Los Angeles Asks For a Charter School Pause

This resolution does not impact a single LAUSD charter school or charter school student. It does not create a cap…and it doesn’t create a ban.
- LAUSD Board Member Scott Schmerelson
Vote NO on the charter ban! #NoCharterBan
- California Charter School Association

The resolution before the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) School Board was relatively benign. Its passage would not actually change any policy. Instead, it would ask the state to impose a temporary moratorium on new charter schools within the District while state education leaders “conduct a comprehensive study to inform future policy considerations for charter authorization reform.”

The California Charter School Association (CCSA) described the resolution in completely different terms. According to them, this resolution was an all-out assault on their publicly funded private schools. Instead of attending class, hundreds of charter school students took buses to protest in front of the LAUSD headquarters on Beaudry. Some students cried as they pleaded with the Board to not shut down their schools.

Although the Board meeting was not set to begin until 1:00 PM, the line curved around the building and halfway up 4th Street by 8:20 AM in the morning. By some reports, the charter industry supporters had been lining up as early as 6:30 AM in order to ensure access to the meeting. After waiting for almost five hours, I gained access to the meeting and a chance to speak:

I am going to follow up with the last speaker. He said that “a moratorium is a solution for a problem that doesn’t exist.” I disagree.

Kids First” is the motto of this Board.

That to me would mean a charter school, North Valley Military Institute, should not be illegally charging their students to go to summer school. Yet that is what their website said they were doing. The Charter School Division, the regulators of LAUSD charter schools, did not catch it. I found it. I filed a complaint. Then the Charter School Division issued a Notice to Cure.

“Kids First”

That should mean that the Charter School Division should have discovered that Granada Hills Charter High School was illegally using money from their Associated Student Body fund to cover their payroll. But the Charter School Division did not find that either. I found it. I reported it. Then a Notice to Cure was issued.

Our Charter School Division is overwhelmed. They cannot handle the charter schools that we have now. That is why a moratorium is needed. We need to stop accepting new charter schools until we can make sure that the schools that already exist are properly overseen now for the safety of their students, for the protection of all the students in the District and the money that is designated for the education of our children.

We need to be overseeing these schools and we are not.

Actually, I would go further because, in the charter schools that do exist, the District has the right to put a member on each of their governing boards. This member can issue the first warning when things are going wrong. Yet the only time that I have seen this District do it is at El Camino Charter High School and that is because their principal stole money from the school. At each school’s governing board, you should have a member watching out to make sure nothing bad is happening.

In closing, I’d like to follow up on what one of the previous speakers said about the time of this meeting. My daughters’ buses come at 6:30 am. I left right after that. To come here it took an hour and a half from Northridge. I have been standing in a line outside since then to speak at a meeting before my representatives. It shouldn’t be that way.

It should be easier for the public to come here and express an opinion.

I have proposed a resolution to this Board which will be heard before the Committee of the Whole in the future that would change the times of these meetings so that they do not occur during school hours. I think that one of you needs to take this up because it has to be sponsored in order for it to be considered.

Parents, teachers and other stakeholders deserve meetings where they can attend and express their opinions.

After hearing public comment, the Board voted to pass the resolution asking Sacramento for a moratorium on new charter schools in Los Angeles. Only Nick Melvoin voted against the measure. Still unrepresented, the constituents of Board District 5 had no one speak for them. All charter schools within the LAUSD opened for their students the next morning.

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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.