Wednesday, August 12, 2009

From City News Service: SCHOOL CHOICE

from City News Service


11 August 2009 - LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa today stepped up a campaign in support of a plan to allow charter operators and other institutions to bid for control of 50 new schools over the next three years, including 20 campuses in the 2010-11 school year.

``This motion calls for choice in our schools and would allow the most qualified operators with the best plan for educating our children to run new schools,'' the mayor said, referring to a proposal by Los Angeles school board member Yolie Flores Aguilar.

``It is pro-student, pro-parent, pro-teacher and pro-accountability,' the mayor told attendees at a town hall meeting in East Los Angeles.

The Board of Education is scheduled to vote Aug. 25 on the proposal, which would require the LAUSD to ``invite operational and instructional plans from internal and external stakeholders, such as school planning teams, local communities, pilot school operators, labor partners, charters, and other external stakeholders who are interested in collaborating with the district or operating the district's new schools, in an effort to create more schools of choice and educational options for the district's students and families.''

The Los Angeles Unified superintendent would be tasked with choosing the operator of a new school based on the operational and instructional plan they submit, and their track record for running successful campuses.

Several unions are opposed to the proposal. A.J. Duffy, president of United Teachers Los Angeles, called it ''outrageous'' and claimed it would ``cause chaos in our public education.''

``RAND, Stanford and the national testing service all say that charters are not doing any better than public schools, and in one study, it said 37 percent of charters are doing worse than public schools,'' Duffy said. ``So why would we turn over our schools to a failed system?''

Judith Perez, president of Associated Administrators of Los Angeles, also is not a fan.

She said ``it's important to keep on along the path of improvement that we have been working on for so long, and to not create a system in which we actually increase the achievement gap between struggling students and non- struggling students.''

``Charters and regular public schools are not held accountable in the same way,'' she charged. ``Charter schools frequently push out students who have behavioral issues, frequently do not accept students with special needs, frequently skim off the top performers in their neighborhoods. That's what I mean by a two-tier system that could develop if charter schools get a larger portion of the public schools.''

Villaraigosa rejected maintaining the status quo in an opinion piece published in the Los Angeles Times on July 29.

He wrote, ``For too long, leaders at every level of government have defended a status quo that serves the interests of adults more than children; that gives bureaucrats a near monopoly over public education; that shuts parents out of the conversation; and that, over and over, fails our kids.

``It's time to get past the gatekeepers and stop preserving a system defined by low performance, low standards and low expectations,'' he wrote. ``It's time to embrace new ideas and reclaim concepts such as accountability and competition, and it's time to admit the need for more than one educational choice.''

He reiterated those comments during today's town hall meeting.

``For those of us who call ourselves progressive, it's time we do more than just defend existing government programs,'' Villaraigosa said. ``It's time to be passionate advocates for change.''


Eds: Villaraigosa aide Sarah Hamilton is at (213) 447-4078.

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