la DAILY NEWS EDITORIAL
Charter schools in L.A. are still waiting for the Los Angeles Unified School District to show them some respect, to offer them some support and to simply honor the law.
It appears that they'll need to keep waiting for a long time.
It's been nearly a month since the district did an about-face and rescinded its offer to lease unused classroom space to seven L.A. charter schools. At the time, Senior Deputy Superintendent Ramon Cortines said he would be willing to help these highly successful, fully public schools find seats for the 2,000 LAUSD students they serve. And charter school advocates believed - with good reason - that doing so was not only his moral obligation, but his legal one, too.
But nearly a month later, there's been scarcely any effort to help these charters find the space they have been denied, let alone any new offers to replace the old offers the district yanked. Indeed, John Creer, director of planning and development for the LAUSD's Facilities Division, has told the Daily News that "for the seven (schools) that had their offers rescinded, ... there are no other solutions available to them this year."
In other words: Sorry, charters; you're on your own.
And that's tragic, not only for the charter schools, but for all of public education in Los Angeles.
The new academic year is only a few short months away. Time is running out for these schools to secure appropriate facilities and get them ready on time
or the new school year. The seven schools that had their offers rescinded thought they had settled their facilities questions once and for all - only to discover that LAUSD officials had been negotiating in bad faith, and now the schools are back to square one.
Sadly, district officials seem determined to sabotage charters at every turn, which is a shame. If they could put the interests of students over their own pride, they would embrace the charter movement wholeheartedly.
Charter schools, though free and open to all LAUSD students, operate independently of the LAUSD bureaucracy. Not coincidentally, they do a far better job of meeting the particular needs of individual students and communities. They spur the sort of parental involvement and local control that the district has long talked about, but has never been able to deliver. They have also been tremendously successful in educating district students of all backgrounds - in stark contrast to the institutionalized failure of L.A. Unified's traditional campuses.
But rather than promote this education success story, L.A. Unified continues to fight it.
In 2000, voters approved Proposition 39, which - much to L.A. Unified's delight - lowered the voter threshold needed to pass school bonds. But Proposition 39 also included a provision requiring school districts to lease classroom space to charter schools - a provision L.A. Unified officials have done their best to ignore ever since.
For years, officials openly flouted the law, refusing to offer sufficient space to L.A.'s burgeoning charter movement. So the charters sued, and in February the district grudgingly agreed to a settlement, offering space to 39 of the 54 schools that had asked for it.
The proposal was, by all indications, a shabby one. The district volunteered space on existing, active campuses - not an ideal situation for anyone - but, all things considered, probably the best deal the charters were likely to get.
Unfortunately, the deal stoked the ire of United Teachers Los Angeles, which has long feared charters as competition. The union launched a fierce protest campaign, and eventually district officials buckled.
On April 30, Cortines effectively overruled his nominal boss, Superintendent David Brewer III, and rescinded seven of the 22 accepted offers. This, even though by law the district was legally required to make its final offer to the charters a month earlier.
Now these charters are left high and dry, without the campus space they were promised - and to which they are legally entitled - or the offer of help from L.A. Unified.
Unbelievably, a district that has had more than its fair share of failures seems determined to quash its most notable success.
smf's 2¢: At an event last night at my daughter's high school recognizing honor roll enrollees a teacher who had visited both the the Arctic and Antarctic in a single year was acknowledged as being "bi-polar" - obviously the Daily News Editorial Board was on the same trip. The DN needs to decide whether charter schools are part of the school district or if they are not; they simply cannot have it both ways.
Charter schools are neither the District's brightest lights nor they are Joshuas at the gates of the Entrenched Bureaucracy.
The DN assumptions that all charter schools - or even most charter schools - are outperforming non-charter schools are highly suspect.
- When similar sized schools are compared LAUSD schools usually outperform charters.
- District magnet schools - which predate charters by two decades - outperform charters.
- LAUSD Schools for Advanced Study, which have been around for about as long as charters, outperform charters.
Ray Cortines quite correctly challenged the proposed assignment of classrooms to charters because the best interests of students in district school were not considered - only the demands of the charter community and a highly suspect out-of-court settlement of a threatened lawsuit.