Associated Administrators of Los Angeles UPDATE | http://bit.ly/yHyVO1
Week of February 13, 2012
KEEP STUDENT OPTIONS OPEN
The Superintendent and those who advise him are proposing a series of devastating cuts to the LAUSD budget for 2012-2013 as the result of the District’s deficit. The Board will vote on the budget on February 14, 2012. AALA has repeatedly expressed our deep concerns regarding the potential elimination of Adult Education and Early Childhood Education Programs in the District. AALA wishes to thank Odus Caldwell for contributing to this article, which addresses the threat to the District’s Options Program.
In the early 1970s, the District took an innovative step and developed small, independent high schools to serve at-risk students who were struggling academically or socially for a variety of reasons. These continuation schools were the beginning of the Options Schools Program and served students in their own neighborhoods for both safety and access reasons. As time has passed, the wisdom of this policy has been dramatized by the issues facing may communities, including the proliferation of gang activity and the increase in violence. Students in LAUSD are often unable to travel safely from one neighborhood to another.
Today’s Options Schools include continuation, opportunity, pregnant minor, community day, hospital and independent study schools. They are accredited and require the same credits for graduation as the traditional high school while providing the small, caring learning environment that encourages at-risk students to attend school daily and succeed. The personal relationships between staff members and students made possible by the small-school setting promote student confidence, encourage academic success and give the students necessary support. Options Schools graduate 1,800-2,000 students annually.
Typically, Options Schools serve teenagers who have been unsuccessful in the traditional high school and are usually behind in credits, which in most cases is a result of poor attendance. Poor attendance can be traced to such societal ills as drug abuse, peer pressure and family dysfunction. Many Options students have had to provide childcare for siblings, their own children or disabled family members. They have had to find jobs to help support their families and in many cases, are living independently. Others have serious health issues, while others have been involved in gangs, been expelled or have legal problems. In most cases they are capable learners who simply need an appropriate setting and support to succeed.
What do the numbers tell us? Currently, Options Schools serve 9,100 students at any given time. Due to the open entry/open exit policy, the actual number served throughout the year is significantly greater. In total, the annual enrollment is 80-100% higher than the 9,100 cited and has reached as high as 18,000.
In meeting its mission to educate all children, the District has a moral responsibility to provide an alternative setting for students whose needs cannot be met at the large, traditional, comprehensive high school. To date, it has done so, albeit with some budget reductions that have impacted services over the past two years. Should the District choose to erroneously eliminate a large number of Options Schools, what will happen to their students? Returning to their home school or even transferring to a traditional high school in another service area are not reasonable alternatives for most. More than likely, they will simply give up and drop out of school, thereby limiting their chances to become contributing members of society!
AALA believes that the Board and District leaders need to recognize that Options Schools are a vital part of the K-12 Program. Students in Options Schools belong to LAUSD and are worthy of the same equal support and consideration from the Board members as those students in ―traditional schools.‖
AALA thanks Wendy Peel for contributing to this article.
As February 14 nears, AALA hopes LAUSD Board members are giving serious thought to the impact the possible closing of all early childhood programs will have on students and their families. We urge the Board to consider two important facts:
Fact #1: Study after study has shown that most children who have a quality preschool program experience read earlier, redesignate earlier, have a higher rate of high school graduation and grow up to become contributing citizens. Children in LAUSD who attend early childhood education programs attend kindergarten ready to learn and help close the achievement gap.
Fact #2: Early childhood programs in LAUSD provide over 15,000 low-income parents with subsidized child care services so that they can work or attend training such as that provided by adult schools. These parents cannot afford to send their children to private preschools, which can cost more than $900 monthly. Without the services of LAUSD early childhood programs, many parents will have to choose between taking care of their young children or going to work and/or training. Because they are often single parents with little support, many will have to stay home and depend on public social services to feed their families.
These two facts alone paint a grim picture for the future of our children, their parents and our economy. Since working parents produce tax revenue for California, AALA believes that a Board vote to eliminate a resource that allows them to continue to generate income in this current struggling economy is imprudent, at best. It is contrary to LAUSD’s emphasis on closing the achievement gap and will only increase the disparity between the socio-economic groups. Board members must take an in-depth look at the misfortune they will bestow on so many families, the cities served by LAUSD and the State of California if they vote to close early childhood programs.