Is Equity Just A Talking Point?
LAUSD Board Member Monica Garcia talks a lot about how the children of the district deserve equity. Will she back those words up with action?
At an LAUSD Board meeting last week, Monica Garcia called for a resolution to indefinitely suspend all committee meetings. At the same time, she asked the board’s president to create a committee that would address equity in the district. While most committees met monthly and the Special Education and Parent Engagement Committees met every other month before the pandemic, Garcia proposed that an Equity Committee should meet every week. Clearly, equity is an issue that is very important to the most senior board member.
Or is it?
Through court battles, the California Charter School Association (CCSA) has forced a PROP-39 co-location program on public schools that mandates that they hand over space to the publicly funded private schools that this organization represents. Classrooms that are used to provide equity to economically disadvantaged students in the form of parent engagement, after-school activities, and curriculum enrichment are sacrificed so that charter schools like Citizens of the World can take space for their own programs. The end result for public school students is a lack of access to programs meant to provide equity.
Garcia was reelected in the 2017 election with $173,333.85 in support from the CCSA and its supporters. At Tuesday’s Committee of the Whole meeting, I asked her to look beyond this legal bribe and stand up for the cause of providing equity to students who really could use the help:
I’m calling in regards to Bassett Street Elementary School. We’ve talked a lot about equity in this meeting and it is something that Monica Garcia says is very important to her. If it really is, I suggest that you take a good look at Bassett and the good work that it’s doing to bring equity to its students
Bassett has a magnet program that is beginning next year, so it is in its infancy. This is giving children in low-income areas a chance to learn a trade that is very important to Los Angeles: media arts. This requires rooms that are not occupied by a teacher with a roster; it needs green screens and special effects labs. This requires space. They are going to set up this program to give these kids an opportunity.
The school also has an award-winning robotics program. This has allowed students on the team to travel to other states; children who in some cases have never been on an airplane before. This has allowed them to see the world that has bigger opportunities. This program requires a robotics lab. But this space does not have a teacher with a roster.
Special education programs help children who need it the most. Bassett gives them space to work with their professionals in a confidential and private setting so they can get the most out of it. But that is, again, space without a teacher and a roster.
Under the interpretation of PROP-39 that the district is currently using, a room that does not have a teacher with a roster is eligible for a charter school to swoop in and take that space. In this case, the Citizens of the World chain of charter schools is going to take space from Bassett. This is going to either eliminate or hamper programs that are providing equity to the students.
Ms. Garcia, if you really think that equity is important and think that that is what the district should stand for, then you should be standing against this co-location. This is especially true when the request comes from a charter school that consistently takes more space than it needs. Citizens of the World owes the district almost a million dollars in fees because it took more space than it needed year after year after year. To make things worse, it refuses to pay the LAUSD this money. Yet, the district is going to give it more space and take away a program that works for the children of Bassett Street Elementary School.
The space being taken from Bassett is for a brand new Citizens of the World campus. Rejecting the request for space will not harm any of the charter’s existing students and will only prevent an expansion of the program until the school can find a way to offer new students a facility that is not being used by public school students. The LAUSD needs to follow the Oakland Unified School District’s lead and stand up to these harmful co-locations. It is the equitable thing to do.
Carl Petersen is a parent, an advocate for students with special education needs, an elected member of the Northridge East Neighborhood Council, a member of the LAUSD’s CAC, and was a Green Party candidate in LAUSD’s District 2 School Board race. During the campaign, the Network for Public Education (NPE) Action endorsed him, and Dr. Diane Ravitch called him a “strong supporter of public schools.” For links to his blogs, please visit www.ChangeTheLAUSD.com. Opinions are his own.