The Los Angeles Unified School District is preparing to fight a court order that would force it to open up more classroom space in its schools to charters. Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Terry A. Green found that the formula that the district had previously been using to allocate space to charter schools was against state law. The law requires that LAUSD provide facilities that were "reasonable equivalent" to those provided to the traditional public schools.
LAUSD is home to one of the largest concentration of charter schools in the nation — that means more than 90,000 children, and the number is expected to grow. That is why charter school advocates and other school choice supporters hailed the ruling, saying that it will expand the options available to local families.
Charter advocates see the ruling as ensuring long-overdue compliance with the law — with the potential to provide huge cost savings as well as hard-to-find, quality classrooms.
Locating and paying for classroom space is "one of the largest burdens for charter schools throughout California," said attorney Ricardo Soto, who represents the California Charter Schools Assn., which sued the Los Angeles Unified School District. "Charter schools are growing. Their enrollments are growing. We were very glad that the judge found in our favor."
Not surprisingly, the perspective of district officials is not nearly as sunny. LAUSD believes that the ruling means that district schools will lose the space traditionally allocated to supplementary programs like parent centers and computer labs. In addition, overcrowded schools might be forced to turn away local students due to lack of space.
"The district will be forced to cut the vast majority, if not all, intervention and enrichment spaces as well as displace children from their neighborhood schools," attorney David Huff said.
For next fall, the hardships would affect just a handful of traditional campuses — because only five charter schools have said they want to consider new, expanded offers right away.
Neighborhood schools could lose 27 "set aside" classrooms, including those used for academic intervention, testing, music, psychologists, counselors and a college/career center, Huff said.