Failing Charter Schools and a School Board’s Choice

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash
Data doesn’t close opportunity gaps. People have to do that, so we now need people to take action.
- Carrie Hahnel, EdTrust-West

It is easy to blame a public school for failing to successfully educate a child. Teachers and schools make easy scapegoats in a society that consistently fails at addressing generational poverty, fails to support children with disabilities, and fails at balancing the need to nurture children with the necessity of putting food on the table. In California, we defunded our schools with Proposition 13 and are still wondering why these same schools are not educating children to our expectations.

Instead of addressing the root cause of failure, the education “reform” movement held up privatization as the solution. The charter school industry was created, resulting in even more money being diverted from public schools. Lacking proper oversight, these schools provided an environment where the health and safety of students could be endangered, funds could be diverted into the pockets of administrators and the parents of poor children could be taken advantage of. Education “reformers” treated these conditions as acceptable prices to pay for better educational opportunities for our children, or at least those without special education needs.

Predictably, it turns out that the charterization of the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) did not provide the miracle that was promised. The District has the highest number of charter schools in the country, with approximately 18% of its students in these publicly funded private schools. In the just-released list of 110 underperforming schools in the LAUSD, 20% were independent charter schools. Are we diverting $591.7 million from our public schools to get basically the same results?

In requesting that the state initiate a charter school moratorium, the LAUSD Board made a symbolic statement that it is time to review the 25-year-old law that created charter schools. Now it is time for them to take action. Every charter school on the list needs to be thoroughly reviewed by the Charter School Division. If the state’s assessment that these schools are low-performing is correct, then they need to be shut down at the end of this school year as they have clearly shown that they do not have the solutions needed to raise performance.

The list of underperforming charters includes schools run by large, influential charter chains like PUC, Kipp, Green Dot, and Camino Nuevo (whose chief of operations, Allison Greenwood Bajracharya, is running in the District 5 special election). This will make any attempt to hold these schools accountable extremely difficult. Will the Board put “Kids First” and face this opposition head on?

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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.