Special Education, who is a candidate for the Board of Education.
But “I feel KIPP is more about profits than it is serving students,” Fisher said.
KIPP, which operates charter schools across the country — including several in the Bay Area — plans to open a new school using space at the Mission Education Center, a public K-5 elementary school for newly arrived Spanish-speaking immigrant students that now takes up all three of the building’s floors.
Under Proposition 39, passed by California voters in 2000, local school districts must make space available for charter schools to accommodate in-district students.
Gentle Blythe, a spokesperson for the district, said in a written statement to Mission Local that the district received requests from five charter schools to use some of their facilities.
After analyzing the space requests, the district offered KIPP space at the Mission Education Center. It is unclear what other facilities might be available or if the Mission Education Center was KIPP’s first choice.
Alison Collins, a former teacher and candidate for board of education, said she doesn’t blame SFUSD. “The district’s hands are tied,” she said.
Collins, too, said she isn’t opposed to all charter schools. She cited Five Keys and Creative Arts as examples of good charter schools operating in San Francisco.
“Some want to be part of our district and are part of the team. Others don’t. Being a national organization, KIPP does things the way they want to do them,” she said.
Some at the demonstration believed Mission Education Center was picked because many of the students come from vulnerable communities.
“Let’s get real for a second. If your name is Davidson, or Alioto, you’re not under threat from having your space taken away by a corporate charter. If your name is Sanchez, or Ramirez, maybe you are. That’s how this works,” said Josh Davidson, chapter president of SEIU 1021, which represents the classified staff at SFUSD.
“They’re not coming after people in my neighborhood in the Sunset. They’re not coming after people in Alison’s neighborhood in North Beach,” Davidson said. “They’re coming out here in the east side, where they think people don’t have political power. And we’re going to show them they’re wrong.”
Indeed, 11 charter schools currently operate in San Francisco, a majority of which are located in the Western Addition, Bayview, Visitacion Valley and downtown. Both charter schools in the Bayview are run by KIPP.
Maria Krauter, a spokesperson for KIPP, said that the organization’s schools in the Bayview and Western Addition have both been named California Distinguished Schools by the California Department of Education. “KIPP’s mission is to empower students in educationally underserved communities to have more opportunities,” she said.
Even though Proposition 39 limits options for challenging the new charter school, Tomie Craig, parent organizing coordinator for Coleman Advocate, was optimistic.
“We have people power. If we push back enough, we will be victorious,” she said. “A reasonable request is how it starts. But we can get louder, and louder, and louder.”
“An important thing for them to know is we’re not going to go away,” she said. “Even if you think you’ve won, I will stand outside your school with a picket sign every day, because that’s how important it is to me.”