Charter school operators to run 7 more L.A. Unified campuses
By Howard Blume, Los Angeles Times | http://lat.ms/dLQLpH
The school board divvies up or relinquishes 10 new campuses, including seven new high schools, and three low-performing schools. Not all were sought by charters; some go to teachers and district-led groups.
School Supt. Ramon Cortines listens to speakers before the L.A. Board of Education votes on turning over 13 campuses to bidders inside and outside the school district. (Barbara Davidson / Los Angeles Times / March 15, 2011)
March 16, 2011 - Major charter-school organizations won the right Tuesday to operate at seven of 13 schools under a policy that allows bidders inside and outside the Los Angeles Unified School District to take control of new and academically struggling campuses.
Charter schools got most of what they wanted by the end of a 51/2-hour meeting in which the Board of Education divvied up or relinquished 10 new campuses, including seven new high schools, and three low-performing schools. About 20,000 students will be attending those schools next year.
District officials were lobbied hard to support more charter schools than last year, when groups of district teachers, often working with administrators, prevailed on most plans. This year, the recommendations of L.A. schools Supt. Ramon C. Cortines included more charters, and a board majority went even further to cede control of district schools to outside organizations.
Cortines, for example, had wanted low-achieving Clay Middle School, in Athens, to be split between a team from the school and Green Dot Public Schools, a charter organization. He talked of the potential to demonstrate how a charter and a district operation could collaborate; charters are publicly funded and independently run.
Board President Monica Garcia pushed instead to have the entire school turned over to Green Dot.
Garcia, the closest ally of L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, was joined by the mayor's other allies in approving the full handover. Villaraigosa has spoken frequently of schools going to groups with "proven track records," a veritable mantra of charter-school applicants.
The board also overruled Cortines by giving a new Echo Park elementary school to the Camino Nuevo charter. He had favored a local group of teachers and residents because, he said, the charter's emphasis on teaching in Spanish in the early grades was not the right fit for all the students who would be attending that school.
But the board upheld Cortines' recommendation to give a much-contested new west San Fernando Valley high school to a district- and teacher-led proposal that includes a performing arts academy. Losing out was Granada Hills Charter High School, a high performer that just won the state's Academic Decathlon and has a waiting list of about 2,000 students.
"This is one of the hardest recommendations and votes I have taken," said board member Tamar Galatzan. Granada Hills is "really one of the jewels in my board district." The district plan "filled a gap we have in the Valley. We don't have a performing arts high school."
However, she also expressed concern about whether the district could afford such a program amid an ongoing budget crisis that could include the layoffs of thousands of teachers.
Altogether, seven of 11 charter school proposals prevailed. Other charter winners included: Synergy, Alliance College-Ready Public Schools, PUC and Aspire — all well-established charter organizations. Teachers and district-led groups also prevailed; there weren't charter bids for every campus.
Another beneficiary of the board's aggressive posture was MLA Partner Schools, a nonprofit that won the right to control Muir Middle School, where employees will be required to re-interview for their jobs. Cortines recommended against MLA because of what he characterized as the group's mixed record at two high schools already under its control. He also noted that, as of next year, Muir will no longer feed into Manual Arts High School, an MLA campus.
MLA, which isn't a charter, operates schools under the union contract, so it has faced less opposition from charter-school opponents, including some leaders of the teachers union.
The MLA bid was resurrected by Garcia. MLA officials co-hosted a January fundraiser for Garcia's chief of staff Luis Sanchez, who is in a runoff for a school board seat. That event also raised money for Eric Lee, who unsuccessfully tried to defeat board member Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte.
The day's events infuriated LaMotte. She was the lone vote against the entire final motion and expressed dismay at the overriding of Cortines.
"What's the purpose of this if we're not going to listen to the man," she said. "You need to get this political stuff out of your heads."
LEST YOU MISSED IT: “Another beneficiary of the board's aggressive posture was MLA Partner Schools, a nonprofit that won the right to control Muir Middle School, where employees will be required to re-interview for their jobs. Cortines recommended against MLA because of what he characterized as the group's mixed record at two high schools already under its control. He also noted that, as of next year, Muir will no longer feed into Manual Arts High School, an MLA campus.
“MLA, which isn't a charter, operates schools under the union contract, so it has faced less opposition from charter-school opponents, including some leaders of the teachers union.
“The MLA bid was resurrected by Garcia. MLA officials co-hosted a January fundraiser for Garcia's chief of staff Luis Sanchez, who is in a runoff for a school board seat. That event also raised money for Eric Lee, who unsuccessfully tried to defeat board member Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte.”
