Op-Ed in the LA Daily News By Jed Wallace, president and chief executive officer of the California Charter Schools Association | http://bit.ly/eh8oaE
3/30/2011 05:46:52 PM PDT - CHARTER schools are public schools of choice that play an important role in our public education system. In Los Angeles, charter school students account for about 10 percent of the student population, and the number continues to grow because of parent and community demand for better options in the education and preparation of our children.
Yet so many of our charter schools face a yearly struggle in securing facilities for their growing student body, because charters are not automatically given facilities.
In the Los Angeles Unified School District, out of a total of 184 charter schools, 84 submitted applications this year under Proposition 39, an initiative approved by voters more than 10 years ago. The law states that every district is legally required to provide "reasonably equivalent" facilities to charter school students.
Many school districts, including LAUSD, have not always fully complied with Proposition 39. This year, however, the charter community has seen LAUSD make a concerted effort to meet the growing demand for space for charter school students. Specifically, out of the 84 applications submitted, the district has made preliminary offers to 76 charters. Most of these offers are in co-locations with traditional district schools, meaning both a traditional district-run school and a charter are housed on the same campus.
Recent issues have arisen across this city where a handful of campuses with pending co-location offers have become battlegrounds, sparking intense and emotional disputes in communities that should otherwise be united with one common goal: to educate and meet the needs of public school children in every community. These disputes have unfortunately led to actions such as distribution of false information, threat of potential lawsuits and marginalization of charter school students and teachers.
It is important to remember that LAUSD - not the charter schools - chose to use co-locations. While Prop. 39 requires districts to share their facilities fairly, nothing in the law or regulations requires co-locations.
Charters, which must otherwise spend on facilities precious dollars that could go into the classroom, have few options but to find ways to co-exist with other programs.
Many schools have risen to the occasion by exemplifying the concept of "good neighbors."
At Animo Venice Charter High School, for example, some of the charter high school students have been trained in literacy coaching, and use those skills with the English Language Learner elementary-age students of their host school, Broadway Elementary. Principals of both schools attribute their good relationship to open communication, responsiveness, flexibility, and proactive attempts to do what's best for both sets of students.
The Citizens of the World charter school shares a campus with Le Conte Middle School. Executive Director Amy Dresser-Held calls her host school fantastic, open, and non-territorial. This is what we should all aspire to when considering the important issue of school facilities.
In LAUSD, there are various options within the public education system: traditional, partnership, pilot, magnet, or charter schools. All these entities are part of a greater educational community working to solve the many challenges that face the children of Los Angeles.
Co-locations are a compromise from the district to provide charter school students with classrooms to which they are entitled, and we urge LAUSD to follow through with these particular co-location offers - rather than cave to the harmful threats, as well as ask the host schools to work together with charters.
Up until now Mr, Wallace and the CCSA have insisted that LAUSD has not made enough co-location offers and has demanded more as an entitlement – and threatened legal action if their ultmata are not met.
Now “nothing in the law or regulations….?” This is news to me and would seem to be a very good place for an attorney to begin a deposition.
Which is it Mr. Wallace?
Wallace catalogs instances where co-locations work – but there are many more instances where co-los have been unpopular, controversial and/or threaten to be so. Wallace seems to be suggesting there is another way besides co-los for districts to 'share their facilities fairly’ -- without actually proposing what he is suggesting as an automatic gift of facilities. As he has written this op-ed for the Daily News one must assume he is specifically addressing the proposed controversial co-lo with Ivy Academia at Taft High School.
But the logical challenge is this – a lesson learned in kindergarten: Prop 39 requires school districts to share facilities. But sharing, like tangoing, takes two.