Jackie Goldberg was sworn in as the new LAUSD Board Member in District 5 Tuesday and then immediately called on her supporters to hit the streets again to help pass Measure EE, the parcel tax that will raise $500 million a year for Los Angeles public schools, district and charter.
For a wealthy state like California to be in the low 40s in per pupil spending on education is unacceptable, Goldberg said. “In Yiddish we call that a shanda – a shame,” she said. “It is our duty, all of our duty. Those you who spent all of your time getting me elected, I need you now to spend all of your time on EE.”
Shortly after that unifying message for more funding, however, Goldberg turned her attention to complaining about bond funds that voters had specifically allocated to public charter schools to get co-located classrooms ready for kids or to build new school sites so they don’t have to share district facilities.
L.A. Unified staffers explained to her that these were bond funds that voters had approved for use by public charter schools and that the law requires L.A. Unified to provide a “reasonably equivalent” and fair share of space to educate public charter school kids. That fair use of space includes the purchase of enough computer technology to match the in-classroom technology ratio per student that students in traditional district schools have.
Goldberg, however, questioned whether LAUSD ensures equivalent technology between the district school and its co-locating charter at the school site level. “Are we going to make sure the district school has all of that equipment as the charter school co-located with it? The same thing with furniture and chairs.”
Her concerns were shared by Board members Nick Melvoin (BD4) and Kelly Gonez. (BD6). In fact, Melvoin said he would be willing to work with Goldberg to make sure that when a charter school comes into a district school that the district school also has parity with new furniture or technology or a new coat of paint.
A representative from the California Charter Schools Association later suggested at public comment that the rent that charters pay LAUSD when they share space on a district campus should go directly to the home school sharing to spend as it wants so the district school students can also benefit from the co-location, and tensions between schools can be reduced.
While Goldberg complained that charter schools were taking space away from district schools when they co-locate, she also questioned why charters are given bond funds to build private facilities.
“It would be different if all of our schools were full,” Goldberg said. “I’m really worried about the whole notion of how we build new space in a district that has lots of empty space in existing schools…Do you expand new space when you have so much empty space?”
That’s when Melvoin pointed out the contradiction between Goldberg’s claims that charters are both stealing scarce space from district schools, while also complaining that they don’t need private sites because there’s an excess of classroom space available for everyone.
“The challenge that I’ve found from the district is when charters seek alternative arrangements – private sites, long-term leases – we get pushback,” Melvoin said. “In the last hour we’ve talked about how charters are coming and ‘taking district space,’ and now we’re saying we don’t need to build space because we have space.”
Superintendent Austin Beutner said he would soon be presenting the board with a report on facilities assets and allocations to come up with a long-term space plan for all kids in all types of public schools. “What do we have, and how do we match that against the students we have and what we think we will have five to 10 years from now?” Beutner asked.
Also at the meeting, the board passed resolutions to help foster children and to bring cursive handwriting instruction back to elementary schools. Beutner also announced that every elementary school will have a library aide next year, and he will search for funds to keep the libraries open in future years, too.