Written by Alex Garcia, San Fernando Valley Sun Contributing Writer
Veronica Melvin of the Alliance for a Better Community holds a copy of the flyer threatening latino parents with deportation during a press conference outside the offices of UTLA.
Thursday, 12 November 2009 -- A flyer threatening Latino parents that their support for a charter school would mean deportation is the latest controversy surrounding the School Choice Plan, which proposes converting dozens of campuses, including San Fernando Middle School, into independently run pilot or charter schools.
The flyers, which read "Don't sign petitions for the charter school because you could be deported" were passed around to Evelyn Thurman Gratts Elementary parents, a school located near downtown Los Angeles. A new school called Gratts New Primary and Early Education Center is under construction and scheduled to open in September 2010. As a new school, Gratts New Primary and Early Education Center is up for grabs under the Public School Choice program.
In August, the Los Angeles School District Board approved 6-1 the School Choice Plan, which would allow non-profit agencies to apply to run 250 new and underper-forming LAUSD schools. Existing schools under the plan include those that have been in the program improvement status for more than three years, have had zero or negative growth in their Annual Performance Index [SFMS API went down three points in 2008- 2009 from 627 to 624] and where students have 21 percent or less proficiency in English and Math [SFMS is 20.5 perecent proficient in Math and 24.1 percent proficient in English].
Groups who favor and oppose the plan have appeared since then, both sides pushing their agendas in the 12 schools that the LAUSD superin-tendent placed on a list of underper-forming campuses and vying for the parents' support. In some instances, the discussions have turned ugly, with finger pointing of wrongdoing on both sides.
But the flyers escalated the tensions. A group called Alliance for a Better Community [ABC] organized a press conference outside the offices of United Teachers Los Angeles [UTLA] earlier this week and even though they did not directly point a finger at the union as the culprits behind the flyers, they did accuse them of being against school reform.
"We want a climate of accurate information. We will not stand for this kind of action," said Veronica Melvin, executive director of ABC, who called the flyers "deplorable and horrible."
"I'm asking that UTLA join us, do not abandon us," said Maria Casillas, another member of ABC who added that no one needs to be threatened by the plan.
Also on hand on behalf of ABC were school board members Yolie Flores Aguilar and Monica Garcia, who denounced the flyer as a low blow.
"This is a campaign of lies to the parents and it's unacceptable," said Flores Aguilar who added this type of "fear tactics is deplorable".
Garcia also called on the parents to participate in the School Choice Plan meetings at the schools in question and said parents deserve respect and accurate information.
Meetings over this plan have been taking place at San Fernando Middle School, where parents are split on the proposal. Some favor staying as a traditional school under the LAUSD, while others support converting to a charter.
At San Fernando Middle School, groups including Project GRAD, have already expressed what they've called a "collaborative effort" to run the school. A letter of intent must be received by the LAUSD by Nov. 15 and a plan must be presented to the district by January.
LAUSD Superintendent Ramon Cortines will make the final decision on the matter depending on the proposals presented to them.
For its part, UTLA president AJ Duffy refuted any connection with the flyers distributed at Gratts Elementary School.
"We had absolutely nothing to do, in any way, shape or form with this flyer," he said. "It's a shame that ABC and Families in School didn't call us immediately when the flyer was put out so we could inform our members to take action against it." He condemned the flyer and said UTLA's record shows firm support towards immigrants and their children.
"When Proposition 227 came out there was a belief that teachers would be asked to identify undocumented students and we told them we would go to jail before we did that," he said.
He said that UTLA is not against the School Choice Plan, as ABC and LAUSD board members contend, and that they helped bring it about.
"But we are against the wholesale giveaway of schools," said Duffy, who is also critical of "Monica [Garcia] and Yolie [Flores Aguilar] walking away from their responsibility and giving it to other people."