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School & District Management Opinion

No Ground Gained In L.A. Charter Skirmish

By Charles Taylor Kerchner — December 10, 2015 3 min read
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Heedless of the cost, the participants in the Los Angeles charter school war are providing much heat and little enlightenment.

At Tuesday’s meeting, the Los Angeles Unified School District board delayed voting on a resolution from member Scott Schmerelson that the district oppose a Broad Foundation plan to expand charter schools to encompass half the district’s enrollment.

Charter school parents protested outside, gathered by the California Charter Schools Association Families. (Read the full story from the L.A. School Report.) Interestingly, there were two aspects to the protest: one explicitly pro-charter, the other rallying for a good school in every ZIP code in the city regardless of who operated it.

Former school board president Jackie Goldberg told community organizers at the rally at district headquarters that, “This is war! We need to do battle right now.”

Meanwhile inside, nine union leaders who represent teachers, administrators and other staffers voiced their support for Schmerelson’s resolution.

Discussion was cut short as the board adjourned to work in private on screening superintendent candidates to replace Ramon Cortines, who has announced his desire to retire at the end of the year. It is widely believed that the existence of the charter war has decreased the pool of candidates. Who, after all, wants to lead a district under siege?

While all this was going on, the school board quietly renewed the charters of six schools associated with the Alliance for Charter Ready Schools. And United Teachers Los Angeles continued its efforts to unionize the Alliance teachers and obtained a preliminary injunction against the schools anti-organizing efforts.

On another front, a new organization called Great Public Schools Now, which has taken over the charter expansion effort from the Broad Foundation, published a list of 49 successful campuses that met its criteria. In the first release, the group listed 28 schools, most of them charters. A revised list includes 23 magnet school programs operated by LAUSD along with 7 traditional neighborhood schools and 19 charters.

The contours of the Great Public Schools Now program and a list of financial backers has not yet been made public. It is said to include plans to support and develop both district schools and charters.

If the report of the skirmish impresses you as needless effort that could be better spent supporting teachers, helping them develop powerful learning strategies, or getting students scholarships to college, you’re probably right.

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Compiled by Devin Corrigan

The opinions expressed in On California are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.