The school board voted Tuesday to allow charters to submit plans to run 250 Los Angeles Schools. According to the New York Times the Los Angeles Unified School District oversees about 688 schools over a large, large area.
(Please be sure to click this when you are ready for a little backstory--you never know, Antonio Villarogosa, LA's mayor, Ben Austin (a faux parent organizer) or Steve Barr the founder of Green Dot--a charter school franchise might come and reorganize your school district for you some time too!)
Before this vote we already had some charters within the district--things called dependent charters (run as part of the district, with teachers who belong to the union) and plenty of independent charters. The private charters have had difficulty finding sites that meet state regulations. At the same time LAUSD has been building lots of schools to ease overcrowding. Well, we're not crowded anymore and the charters have been able to use some of the public school sites to run their operations. The year before last my middle school almost shared our campus with an outside charter.
To me, charters ARE public schools. However, I'd like them to be mandated to take all neighborhood kids in their boundaries if they are on a public school site. And they should be transparant and watched closely.
I was pointed to a Stanford study published in June which indicates that charter schools aren't always producing higher test scores--and when they do, they aren't significantly higher than traditional public schools. On top of that, for poor kids, the scores are worse than those of poor kids at traditional public schools. An important point because in LA 4 out of 5 kids live below the poverty line. Also, the study notes that it isn't any easier to get rid of a poorly functioning charter school than it is to get rid of a poorly functioning teacher.
What I'd like to see in Los Angeles, is not another Green Dot. I'd like something like Harlem's Children's Zone here because that program addresses the whole child. I heard Geoffrey Canada on NPR one day explaining how his program is not just aimed at schools--but aimed to educate whole communities. Parents are helped in the raising of their babies! Health issues are addressed. And the focus is to create a culture that values and respects academic success. There was something said about how kids should feel, from their community, that doing poorly in school is not cool. In the past there were seeds of thoughts to work in this way through LAUSD and the state, but it never came to be.
This change will be enormous and chaotic and interesting.
It looks like my school--teachers, staff, and community will figure out how to proceed. Two years ago we'd started looking at the possibility of being a dependent charter. It will be an adventure.
Again, check out the backstory http://www.dailynews.com/search/ci_1318522. When my grandparents came to LA in '29 they thought it was a cowtown--well, without some good newspapers, that what you are. (Back in the day we had Hearst's Herald vs. the Times for a while and that produced great news coverage! At least the Daily News and the LA Weekly try top pick up where the Times is weak.I love how the LA Times didn't mention how those meeting worked. They bash teachers horribly. The LA Times hasn't really been the real LA times though, in years and years.