Thirty percent of California charters require parents to provide unpaid labor, according to a Public Advocates report. “Forced work” is an “illegal school fee” that restricts access, charges the group.
Requirements range from one hour per year to 96 hours, according to Charging for Access. Some schools charge parents $10 to $25 per hour or the equivalent in school supplies for unworked hours.
A charter school “may lawfully include reasonable admission criteria, including a requirement that parents agree to do work for the charter school,” according to a 2006 memo by a state Education Department attorney.
The report calls on the department to end the practice or face a lawsuit.
Charters should not make service hours an enrollment requirement, says the California Charter Schools Association. However, CCSA is unaware of any school that’s excluded a student “as the result of the parent’s failure to volunteer.”
I checked out the local charters on the report’s list.
ACE charters in San Jose require one hour a month: Parents may volunteer from home, such as phoning other parents with information.
Rocketship schools require 30 hours a year. Again, there are opportunities to meet service hours after school, on weekends and from home.
“Parent participation” schools ask the most.
Village School, a “district dependent” charter in Campbell, asks parents to volunteer three hours a week. It’s not clear whether parents have alternatives
Discovery, which also uses the parent participation model, promises to “work with you individually to find a mode of involvement that works for you.” No child will be turned away because parents can’t volunteer, the web site states.
Some district-run schools also require parents to support their schools. In Alum Rock, a heavily immigrant district in East San Jose, Adelante Dual Language Academy, a district school of choice, requires 30 hours.
Alum Rock considered requiring all parents to volunteer 30 hours a year, not just those at schools choice. That idea didn’t fly.
Two district-run choice schools in Sacramento require parent hours, reports the Sacramento Bee.
Leonardo da Vinci sets forth an annual parent contract requiring at least 40 hours a year for a family with one child enrolled, according to the school’s website. “Parents who fail to meet the obligations of the contract will lose sibling preference and may be given voluntary school transfer opportunities,” according to the school’s website.
The Phoebe Hearst website specifies that families “are required to donate 40 hours of volunteer time per year” and can do so by helping in the office, ensuring safety on the playground or in the school parking lot or helping in the classrooms. Parents can also donate $5 an hour in lieu of volunteering to cover up to 20 hours, according to a parent participation form that families are asked to submit each month.
Asked about the requirement, a district spokesman said “the language would be removed from both schools’ websites,” reports the Bee.
I suspect most California schools will drop the requirements. But is it wrong for a school of choice to require parent participation?