The San Francisco Examiner reported that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan have been negotiating with the San Francisco Unified School District for almost a year to open a new charter school in America’s most liberal city.
The Examiner learned details of the discussions through Public Records Requests of emails with city and school officials. Dr. Chan, who is a pediatrician, made her first approach about launching a charter school in June of last year and continued the conversations through February of this year.
The latest dialogs have focused on whether the governance of the school will be through a charter contract or a more politically correct variant called a “Small School by Design.”
The Examiner suggests that in California, “charters offer more flexibility for hiring staff than small schools, which are still governed by school district policy, have low student enrollment, and focus on student equity.”
Charter schools have been an anathema to the state’s teachers’ unions that represent 325,000 members because they tend to undermine the political power and operational control that unions wield as California’s most powerful union.
According to the California Federation of Teachers, the only charter school that has succeeded in forming in San Francisco is the ‘The Keys Charter School’ that was founded in 2004 by the county sheriff to provide grades, 10-12 classes, to help county jail inmates and ex-offenders earn a high school diploma in hopes of reducing recidivism. The Keys Charter School has grown to also offer access to community-based recovery, parenting, and work skills programs to improve public safety.
But with a culture where every sheriff and jail worker were in organized labor, Five Keys Charter School unionized after just five years in 2009. The staff of 35 teachers currently operate under a very restrictive 45-page collective bargaining agreement with the United Educators of San Francisco, an AFL-CIO affiliate.
A San Francisco charter school would be the first expansion of The Primary School and would follow the couple’s 2015 donation of $75 million to have the city’s biggest healthcare facility renamed Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center.
A spokesperson for The Primary School in response to inquiries about the newly discovered charter school emails, told the Examiner: “We’re excited The Primary School model is being considered by the San Francisco Unified School District.” She added, “The goal of The Primary School has always been to create a holistic system of care for children that can be replicated across the Bay Area and nationally.”