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Marin School Board Scrutinzed After Report Says Charter School Gets Money, Perks Over Public School

SAUSALITO (KPIX 5) -- How can one of the wealthiest cities in California have such a terrible public school? That was the question resonating at a school board meeting in Marin County Wednesday after a scathing state education report.

The report revealed funds were being funneled away from a public K-8 school in Sausalito's predominantly African-American community, to a charter school in the wealthier, mostly white part of town.

Despite being in one of the Bay Area's wealthiest school districts, Bayside Martin Luther King, Jr. Academy is struggling.

Teacher Jan McDougal believes the kids deserve better. McDougal was the only credentialed math teacher at the Marin City school before she was cut last year.

"The cuts they made in 2014 have just been devastating to the quality of education," said McDougal.

Programs are being slashed and test scores are plummeting. The state education task force has come out with a report that finds the district diverts money and resources to a charter school at the expense of Bayside MLK, the public school.

Wednesday night, board members who oversee that spending told KPIX 5 the report is nonsense.

"It's biased and inaccurate," said Willow Creek Academy charter school founder and board member William Ziegler. He claims Bayside MLK gets three times as much money per student as the charter school.

"Three to one. That's the ratio. That's been the ratio for a long time," said Ziegler.

But the report's author said that's not exactly true. "The high-level comparison of dollars per students is misleading," said Fine, who is part of the district's Fiscal Crisis and Management Assistance Team.

Fine presented the report to a packed house Wednesday night. When he crunched the numbers, he discovered Willow Creek is getting a lot of perks. He said the district is letting it off the hook for repayment of more than $700,000 in special education funds.

The district also pays for extras that are not required by law, like utilities and groundskeeping for the charter school's lush, wooded campus, which it occupies rent-free.

He says that money could be going toward additional teachers that are credentialed in their subject matter for Bayside MLK, including math and science.

The report also claims there is bias on the school board because three board members have children at Willow Creek, and a fourth member founded the charter school.

But Sausalito/Marin City Superintendent Will McCoy denied that. "I know I work with a group of very well-intended people who care about the students in our district … they care about every child," said McCoy.

The superintendent plans to issue a counter-report in the coming months. He said he wants his own experts to evaluate the numbers.

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