2006.07.11: July 11, 2006: Headlines: Figures: COS - Swaziland: Business: Internet: Movies: Entrepreneurship: Charter Schools: Santa Cruz Sentinel: Reed Hastings gives $1 million to open charter schools

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Swaziland: Special Report: RPCV Reed Hastings: Reed Hastings: Newest Stories: 2006.07.11: July 11, 2006: Headlines: Figures: COS - Swaziland: Business: Internet: Movies: Entrepreneurship: Charter Schools: Santa Cruz Sentinel: Reed Hastings gives $1 million to open charter schools

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Reed Hastings gives $1 million to open charter schools

Reed Hastings gives $1 million to open charter schools

"Small schools aren't for everyone but in some kids they work better in terms of academic preparation for college," he said. "The small school focus is particularly true for students who don't get as much academic support at home." Businessman and Internet Visionary Reed Hastings of California, the founder of Netflix, served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Swaziland.

Reed Hastings gives $1 million to open charter schools

Netflix CEO gives $1 million to open charter schools
By Matt King
Sentinel staff writer

SANTA CRUZ The charter school movement in Santa Cruz County is about to take off.

Seeded with $1 million in start-up funds from Santa Cruz resident and Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, founders of the newly formed Beacon Education Network say they want to provide parents with a wide range of public school choice by opening several charter schools in the next few years.

"What we're talking about is increasing the supply and diversity of public school options," Beacon CEO Tom Brown said. "We would like to make it possible for all students, including those who might not consider an elite university experience, to think and learn at high levels and be prepared to enter and succeed in college."

Hastings has a history of school philanthropy. He's invested in school choice programs in Oakland, the Central Valley and Los Angeles, all, he said, with any eye toward expanding school offerings for students who may not thrive in regular schools.

"Small schools aren't for everyone but in some kids they work better in terms of academic preparation for college," he said. "The small school focus is particularly true for students who don't get as much academic support at home."

Charter schools are public schools that are allowed more latitude in curriculum and typically receive less per-pupil funding than traditional public schools. Schools often have a vocational or public service bent to their curriculum.

Brown said Beacon has not yet selected a location for its first school in Santa Cruz County but hopes to open in fall 2007, with more schools to follow in every part of the county. It's not clear yet if Beacon will be an incubator to help schools get started or become a quasi-school district that maintains constant oversight of new charters.

"We may bless them and let them go free," Beacon co-founder James Reinhart said. "We do think there is some expertise we could lend to make schools run as effectively as possible."

Santa Cruz County has 11 charter schools. Most of the 574 charter schools that have opened in California since 1992 have focused on helping students who are doing poorly in regular schools. But lately, charter high schools have begun to resemble private prep schools in course offerings and attitude. Brown said Beacon schools will be modeled closely on Pacific Collegiate School, the successful and controversial Santa Cruz school. Brown, Reinhart and Hastings all have roots in Pacific Collegiate.

"I think with what PCS has done, there's huge demand for small, personalized, high expectation learning communities and we're trying to help fill that demand," Brown said.

Pacific Collegiate has about 400 students, a waiting list equally as large, and is considering opening a new campus.

Tim Dreszer's teenage son is on the Pacific Collegiate wait list. In the meantime, he's attending a private high school. Dreszer said he thinks his children do better in smaller, specialized schools.

"I think public schools only go so far," he said. "Kids rise to the expectations that people have of them and like to rise to expectations. I think public schools have generally low expectations."

Charter schools affect district budgets because the district loses state funding for the students enrolled in charter schools, even if the charter is held by the district. When Pacific Collegiate opened, it was chartered not by Santa Cruz City Schools, but the county Office of Education.

Santa Cruz City Schools Superintendent Alan Pagano said that the district declined to sponsor Pacific Collegiate because the school doesn't reflect the economic and ethnic make-up of the city, a criticism the school accepts. Pagano said Monday he wants to be involved with charter expansion in the city but the district will hold the same firm line on new schools. "Part of what fuels the charter movement is an incomplete understanding about what the district already provides," Pagano said. "Charters are also public schools and they need to be good stewards of the communities in which they exist. ... That's why charters need to look like the communities in which they exist."

Reinhart said drawing more minorities and low-income students to charter schools is why Beacon was created.

"One of the chief aims of Beacon is to extend access to students who otherwise wouldn't have the opportunity for rigorous college prep training," Reinhart said. "By opening new schools you add to the opportunities available in Santa Cruz County."

Contact Matt King at mking@santacruzsentinel.com.

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Story Source: Santa Cruz Sentinel

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; Figures; COS - Swaziland; Business; Internet; Movies; Entrepreneurship; Charter Schools


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