Policy Issues

California District Faces Heat for Offering 'Common Applications'

California District Faces Heat for Offering 'Common Applications' 

A California school district supplied its families with an online tool that would allow them to learn more about available schools — both those that are part of the district and those that are charter schools — and to apply to both kinds of schools with single applications for each type.

Oakland Unified School District said it was providing the Oakland School Finder to make the enrollment "experience" "welcoming, transparent, fair and easy to understand."

However, one community group is calling the initiative a ploy to "send more students to charter schools, thereby depriving public schools of students and funding for resources, ultimately forcing more schools to close or be turned over to charter school organizations."

The school finder provides detailed information about 86 district-run schools and 42 charter public schools in the city. As of the 2014-2015 school year, about 37,000 students attended district-run schools and almost 11,000 students attended charter schools.

The tool also includes links to common application forms. Previously, each school maintained its own application; now families can fill out a single application for either the district-run schools or the charters. The application process for the district schools closed in mid-January; the window for applying to charter schools closes on February 17.

When a visitor goes to the school finder, he or she has to click a button for one type of school or the other. Both sites are run by SchoolMint, a company that produces cloud-based systems for school and district enrollment.

A "network" of district families, "Parents United for Public Schools," has come out against the common enrollment program. In a November blog article, the group suggested that the project was just one more strategy by "big-money special interests" to revamp the public school enrollment system. Quoting from an article published by the Post News Group, OUSD Parents United said that common enrollment "is dishonest: It presents all schools in its system as public schools even though charter schools are privately run and not publicly accountable."

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.