By Connie Llanos, Staff Writer | LA Newspaper Group/Daily News
Updated: 07/14/2009 09:07:33 PM PDT
7/15 -- Facing opposition from employee unions and some community leaders, the Los Angeles Unified school board postponed voting Tuesday on a controversial plan that would let the community decide how new schools operate.
Board member Yolie Flores Aguilar, who authored the proposal, said she would delay the vote until next month's board meeting to get feedback from her colleagues and community members, but she fully intends to move forward with the plan.
"I will in no way accept in my resolution a watering down," Flores Aguilar said. "The next step of our work has to be about choice and competition."
Focusing on the 70 new schools that LAUSD expects to open in the next three years, Flores Aguilar's plan would open the campuses to a bidding process among educators, community organizations, parents and charter operators. Parents and community members would then have the power to decide which school model fits their campus best under the plan.
Opponents complained that the proposal left out existing schools that are failing.
"They are responding to the community groups who have applied political pressure while ignoring the hundreds of parents who have worked so hard on their school sites for years to try to improve their schools," said Bill Ring, a long-time parent advocate.
Declining to endorse or support the resolution, LAUSD Superintendent Ramon Cortines said he supported the idea of taking the plan and enhancing it to include all schools, taking a special look at schools that have failed to meet their federal and state standards in testing.
Under No Child Left Behind, schools that have failed to meet these standards can be shut down and restaffed, or given to charter operators.
Jackie Goldberg, a former LAUSD board member and community leader, also raised concerns that using the district's construction bond funds could be a violation of the law, if charters could receive new campuses in a competitive process. Her statements were echoed by the district bond oversight committee. As written, charter schools have a cap on the amount of funds they can receive from the district's construction program.
"If you're going to open this process to everyone, then let the games begin with program improvement schools. They need it the most," Goldberg said.
Board member Steve Zimmer also asked to add an element to Flores Aguilar's plan that would allow for an 11-member panel, consisting of board members, parents, union members and community leaders, to meet to discuss how all schools could be included and how current district options could be better used to provide parents more choice.
Appearing frustrated by the postponement of the vote, LAUSD board president Monica Garcia urged opponents of the plan to bring forward a different option - and quickly.
"In my world, four votes make things happen," Garcia said. "I want to know now we are doing everything we can to improve this district."
In the eyes of many parents, like East L.A. resident and mother of two Alejandra Mu oz, improving the district now requires more freedom of choice. "For many years we have been working to make our school better and still our kids are failing and dropping out," she said.