Board To Vote On Backroom Charter Ban That Undermines Democracy, Parent Choice

Board Member Richard Vladovic (BD7) is sponsoring the resolution, which harms low-income kids of color.

Board Member Richard Vladovic (BD7) is sponsoring the resolution, which harms low-income kids of color.

The LAUSD Board will vote Tuesday on a resolution from Board member Richard Vladovic (BD7) calling for a moratorium on new LAUSD charter schools and a statewide study to consider policy changes related to charter co-locations, the fiscal impact of charters and facilities management.

It calls on the state to create a moratorium on new charter schools and asks the LAUSD superintendent to find out whether a ballot initiative would be needed to put an end to all new charters within LAUSD boundaries. It also calls for a study on the financial impact of charters on LAUSD – with a goal toward potential policy changes that could result in LAUSD gaining the power to shut down all high-performing charter schools simply because they successfully compete for students with traditional LAUSD schools.

Furthermore, it calls for study of co-locations and facilities management – again with the end goal of calling for policies that could potentially deprive charter children of the right to equal use of public school space.

The resolution upset both district and charter parents who support school choice, who immediately began mobilizing to advocate for its defeat. Jennifer McKay, who has two kids at her LAUSD neighborhood school, signed Speak UP’s petition opposing the resolution.

 “This must be so stressful for many of my friends,” she said. “I am 100 percent on board with improving district schools, but certainly not at the expense of children currently enrolled in a place where they are happy or preventing parents from choosing for their own child what works best. I’m saddened to see this may be [causing] further division among parents.”

Amy Hallenbrook is a mom at WISH charter, a school that’s asking the state for permission to give a lottery admissions preference to kids with the most severe special needs. "I am really angry,” she said. “This is a distraction, a political move. Once again, charters are the target, and no one is focusing on making schools better. This is a cop out."

While it appears that this resolution was part of a late-night, backroom deal to end the strike, it’s unclear how many and which Board members signed off on the anti-choice measure. The resolution attempts to undermine the results of the 2017 school Board elections, in which the public voted in Board members supportive of school choice.

Board Vice President Nick Melvoin told Speak UP he opposes a charter cap, and Board Member Kelly Gonez told KPCC: “There’s value to studying the impact of charters.” However, “I’m not sure a pause is the right approach … I don’t support a cap, in particular, as a policy approach because I think it’s an arbitrary limit on schools that isn’t based on what’s best for students.”

A deal to bargain charter school policy as a quid pro quo to settle the strike might not be legal, given that charter school parents and operators were not a party to the UTLA negotiations. This could potentially embroil Mayor Eric Garcetti, who mediated the settlement, in an unwanted controversy just as he prepares to launch a presidential bid.

Either way the resolution is being rushed to a vote just days after appearing on the agenda -- with very little transparency or time for public debate. Speak UP opposes the resolution – in terms of both substance and process -- and has joined with Parent Revolution and Kids Coalition to present an alternate proposal calling for more transparency and accountability for all public schools – district and charter.

“UTLA is absolutely right that failing charter schools should be held accountable and shut down,” the heads of the three groups wrote. “Currently, no district mechanism exists to hold LAUSD accountable for the success of the district schools that it operates. Failing district schools should be held accountable for the outcomes of their students and parents should have a seat at the table to help determine how their school is transformed. The shameful era of looking the other way as generations of children are left behind must end.”

The three organizations also questioned the union’s rationale for bringing this moratorium: the notion that we have too many schools. “If the goal is to put kids first as both sides claim, the question should not be: Are there too many schools? The question must be: Are there enough high-quality schools for all children in Los Angeles? With only 38 percent of graduates from the schools that are managed by LAUSD and UTLA deemed college or career ready on the state’s accountability measurement tool, the answer is clearly no.”

Some district parents were troubled by the scapegoating of charter children that the resolution was fueling on Facebook pages for those who supported the UTLA strike.

“A choice for any child -- whether it be magnet, charter or permitting in to another public school -- should be an equal choice for all children,” said Eileen Anne Wolter, a mom at the LAUSD magnet school Wonderland. “If my child were at a charter school, I would be horrified to know that other parents thought he was a parasite or that I was anything other than an advocating parent like themselves, doing what I thought was the best for my child.”

Please sign Speak UP’s petition calling on the Board to VOTE NO on the charter ban.