Wednesday, May 18, 2011

CHARTERS, LAUSD AGREE TO SHARE CAMPUSES: Some schools not happy with arrangements + smf’s 2¢

By Connie Llanos, Staff Writer | L,A, Daily News |

5/18/2011 - After battling for years over facilities and resources, 43 charter schools will share space this fall with 52 traditional Los Angeles Unified campuses under a plan announced Tuesday.

The agreement concludes a months-long process in which LAUSD sought to comply with Proposition 39, which requires charters to be given facilities comparable to those provided at traditional schools.

"Charter schools are entitled to these classrooms because they, too, are educating public school students who live within the boundaries of LAUSD," Superintendent John Deasy said.

Earlier this year, LAUSD offered some 25,000 classroom seats to 71 charters on 95 traditional campuses.

Not all charters accepted the offers of space. Some of the proposals suggested moving schools as far as 50 miles from their current locations, while others would have split a single school into two or three campuses.

"In terms of sheer numbers, we're happier than we've been in the past but the big question still is quality of offers," said Allison Bajracharya, policy director for the California Charter School Association.

In the San Fernando Valley, 20 charters were offered space at 25 district campuses, according to district documents. Only 13 of the deals were accepted.

Jackie Elliott, co-founder of Partnerships that Uplift Communities, said she was initially thrilled to receive offers for space at a dozen campuses. Elliott runs 13 schools in the northeast portions of the Valley and Los Angeles.

2cents smf The sub-headline: “Some schools not happy with arrangements” is a gross understatement; the LAUSD that “agrees” is Beaudry and the local district offices only- there is little or no school site buy-in. Read carefully – it is obvious that many of the charters are unhappy with the process and the outcomes. And the Prop 39 law – or perhaps LAUSD’s interpretation of it – gives no weight or voice to the  traditional schools – administration, teachers, parents, students or the school community as a whole are expected/required to be compliant. Programs like the  tutoring at Sunnybrae Elementary (and the best interests of the children at those schools) are sacrificed to the charters’ space demands.


But her excitement waned after she took a closer look at some of the offers.

One deal proposed moving a Northeast L.A. school to Olive Vista Middle School in Sylmar. Charters in Sylmar and Lake View Terrace were offered space at West Valley campuses.

And Nueva Esperanza Charter, which has sites in San Fernando and Pacoima, was offered space on a campus in San Pedro - nearly 50 miles away.

"A good formula might just be looking at a map and seeing what makes sense for the location of where kids live," Elliott said.

District officials said they considered several factors in making their offers to charter operators, including geography, student safety and the availability of space and resources.

"Final decisions on where to make offers to charter school applicants were based on efforts to ensure full compliance with the law while also attempting to incur the least disruption possible to students in LAUSD-operated schools," a written statement from LAUSD officials said.

Elliott and a handful of other charter operators negotiated compromises with the district - an option that LAUSD officials dubbed "recycling," according to district documents.

Elliott said she was able to negotiate changes for two of the 13 offers, which made more sense geographically.

"The reality is this is the first time we've ever had offers that are even approachable, so I'm excited because it's progress," Elliott said.

Parents and teachers remain concerned about the impact that squeezing traditional and charter schools on one campus can have on academic programs and student culture.

LAUSD's Sunnybrae Elementary, for example, has been sharing nine of its 53 classrooms with first- and second-grade classes from Ivy Academia charter for the last four years.

Sunnybrae Principal Susan Laskin said sharing the playground and library can be challenging because of conflicting schedules, but she is more concerned about the inequity in the classrooms.

"They have new furniture, and we have our old stuff," Laskin said. "They have smaller class sizes and we're jam-packed."

And in the fall, Ivy will get three more classrooms, which Laskin has been using for math and reading tutorials.

"It's really not an equitable situation," she said.

Parents, teachers and students at Taft High also launched a campaign to fight a plan to have K-12 charter school Ivy Academia take over 24 of its classrooms.

Carl Raggio, executive director of Ivy Academia, said he heard from several Taft parents and he considered their objections before he officially accepted the plan to occupy 14 classrooms on the Woodland Hills campus.

Raggio said, however, that he is still hoping to negotiate a better arrangement.

"While we have accepted Los Angeles Unified's offer for space on the Taft campus, we have also begun negotiations with the district that we believe will lead to the successful completion of an agreement for another site," Raggio said.

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