The truth is out there:
- Go to the Ethics Commission website and search campaign contributions for Luis Sanchez http://bit.ly/fEBSbp
- Cross reference it with the MLA Board of Directors. http://bit.ly/icaTWo Include spouses.
- What other charter and partnership operators – or companies with business before the Bd of Ed - have contributed who stood to benefit – or did benefit – from yesterday’s vote?
- Don’t limit your search to Sanchez, check out all the board members. http://bit.ly/hrWxyE Search by candidate/officeholder or search by contributor.
- Don’t forget to check out Independent Campaign Expenditures to Board candidates http://bit.ly/eNjZyp – that’s where the real money is. Again, search by candidate [ Sanchez: http://bit.ly/eNjZyp ] or contributor [Coalition for School Reform to Support Galatzan, Sanchez, and Vladovic for Board of Education 2011 http://bit.ly/eNjZyp - and United Teachers Los Angeles - PACE (Political Action Council of Educators) http://bit.ly/eNjZyp are special interests to watch:
- Don’t do this on school district or your employers time!
Charter schools win out in latest round of reform effort
By Connie Llanos, Staff Writer, LA Daily News| http://bit.ly/egG0B4
Protestors gather outside the LAUSD Headquarters in Los Angeles, CA, Tuesday, March 15, 2011, while LAUSD officials determine who will run 13 new and existing campuses under the district's controversial Public School Choice program inside. (Andy Holzman/L.A. Daily News)
16 March 2011 - The Los Angeles Unified school board exerted its political muscle Tuesday, reversing several recommendations from outgoing Superintendent Ramon Cortines by placing more charter operators in charge of district schools.
Following a packed five-hour hearing, the board gave charters control of schools representing nearly a quarter of the students in the Public School Choice reform plan. Cortines had recommended that more of those schools be managed under teams led by district employees.
The school board also asked that three chronically low-performing campuses be overhauled, forcing all employees at those schools to reapply for their jobs. Cortines had only recommended one school for an overhaul.
It also requested for one school to go through the School Choice process again, after Cortines recommended it stay under district control.
"I am much more satisfied this year than I was last year," said school board member Yolie Flores, who authored the School Choice process.
"I think we took more seriously our sense of urgency and the quality of the plans."
Cortines, who is set to retire on April 15, looked sullen at times as the school board members made changes to almost all of his recommendations.
He also made a point to state several times during the meeting that he would not be in charge of implementing the decisions made by the school board. Deputy Superintendent John Deasy will take over LAUSD after Cortines' retirement.
After the meeting, however, Cortines said he did his job "and the board did theirs."
The School Choice program allows outside groups to compete with district-led teams for management authority over new and under-performing schools.
In the first round last year, most of the schools were given to district-led teams. The board's decision Tuesday was seen by some as a rejection of last year's heavily-criticized decision.
Thirteen campuses - divided collectively into 28 smaller schools - were up for bid in this round.
Charter operators, which run schools free of most district and state mandates and do not have to hire LAUSD employees, submitted 11 applications. The board chose eight, representing about 4,700 students, while Cortines had recommended six.
"Thanks to the school board, almost 5,000 more Los Angeles children will now have the opportunity to attend charter schools with proven records of success and the proven ability to reduce the achievement gap that too often plagues children from low income families," said Jed Wallace, president of the California Charter Schools Association.
The remaining schools were given to district led groups, including Valley Region High School #4 in Granada Hills.
Also four small schools on the campus of Valley Region High School #5, in San Fernando went to teacher-led groups.
Advocates for the reform community applauded the school board's vote Tuesday, including Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who was one the district's loudest critics last year.
"Today, the lives of more than 20,000 students and their families will change for the better," Villaraigosa said in a written statement.
"The opportunity to attend a revitalized school will set students on the course to a brighter future."
Some felt the political influence placed on the board by the reform community, however, compromised the process.
"There is huge pressure on the board majority from the mayor's office," said A.J. Duffy, president of United Teachers Los Angeles.
"Everybody expects the board to make up for what they have been told was a lapse in judgment the first time around by not giving more schools to charters."
At the end of the lengthy meeting, several teachers chided the board, accusing them of "giving away schools."
One board member, Marguerite La Motte, voted against all of the plans because the other members reversed so many of Cortines' recommendations.
One decision that surprised many community members was the board's decision to keep the district in charge of a new high school opening this fall in Granada Hills.
That campus was hotly sought after by Granada Hills Charter High School and had the support of many in the community, who even paid to raise billboards promoting the charter's proposal.
District officials have accused Granada Hills Charter of recruiting the best students - and transferring out lower performing kids.
But Brian Bauer, executive director of Granada, said his enrollment patterns match other neighboring schools and refuted accusations of cherry-picking students.
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