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It’s Unclear if COVID Lifted OC’s Charter School Enrollment, While Oversight Concerns Swirl | #coronavirus | #kids. | #children | #schools | #parenting | #parenting | #kids


It’s unclear if the pandemic boosted enrollment in Orange County’s charter schools when traditional public schools were shut down by the state, while concerns linger about a lack of oversight for charter schools.

Over 1,200 more students were enrolled in charter schools this previous school year in Orange County than in the 2019-20 school year, according to state data.

These schools are independently operated schools and funded by public tax dollars that proponents say offer more pathways for low-income kids and students of color with a more flexible approach to education. 

Mari Barke, president of the county’s Board of Education, said while Orange County saw a trend in charter school enrollment going up in recent years, it was nothing like during the pandemic.

“Parents were very frustrated at their traditional schools being closed and they knew of charter schools that were open and there were several that were open almost the entire time. They were the ones that could pivot very, very quickly to virtual learning … And then they could pivot back to allowing children in the school.”

Mari Barke, President of the Orange County Board of Education

But that’s not what the Orange County Department of Education has seen.

Nichole Pichardo, a communication specialist at Orange County’s Department of Education, said in an email the department does not have data supporting an uptick in families in the county switching to charter schools since the start of the pandemic.

Pichardo said the department is responsible for the oversight and accountability of charter schools authorized by the county Board of Education and conducts annual visits to see if the schools are following safety and instructional requirements.

While the department deals with oversight, the county’s board of education acts as an appeals board for charter schools who are turned down by individual school districts.

[Read: OC School Reopening Reignites Debate Over Alternative Education, Charter Schools]

Some educators like Grant Schuster, president of the Anaheim Secondary Teachers Association, have concerns with charter schools and say it’s too early to tell if there has been a shift.

“When we start pulling individual students and their funding away from the public schools and establishing extra schools, we’re diluting the ability to use the funds to address all of the needs in the overall community,” he said in a phone interview Thursday



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