LAUSD Board Unanimously Passes $5.5-Million Program to Ease Co-location Tensions After Speak UP's District, Charter Parents Advocate Together

District and charter parents joined forces to advocate for funding to improve facilities at LAUSD campuses sharing space with charter schools, prompting the Board to more than double the money allocated for the proposed pilot program to $5.5 million, which the Board passed unanimously Tuesday.

The resolution from Board members Nick Melvoin (BD4) and Jackie Goldberg (BD5) allows co-locating district and charters schools to jointly apply for a portion of $5.5 million in charter bond funds, roughly $100,000 per campus, to make co-location go more smoothly.

“An adversarial relationship between charters and district schools is never good for children,” Goldberg said in a statement after the resolution passed. “This resolution takes us in the right direction.”

Becky Cunningham, a parent volunteer at Katherine Johnson STEM Academy, the new neighborhood middle school for the Westchester-Playa Vista area, said she hopes the funds can be used to fix a broken PA system in the auditorium at the Westchester High school campus where her school shares space with the upper grades of Ocean Charter and WISH Charter’s middle and high schools.

“Every single one of those schools, when they go to use that auditorium, we lug a huge PA system,” Cunningham said. “So when I see this resolution, I see an opportunity for all of these schools that are already working together for bell schedules to now come together to apply for money so that we could get the new PA system up and running.”

Last week, Board Member George McKenna (BD1) proposed an amendment that would remove all the funding for the program and instead direct the district’s Independent Analysis Unit to conduct a survey about co-locations and examine steps that had already been recommended by a prior co-location task force.

“I’m asking for a delay so there’s time to study,” McKenna said. “We shouldn’t rush into it without analyzing what’s already been done.”

Becky Cunningham, a parent leader at LAUSD’s Katherine Johnson STEM Academy, hopes to use the funds for a new PA system at Westchester High, which shares space with multiple district and charter schools.

Becky Cunningham, a parent leader at LAUSD’s Katherine Johnson STEM Academy, hopes to use the funds for a new PA system at Westchester High, which shares space with multiple district and charter schools.

Parents, however, implored the Board to keep the funding intact.

“This money comes entirely from charter schools but would be used to help both schools, so what’s the problem?” said WISH parent Haan-Fawn Chau. “Sometimes I wonder if, perhaps, there are people who don’t want to see this issue resolved because it’s a convenient political wedge. But our children should never be used as political pawns. These are all our kids. They all deserve a safe, welcoming space to learn.” 

Speak UP Parent Engagement Coordinator Sharnell Blevins, a parent of six kids, including three that attend LAUSD’s Hamilton High in McKenna’s district, proposed a compromise. Doing a survey is fine, she said, “but can’t we do both? Can’t we survey the schools as well as fund the pilot program? We need these funds to fix the problem.”

Goldberg, who said there were urgent safety needs that should be funded immediately, picked up that suggestion and ran with it. She proposed to incorporate McKenna’s survey into the plan and more than double the funding for the program but hold half of the funds back until the survey is completed.

McKenna accepted that suggestion, and the two resolutions were merged. McKenna then signed on as a co-sponsor, as did Board Member Monica Garcia (BD2), giving the resolution the four votes needed to pass. Melvoin and Goldberg said they hoped the resolution would incentivize collaboration between co-locating schools since they have to jointly agree on the projects to fund.

“If they can’t get together, they can’t get this money,” Goldberg said. “But if they can get together, they can get some money to help solve the problem.”

Several parents testified that money alone won’t solve the problems with co-location, and adults also need to set a better example for the children.

When it comes to safety, parent Michael Segel said all kids on campus “are in the same boat.”

When it comes to safety, parent Michael Segel said all kids on campus “are in the same boat.”

“We've seen adults protesting kids walking to school,” said Kenchy Ragsdale, founder of the group Kids Not Politics. “We’ve seen adults calling it an ‘invasion’ when a kindergartener attends their public charter school at a co-locating campus…It enables bullying, and kids are often told, “you don’t belong here. Go home.” That needs to stop.”

Chau, who attended Speak UP’s recent Peace Walk in Southeast L.A., echoed the request to dial down the divisive rhetoric.  

“We’ve heard enough of this fear-mongering kind of language in our national debates about immigration, and we don’t need to bring such destructive mindsets to our local schools,” she said. “As adults, we have an opportunity to teach our kids important lessons about co-existing peacefully. It’s not always easy, but for the sake of the kids we need to try harder.”

Parents Roxann Nazario and Michael Segel both testified that their co-locating schools had worked well together during recent emergencies, in Nazario’s case a bomb scare near Panorama High, and in Segel’s case a lockdown that took place that day on the campus of Marina Del Rey Middle School, where his daughter’s charter school shares space.

“Somehow that showed me that all of our kids are in the same boat,” Segel said. “And we have to work to protect all of them. There is no divide. They’re all just wonderful kids.”

— This story was updated after the Board vote Oct. 1