Chico Findings

The following findings were passed by a 4-1 vote by the Chico Unified School District board of education February 7, 2001:

-Dan Dugan

In Re: Blue Oak Charter School Petition         Factual Findings

Pursuant to Education Code section 47605(d), the Chico Unified School District Board of Education (“Board”) hereby makes the following findings in regards to the above-referenced charter petition.

1.  On December 6, 2000, a petition for the establishment of a charter school was submitted to the Chico Unified School District (“CUSD”) pursuant to Education Code section 47605.

2.  The name of the prospective charter school is the “Blue Oak Charter School” (“Blue Oak”).

3.  The petition was introduced, discussed and debated at the Board’s regular meeting of December 6, 2000. A public hearing, as required by Education Code section 47605(b), was timely held at a Board special meeting on January 4, 2001.

4.  On January 17, 2001, the Board, at a duly noticed portion of its regular meeting, and following approximately two hours of debate and discussion with charter proponents, voted to deny the charter petition. The Board further directed staff to prepare findings as required by Education Code section 47605(b), consistent with the Board’s discussion.

5.  The Board finds that the curriculum to be used by the school is sectarian and therefore in violation of Education Code section 47605(d). Specifically:

a.  Blue Oak school intends to use the “Waldorf” method of teaching.

b.  The first Waldorf school was created in Germany by Rudolf Steiner (1861 to 1925) in 1919.

c.  Prior to creating the Waldorf School, Steiner developed a “spiritual science” known as “Anthroposophy.” Anthroposophy is a world-wide spiritual movement, based upon Steiner’s work.

d.  Based upon certain of the materials presented to the Board, it appears that Anthroposophy is a religion as commonly apprehended; at the very least, it appears that there is a significant question as to whether Anthroposophy is a religion. Steiner has described Anthroposophy as a science of the spirit, and a path of knowledge that can lead the spiritual in the human being to the spiritual in the universe. Fundamental to all of his work is the view that the human being is composed of body, soul and spirit, and that the Christ event is key to the unfolding of human history and the achievement of human freedom.

e.  Waldorf education is based on the spiritual-scientific research of Rudolf Steiner. Specifically, the Waldorf method is based upon the “education of the whole child,” a concept that has its roots in anthroposophy.

f.  The Waldorf method of education cannot be made secular because it is either based upon or inextricably interconnected and linked with Anthroposophy. More specifically, Waldorf education depends on a pedagogy based upon Steiner’s Anthroposophical-based understanding of a child’s development.

g.  The Board understands that the Blue Oak proponents argue that the Waldorf method is based only generally upon Steiner’s child development model; however, that child development model is apparently based upon religious (Anthroposophical) tenets. The materials before the Board strongly suggest that the Waldorf method and the assumptions thereof cannot be understood except by reference to Anthroposophy.

h.  Moreover, the Charter application states specifically that “[t]he Blue Oak Charter School, based on the Waldorf method, is committed to the education of the whole child…” (Charter Application, p. 1) (See also, id., at p. 2.)

i.  The application also states that teacher hiring “[p]reference will be given to those who hold a teaching certificate from a recognized Waldorf Teacher Training College…” (Charter Application, p. 13.) Such colleges, as understood by the Board, are firmly grounded in the work of Steiner. The following is from the Rudolf Steiner College in Fair Oaks, California: “Waldorf education balances artistic, academic and practical work educating the whole child, hand and heart as well as mind. Its innovative methodology and developmentally-oriented curriculum, permeated with the arts, address the child’s changing consciousness as it unfolds, stage by stage. Imagination and creativity are cultivated as well as cognitive growth and a sense of responsibility for the earth and its inhabitants. Steiner’s detailed psychology of child development, described early in the 20th century, has been supported by modern research in education and neuropsychology. Through Waldorf education, Steiner hoped that young people would develop the capacities of soul and intellect and the strength of will that would prepare them to meet the challenges of their own time and the future.”

j.  In addition, the petition states that “[t]eachers hired without Waldorf Methods training or background will participate in ongoing training in Waldorf Methods or other training which the school finds valuable to enhance it’s [sic] educational program.”

6.  The Board believes that, based upon the above, the methodology of Waldorf education is based upon Steiner’s child development model which is, itself, based upon anthroposophy. Therefore, public funding of this curriculum does constitute an advancement of religion as would be perceived by a student at the proposed charter school.

Dated: 7 February 2001       By:    Scott Schofield
President, CUSD Board