Report: ‘Forced’ parent work at charter schools violates state law
Craig Clough | November 20, 2014
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If you are required to do it, is it still “volunteering”?
That is the question at the heart of a report issued yesterday by Public Advocates, which researched 555 charter schools in California and found that 30 percent of them require parents to do work at the school for a set quota of hours.
But requiring parent volunteer hours as a requirement for student enrollment in a charter school is illegal and discriminatory, the report says.
“These policies exclude kids whose parents can’t spend time doing that work at the schools,” Hilary Hammell, an attorney at Public Advocates and the lead author of the report, said in a statement. “Charter schools with these policies risk leaving out kids whose families struggle to make ends meet, which, by the numbers, is more than half our state’s kids. This is not just wrong; it’s also prohibited by the California constitution. Our findings support the notion that these policies make it harder for high-need kids to get in the door of these charter schools. The charter schools in our survey enroll fewer foster youth, English Learners, and low-income kids than comparable non-charters.”
In response to the report, the California Charter Schools Association (CCSA) conceded that some charters do require parents to volunteer, but that the law allows it.
“The law is also clear that charter schools may require that families agree to volunteer for the charter school,” CCSA said in a statement. “Our guidance to charter public schools is to be as flexible as possible to find as many opportunities for families to be involved. This may include on campus volunteer service hours or financial contributions or contributions of supplies and materials for classroom and school use. Forced labor is an inappropriate way to refer to this issue.”
Public Advocates said it is sending the report to the California Department of Education and a letter asking the department to issue clear guidance to charter schools that requiring parental volunteer hours is unlawful.
Each school that Public Advocates said it researched and found to be requiring volunteer hours is listed in the report, and included are 73 from Los Angeles County, many from LA Unified, including KIPP LA Prep, Alliance Renee & Meyer Luskin College-Ready Academy and Los Feliz Charter School for the Arts.
Click here to read the report.
* Corrects to add proper link for access to report.