LA Charters Banned From Letting Volunteers Get Preference

The Los Angeles Unified Board of Education this week passed a resolution preventing charter schools from offering admission to families in exchange for volunteer work or other services, writes Howard Blume at the LA Times.

The admission preference, overseen by the Los Angeles Unified School District, had been offered by two charter schools – Larchmont Charter and Los Feliz Charter.

Larchmont Charter School ended the practice recently, while Los Feliz Charter School for the Arts was in the process of ditching it when the school board acted.

Critics have noted that the law provides for a lottery when there are more applicants than spaces at a charter school. The practice of giving the families of volunteers preference has been called inappropriate, with worries that it opened the system up to abuses such as families getting into schools through connections or because they promised substantial donations or other valuable services.

Charters are independently managed, free public schools exempt from some of the regulations of traditional state-run schools, however this legislation could be seen as a mark of them becoming increasingly streamlined in the state.

Until the practice came under the spotlight, the school district's charter school office was indifferent to the preference policies. The charter office once recommended Los Feliz to rename beneficiaries, calling them "founding parents" rather than "community participants," but never went so far as to order the school to stop admission preferences.

New West Charter Middle School, also in Los Angeles, continues to offer admission to selected volunteers, but as it is overseen by the state rather than L.A. Unified it is free to continue the practice.

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