Last week, students at Los Angeles’s Alliance College-Ready network of charter schools dropped to the floor, crawled under tables, and covered their heads. Joining over 27 million students worldwide, they were preparing for an earthquake in the annual “Great ShakeOut” drill.
But, little did they or their parents know, the very school buildings they were practicing in might not have been able to withstand the violent shaking an earthquake brings.
While California’s traditional public schools are required to meet strict building standards, some charter schools are exempt from the state’s highly regarded seismic safety legislation.
Alliance has turned more than $110 million in federal and state support into over $200 million worth of privately owned real estate. How much of that property is safe for students?
This uncertainty raises an even bigger question: if they’re publicly funded, why are charter schools exempt from rules and standards that are meant to protect kids?
And it’s not just about kids, and not just in California.
As Hurricane Irma pounded Florida last month, residents of all ages huddled in shelters set up in government buildings, schools, and other well-built structures. But only three of the state’s 654 charter schools were available because the privately operated schools aren’t required to meet constructions guidelines for hurricane protections.
All of this is on top of the lack of public transparency into charter school funding, special education, enrollment, and discipline in school districts nationwide.
The double standards have to go.
Charter schools are funded by the same public money that supports traditional public schools—they should follow the same rules that protect kids and the public.