Charters OC


Building a Charter School Movement in Orange County, California:
Strategic Leadership to Transform Public Education

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An Urgent Need for High-Quality Public Schools

Orange County is a tale of two counties. One is a county of great wealth and excellent schools, and the other, a county where many students live at or below the poverty line and have little or no opportunity to attend a high-quality public school. One out of every four Orange County K-12 public school students lives in poverty, which is widely considered a risk factor for future academic failure and can severely limit a student's chances of escaping intergenerational poverty. Quality education is a key to the future success of our students, as an Orange County high school dropout's chances of being poor are 1 in 2, a high school graduate's chances of being poor are 1 in 3, and a college graduate's chances of being poor are only 1 in 10.

Not only are there a significant number of students living in poverty county-wide, but in 2015 more than half (54%) of Orange County's third grade students did not meet statewide English Language standards for their grade level and nearly 60% did not meet grade-level mathematic standards. Achievement of grade level literacy and numeracy by third grade have been shown to be integral to a student's future educational success, and data shows the majority of Orange County public school students are not regularly meeting these benchmarks. Our students are in need of high-quality educational opportunities which support them in achieving these critical skills in elementary and middle school as preparation for their future college studies, and this is especially true for students from low-income backgrounds.

College attendance is considered one of the best avenues for addressing intergenerational poverty, however 50% of Orange County's public high school graduates do not currently meet the requirements to attend California State University or University of California schools. For Latino students, only 35% of graduates meet these requirements, a dire situation for a growing demographic group in our county. Charter schools in California have been shown to increase student preparation for college, for example, as they are much more likely to be among the subset of schools that have nearly all of their graduates (i.e. greater than 95%) completing the A-G coursework required for college admission - 22% of charters are in this category compared to only 1% of traditional public schools statewide.

Charters OC is working to address the inequity in access to a quality education in Orange County by accelerating the growth of the charter school model, which has been repeatedly shown to provide high-quality schools which meet the needs of students from low-income backgrounds while also setting these students up for future college success.

The Role of Charters OC

Our organization, formed in partnership with the California Charter Schools Association (CCSA), was established in 2014 to address the urgent need to provide excellent public schools for the 126,000 K-12 public school students in Orange County living in poverty. The work of Charters OC focuses on three main priorities: (1) the development of Orange County community leadership to support a vibrant charter school movement; (2) the acceleration of high-quality charter schools county-wide; and (3) the development of the infrastructure needed to sustain a resilient charter school community in Orange County.

Mission & Vision

Charters OC is dedicated to building a charter school movement in Orange County that will address the urgent need to provide high-quality public schools for students living in poverty. Charters OC envisions creating a charter school movement that will transform education in Orange County so that all students, especially those in underserved communities, have the choice of a high-quality public school in their community.

Goals & Objectives

Charters OC plans to support the development of 15 high-quality charter schools over the next 3 years, develop a charter school support system, and increase community engagement and leadership to support a vibrant charter school movement in Orange County. Charters OC will:

  1. Recruit and support high-quality charter schools in order to expand the portfolio of exceptional Orange County charter schools.
  2. Coordinate group meetings to engage community leaders in the local charter school movement.
  3. Secure start-up grant funds for selected charter schools based upon need.
  4. Expand membership of the Charters OC Advisory Board.
  5. Hold community-wide events to increase public awareness of charter schools.
  6. Jointly host school visits to Orange County charter organizations for interested individuals.

Our Work

Charters OC is focused on recruiting and growing the number of exceptional charter schools in Orange County that provide opportunities not offered in traditional public school settings. We encourage emerging charter schools to locate in underserved and low-income districts and are working to create a supportive infrastructure that will allow all local charter schools to flourish. Having achieved the goal of doubling the number of charter schools in Orange County, Charters OC is now tackling the challenge to transform education for the county's most vulnerable students. Our overarching goal is to develop a strong base of aligned charter supporters and charter school leaders that will result in a growing, sustainable Orange County charter school community.

We are seeking key community leaders to join us in developing this charter school infrastructure through a broad base of community support, providing start-up funding for charter developers, participating in leadership development activities, and assisting with facility site identification and acquisition.

Our Success & Accomplishments

Over the past two years, Charters OC:

  • Held two group informational meetings with philanthropists to identify individuals and foundations interested in supporting the growth of charter schools. Over 80 individuals and foundation representatives attended these events.
  • Developed a strong relationship with the Orange County Community Foundation, which has established a fund for charter schools focused on removing barriers and supporting developing schools in tandem with CCSA's efforts.
  • Helped raise over $750,000 to support developing schools in high-need areas of the county, with over $400,000 of this raised to address programmatic and facilities needs.
  • Established lead philanthropists as foundational supporters of the Orange County charter school movement, with one of these lead philanthropists contributing additional funding over three years to support this regional school development project.
  • Increased the number of charter schools county-wide from 14 schools in 2013 to 32 schools in 2016 and potentially 48 schools by 2018. These new innovative charter schools will provide over 8,000 students with the opportunity for success in the complex global environment of the 21st century.


For more information, please contact:
Susan Mas, Executive Director
Charters OC
(714) 470-2845

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