Wednesday, March 13, 2013


By Barbara Jones, Staff Writer, LA Daily News |

3/12/2013 04:15:12 PM PDT  ::  Wilbur Elementary got $230,000 in state grants when it converted to a charter last fall, a windfall that allowed the Tarzana campus to keep class sizes small and provide personalized help to struggling students.

Now, administrators at Wilbur and other affiliated charters, nearly all of them in the San Fernando Valley, are struggling with the news that they stand to lose hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants if lawmakers approve Gov. Jerry Brown's new formula for funding public education.

"It's a nice chunk of money," said Principal Deborah Plat who worked with parents and staff on the 100-page charter petition approved last year. "It let us go on a shopping spree, if you will, but one that let us figure out how to do best by our students. "

Brown's proposal would eliminate funding for charter grants and nearly every other program that serve a specific purpose. Instead, that money would be reallocated to districts, which would receive a base amount of roughly $6,800 per pupil and an extra 35 percent for each English learner and low-income student. Campuses with large concentrations of poor students or English learners would get an additional bump.

Los Angeles Unified, where most of the 600,000 students are poor or English learners or both - would see a significant increase in state funding under Brown's plan, officials said. Superintendent John Deasy is a strong supporter of the formula, which is meeting resistance from districts where the funding benefits would be much less.

The plan calls for affiliated charters to continue receiving the grants through 2013-14. Traditional schools that have petitioned for a conversion - there are 15 of them in the Valley - wouldn't receive any charter money next year.

Independently operated charters would also lose the grants, but they'd likely make it back through the new funding formula, officials say.

But money for affiliated charters is funneled through the district, which is why LAUSD sent letters last week to principals at those schools, warning them of the proposed change.

"Obviously it was kind of a shock to hear," Plat said. "We'll have the money next year. After that, we're not really sure."

The change would have a huge impact in the Valley, where 33 of its 188 schools are conversion charters - a hybrid model that gives the school flexibility over curriculum and programs while receiving services from the district.

A wave of Valley schools converted last year after the district raised the threshold for receiving Title I funds, stripping them of federal money awarded to campuses with large numbers of impoverished students.

With that Title I money gone, some schools converted so they could back-fill their budgets with state charter grants and provide enrichment programs for their students.

Plat said her school used its $230,000 charter grant to shrink fourth- and fifth-grades classes, hire instructional aides and launch an intervention program for struggling students.

She credits those programs with helping to boost the school's Academic Performance Index score from 917 to 929.

Vintage Elementary Principal John Rome said the staff at his North Hills campus worked for three months on the charter petition, set for consideration in May by the school board. Officials there hoped to use the state grant to continue a reading program for at-risk kids which was started with federal stimulus money that has now run out.

Rome said it's likely the school will abandon its charter effort because he doesn't want to risk losing other money that Vintage receives as a magnet school, drawing students from poor neighborhoods in the East Valley.

"We'll wait until the last minute to decide whether to go forward to the board, but we'll probably withdraw our petition," he said. "It's unclear what impact it would have on our magnet (funding), and we can't mess with that."

Linda Del Cueto, director of the Educational Services Center that encompasses the Valley, said she's been getting calls from some principals wondering whether to proceed with their charter petition, and others weighing whether to decertify their charter.

She and other officials are investigating whether there are other ways the schools could recoup the lost grant money, such as switching from a charter to a pilot school, but those alternatives are uncertain.

"They've all put so much work into it - the school community, principals, teachers and parents - everyone coming together to collaborate," Del Cueto said.

"They might like to be affiliated next year, even without the money, because of the (flexible) governance. And 'charter' as a brand name immediately represents collaboration and autonomy. We'll just see how things go."


2cents smf


smf - Leaving Affiliated Charters to Twist in the Wind: Affiliated or “Dependent” Charters – once the brass ring governance model for high performing non-Title One schools …and a darling reform “choice”  of the ®eformers - is so “last week”.

  • In a public conversation I had with District officials at the Budget, Facilities and Audit Committee Tuesday morning it became obvious that the superintendent is so supportive of Brown’s Local Control Funding Formula that he and the LAUSD Government Affairs Unit  do not intend to question or challenge this provision – which shortchanges successful programs - in Sacramento. 
  • It should be noted that the LCFF – which both Deasy and UTLA like - is not so popular in the Capitol or many other school districts.
  • Brown is selling LCFF as major school funding reform – when it looks it some like another budget tweak.
  • The charter school community as represented by the California Charter School Association does not consider affiliated charters to be “real” charters.

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