Monday, August 31, 2009



LAUSD and Los Angeles has more charter schools and charter schools than any school district –and has a complicated relationship with them. I-Division/Partnership/Pilot Schools are attempts to make charters over to fit someone else's vision or agenda of what charters can or should be.

In her letter, following, to The Notebook, the Independent Voice for Parents, Educators, Students of Friends of Philadelphia Public Schools, charter school parent/proponent Karen Lash reminds us of an obvious fact we are busily denying in LAUSD: That non-charter schools run on the charter school model – in Philly EMO’s (one can almost see the pale students in dark colors listening to Weezer and Blink-182) or Educational Management Organizations – hybrids that combine the “best of both worlds” of charters and traditional schools (thin contracts, ambivalent parent involvement and centrally-accountable administration) to synthesize a lesser result -- underperform charter and traditional models.

The key to charter schools success, where there is success, is the fact that parents consciously make the choice …and in so choosing make a commitment. The  academic success of magnet schools and the SAS program in LAUSD doesn’t depend on elitism or student skill or PHABO* – as much as it depends on parents filing out the application … and consequently following through,

“Choice” cannot be resolved by a 6-1 vote downtown!

Where charter schools work it is like winning the lottery –and unfortunately the lottery metaphor  is far too appropriate - but there is no winning unless one buys the ticket.

Something somewhat like the ticket doesn’t cut it. 

Onward – smf

Karen D. Lash in The Notebook | Summer 2008

To the editors:

After reading the guest opinion by Helen Gym, “Underfunding is only part of the District’s fiscal story” (Summer 2008), I feel that a distinction has to be clearly made: there are significant differences between charter schools and schools run by the District’s education management organizations (EMOs). Putting both into the same category when calling out the District on its spotty multiple-provider model is unfair.

Many charter schools that are part of the SRC’s reform movement are clearly doing better than some traditional public schools. My children’s 2007-08 National Charter School of the Year, MaST Charter, has made Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) in each year of its current charter.

As independent public schools, charters can manage their own instructional programs and faculty, and many have put into place innovative curriculum. EMO schools, on the other hand, have “thin management contracts” that allow the company only to pick its principal, with the rest of EMO staff still District employees. The EMOs, unlike charters, are put in the weaker, less autonomous position of having the responsibility but not the authority.

In making Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP), EMO schools finish third, traditional public schools finish second, and charters do the best. Charter schools should then not be guilty by association or categorized with EMOs.

Keep in mind that when traditional public schools fail, they stay open. Fear of closure keeps charter administrators, principals, and teachers on their game. For 32,000 Philadelphia students, including families like mine that are in both the charter school and traditional public school sectors, the option of school choice inclusive of charters has been a more effective educational model.

Karen D. Lash

The writer is a founding member of Parents Unified for Charter Schools.

* Predominantly Hispanic, Asian Black and Others

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