LAUSD School Choice Program Gutted, Teachers to Lead Reform

Three years ago, the Los Angeles Unified School District — the nation’s second largest district — invited charter organizations to restructure low-performing schools. Now LAUSD is set to eliminate external organizations from being able to take over schools for the next three years, essentially dismantling the Public School Choice program, writes Christina Hoag at the Associated Press.

Los Angeles’ embrace of charter organizations led to the founding of many schools. It was a move popular with school reformers yet despised by unionized teachers.

Now it seems the unions have gotten their way, as reform efforts in the district will be led by teachers and administrators. These educators will be granted charter-like independence from district control and union rules.

Many people see this as a good thing, giving those that are on the front-line of education – teachers – the power to enact the reforms they want. However, there are some critics who don’t see the need to eliminate outside organizations from the reform equation.

“What we created, by way of a competition, helped people behave differently,” said Yolie Flores, who wrote the original Public School Choice policy.

Los Angeles schools Superintendent John Deasy will be charged with scrapping the Public School Choice policy, despite many believing that the program was never given chance to fully bear fruit.

Former state Sen. Gloria Romero criticized Deasy, saying that he “gave away a crown jewel of education reform that put L.A. on the national map.”

But Deasy is adamant that the agreement with the teachers union could give all district schools the advantages of charters, citing provisions that will give schools new freedoms be able to opt out of provisions of the union contract as well as district policy.

This comes after the Academic Performance Index (API), California’s primary academic accountability metric for schools, showed that Los Angeles charter schools outperform the Los Angeles Unified School District across all grade levels.

Critics of the new plan believe that there is no need to eliminate charter programs now, especially as they’re proven to be getting results.

“Charter schools in Los Angeles are showing incredible academic growth,” said Jed Wallace, President and CEO of the California Charter Schools Association.

“They are demonstrating that charters are fulfilling the promise of reinventing public education.”