Los Angeles Board to Vote on Charter Expansion

The Los Angeles Unified School District is set to vote on a proposal that would oppose “market-driven” education reforms.

The proposal, suggested by board member Scott Schmerelson, is a revision from his previous plan that asked members to oppose an expansion plan put forward by the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation that would create 260 new charter schools.  The new proposal asks the Board of Education to oppose “external initiatives that seek to reduce public education in Los Angeles to an educational marketplace and our children to market shares.”

The Los Angeles Times gained a copy of the confidential charter proposal, which would require half of all students in the district to enroll in charter schools within the next eight years.  The plan was created without asking the opinion of the LA Unified School District.

Once the $490 million proposal was leaked, the Broad Foundation began to refer to it as a “preliminary discussion draft.”  Meanwhile, last month saw the creation of a nonprofit organization by two charter advocates that they said is the next step in the plan.  They went on to say that it would only work toward building high-quality public schools, whether they be charter or any other kind, despite offering up documentation that mainly pushed for charter schools, writes Howard Blume for The Los Angeles Times.

Charter schools are publicly funded and independently managed.  They do not operate according to the same rules and regulations that traditional public schools must comply with, and most are non-union.

Broad will be on the board of the new nonprofit, called Great Public Schools Now, although he will not be in charge.

After the nonprofit was formed, Schmerelson revisited his proposal to take the focus away from Broad.  However, he continued to stress his concerns that some charter schools do not serve all types of students and that an increase of this type of school could cause the public school district to be unable to offer enough resources to the traditional public schools in the area.

However, charter advocates maintain that his concerns are unfair and inaccurate, arguing that charters are popular with parents and currently serve 16% of students in the district.  The district has more charter schools than any other district in the country.

Schmerelson also added ideas to his proposal that he hopes will help to attract and keep more students, including increasing early learning opportunities, boosting accountability for school leaders, gaining more support from parents, improving attendance records for both students and staff members, and advocating for increased state and federal funding.

“He decided that the resolution also needed to include language that speaks to the accountability of the board and their commitment to attract and retain students,” said Arlene Irlando, Schmerelson’s chief of staff. “He felt that it’s not enough to speak about what is opposed without some language affirming the need to improve outcomes for all LAUSD students.”

The board is expected to vote on Schmerelson’s proposal during its regular meeting this week.