Editorials

Why common sense could not overcome politics in SCOE’s shameful Colossus denial

SCOE board decides on charter school for refugee, immigrant students

SCOE board decides on the charter petition for the New Colossus Academy on Tuesday morning August 13, 2019 during the Stanislaus County Board of Education meeting in downtown Modesto, Calif.
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SCOE board decides on the charter petition for the New Colossus Academy on Tuesday morning August 13, 2019 during the Stanislaus County Board of Education meeting in downtown Modesto, Calif.

It’s a shame that the Stanislaus County Board of Education could not see the value in a proposed charter school serving immigrant and refugee students.

Rather than listen to the very people with the most experience working with these English learners — as well as numerous supporters of vulnerable populations and community groups representing people of color — board members chose instead to bow to the power structure.

We don’t know why board members Kim Rose, Mary Ann Sanders, Alice Pollard and Chinyere Nnodim-Jack on Tuesday denied the charter proposed for New Colossus Academy in Modesto — because none clearly articulated her reasons. Kim Spina said she was not satisfied with the procedure leading to doom for New Colossus, and she stood alone behind it.

We do know that superintendents of a dozen school districts throughout the county opposed the charter, and that Stanislaus County Office of Education staff members — who deal with these superintendents — urged denial. Those districts would lose big money for every English learner who had opted to switch to New Colossus.

“How selfish, opposing this just on politics,” audience member John X. Mataka said, sensing the outcome before Tuesday’s vote. “Politics and a `good ol’ boy’ attitude still exist in this community.”

Ryan Swehla noted, “The only opposition is from the school districts; that should speak volumes.”

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Modesto has an award-winning Language Institute at Davis High, and the Modesto City Schools district says the program is expanding. Tuesday’s vote means those services will continue, and we wish them the very best because hundreds of teens newly arrived from other countries desperately need extra care to make it here, in a strange new land.

We’ll never know how many students might have chosen New Colossus, which would have been run by experienced staff from Davis’ Language Institute, and how many might have stayed at Davis. Seeing more of an open market in education — with options to choose among — might have proved fascinating.

Because the power structure got its way, the monopoly remains.

Trouble seems to arise when something creative and new threatens something old. That’s why the New Colossus idea was controversial. It’s too bad county education leaders were unwilling to overcome that, for the sake of a vulnerable segment of our children.

Garth Stapley is The Modesto Bee’s Opinions page editor. Before this assignment, he worked 25 years as a Bee reporter, covering local government agencies and the high-profile murder case of Scott and Laci Peterson.
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