A Charter School Pawn

If I asked my teachers in my old school for help, they wouldn’t worry about it. They worried more about their pay.”
- 4th Grade Charter School Student

Jose, a fourth-grade student at a charter school, was so nervous as he spoke before the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) School Board that he was fighting back tears. The tension in the gallery was thick as the audience held its breath for the young boy. Board President Monica Garcia intervened and suggested that he take a deep breath. The founder of his charter school gave him a reassuring hand on his shoulder. She also had an ear to ear smile on her face.

As Jose continued through his speech, the tension increased as it became apparent that his young mind had been subjected to some very serious indoctrination. By getting him “into their ship” they saved him from teachers “worried more about their pay” than helping him to read at grade level. The Board had to renew his school because only they had “real teachers.” The charter’s founder beamed with joy.

While the LAUSD will rarely reject requests to renew charters, these schools regularly trot out their students to Board meetings to shame the District out of any type of oversight. Forget the financial irregularities, lack of any real academic process or our refusal to serve students with special education needs, this cute little child thinks his school is the greatest in the entire world. Please ignore the fact that the child is skipping school to be at the meeting and spent the morning in a line outside the Board Room instead of in a classroom. Just do the job the California Charter School Association paid you to do when they spent millions on your campaign, ignore the man behind the curtain and rubber stamp the renewal.

For a movement based on data-driven results, pulling on heartstrings seems to be a strange way to prove worthiness for renewal. Is anyone thinking about the callousness of using their students as tools for their purposes without regard to the harm they may cause?

Carl Petersen is a parent and special education advocate, elected member of the Northridge East Neighborhood Council and was a Green Party candidate in LAUSD’s District 2 School Board race. During the campaign, he was endorsed by Network for Public Education (NPE) Action and Dr. Diane Ravitch called him a “strong supporter of public schools.” His past blogs can be found at www.ChangeTheLAUSD.com. Opinions are his own.