Choice Overload

School choice has been a hot topic for years. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos received backlash for her advocacy of voucher programs in Michigan, which critics say took money out of already poor public schools and funneled it into charter schools.

The debate on school choice has many battlegrounds, from presidential debates to the California Legislature to Salinas, where Millennium Charter High School, which specializes in a curriculum of digital media and art, and has about 144 students enrolled. On June 5, after theWeekly’s deadline, the Monterey County Office of Education board was set to decide on whether to revoke Millennium’s charter.

The school’s financial woes were uncovered by MCOE in the summer of 2018, with Millennium $199,882 in the red. On April 10, the MCOE board issued an intent to revoke the school’s charter.

That left Millennium looking for a Plan B. Enter Compass Charter Schools, a nonprofit based in Thousand Oaks, which operates in two dozen California counties and offers online and homeschool options. Compass offered to step in as the Millennium’s chartering district.

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MCOE is the authorizing district, and would need to approve a merger between Millennium and Compass. “Our fate is in their hands,” Millennium Superintendent/Principal Malissa Burns says.

Opponents of charter schools see the arrangement as a non-local, non-elected board overseeing taxpayer money.

California is currently looking at four bills that would impose more regulations on charter schools, including measures that would prevent charter school from locating outside of the district that authorized them, and a cap on the growth of unregulated privately-managed schools. On May 28, Salinas Union High School District – which could, hypothetically, charter Millennium – voted unanimously to support all of these state bills.

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Marielle Argueza is a staff writer and calendar editor for the Weekly. She covers education, immigration and culture. Additionally, she covers the areas of Marina and South County. She occasionally writes about food and runs the internship program.

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