The Los Angeles board of education has agreed to open up as many as 250 schools to outside managers in a move meant to jump-start the pace of academic improvement in the nation’s second-largest school district.
In a 6-1 vote that followed a nearly four-hour debate, board members last week approved a resolution that will allow outside groups—such as charter school operators and community organizations—as well as in-house talent to compete to operate 50 new schools set to open in the district over the next four years. (“Proposal Would Open Up Management of L.A. Schools,” Aug. 26, 2009.)
The new policy will also invite groups to take on the management task of turning around roughly 200 schools that are chronic underperformers.
The proposal drew fierce opposition from United Teachers Los Angeles, whose top leader called the measure a “giveaway to charter schools,” but it garnered strong support from parent and charter school groups, as well as Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.
The new policy calls specifically for inviting school planning teams, charter-management organizations, the teachers’ union, local community organizations, and other groups to make pitches for operating the new and low-performing schools. Yolie Flores Aguilar, the main sponsor of the resolution, said she would not be in favor of for-profit education groups competing to manage schools, unless robust community support was behind the idea.
Exactly how the management pitches will be judged and how the competitive process will unfold is now in the hands of Superintendent Ramon C. Cortines and his administrative team. They have 60 days to create a plan for how the process will work. Ultimately, Mr. Cortines will review each proposal and make recommendations to the school board, which will have to sign off on each manager he selects.
A version of this article appeared in the September 02, 2009 edition of Education Week