- CCSA Staffer Cassy Horton
While Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) District 4 Board Member Nick Melvoin has laughed off the idea of holding public meetings in the evening when more stakeholders can attend, an agenda secured by Michael Kohlhaas dot org shows that Melvoin is perfectly willing to reserve that time for members of the charter school industry. After a 9:00 AM “special” (i.e. no general public comment allowed) LAUSD Board meeting and a 1:00 PM session of the Committee of the Whole, Melvoin and his Senior Advisor and Director of Community Engagement Allison Holdorff Polhill met with three staffers from the California Charter School Association (CCSA) and representatives from three charter school chains. The subject of this meeting was an attempt to make it easier for charter schools to obtain LAUSD facilities, “framed as a draft resolution for Nick’s consideration” but actually “explicitly” requested by Melvoin.
The fact that Melvoin, who was elected to represent the 80% of students who attend LAUSD schools, outsourced the writing of a resolution to the CCSA should not be surprising. After all, this is the same board member who spearheaded the effort to allow charter schools to write the rules on how they would be overseen by the district. He also has at least two former CCSA staffers, Chief of Staff Sarah Angel and Director of Strategy and Community Engagement Clayton Rosa, on his payroll. However, the confidential emails exposed by Michael Kohlhaas dot org show just how deeply the lobbying group for the charter industry has integrated itself into the operations of the public schools they are supposed to be competing against.
These confidential emails also add some explanation as to why the charter industry-backed board members pushed through a “school performance framework” before losing their majority due to Ref Rodriguez’ felony conviction. While touted as a way to provide parents with data about schools within the district, a recent presentation of the beta version of the web site showed that this data is heavily editorialized and will be manipulated in order to create a yelp-style ranking of schools. True to form, the parents invited to participate in focus groups were not selected from the committees who advise the district but from Melvoin’s mailing lists.
Under the resolution crafted by the CCSA, this ranking system would be used in a system in which “facilities allocations will be reduced to allow for the development and establishment of other programs better able to excel with students are [sic] receive high levels of demand from parents.” Under the principle titled by Horton as “access to facilities based on performance and student demand”, charters would have been rewarded for cherry-picking their student body and public schools with high numbers of English learners or students with special education needs would have lost space. The Prop 39 invasions faced by schools like Catskill Elementary would have become more commonplace throughout the district.
Luckily for the 80% of students who attend district-run schools, it appears that Rodriguez’ conviction short-circuited the ability to turn this resolution into official policy. However, the disclosure of the efforts should serve as a red flag to voters in the 2020 elections.
Like the schools that they represent, the CCSA is a private organization with no accountability to the public. Their power comes from their ability to throw money at elected representatives through legalized bribery and they have made it clear that they intend to spend heavily to defeat Scott Schmerleson, George McKenna, and Jackie Goldberg next year. In fact, if the rumors are true, Melvoin’s Chief of Staff is poised to run against Schmerelson. A defeat for any of the pro-public education board members would give control of the school board back to the charter industry and, therefore, the ability to enrich their own schools at the expense of the majority who attend public schools.
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.