In Superintendent Brent Woodard’s rural district, which covered the towns of Acton and Agua Dulce about 45 miles north of Los Angeles, enrollment in 2013 had fallen by more than a quarter over five years. The area’s population had aged, the birthrate declined and some students were choosing to attend schools outside the district. Without increasing revenue or making harmful cuts, the district was facing insolvency and the threat of a state takeover.
In California’s charter school law, Woodard saw financial salvation. In the years to come, some would praise his creativity. Others would accuse him of embarrassing the district. Everyone agreed that his strategy was entrepreneurial, though not everyone meant it as a compliment.