In a controversial 5-1 vote , the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) Board will be asking the state to impose a moratorium on new charter schools opening in the district while it studies the effect of charters. As the LA School Report explains:
Hours after about 3,500 charter school supporters rallied at Los Angeles Unified’s headquarters, the school board approved a resolution Tuesday calling for a moratorium on new charters. … The resolution’s passage was secured when board President Mónica García said late in the discussion that she would vote for it, to gasps from the packed boardroom. She had appeared at the rally before the meeting, thanking charter supporters for showing up and for offering needed options for students when the district’s schools had been overcrowded. She told them, “I hear you, I’m with you. No matter what happens here today, don’t give up your power as parents to choose the best education for your children.”
Nick Melvoin cast the sole “no” vote, and drew loud applause for his remarks, as the LA School report continues:
[He] said at the rally that he supports charters because all families, regardless of income or where they live, deserve the same opportunity to have a good education like he did. At the board meeting, he expressed “consistent frustration” with the heated political battle over charters. “We’re blaming others for our financial problems without getting our house in order.” To loud applause, he added, “I’d like to see a moratorium on low-performing schools.”
Though not part of the formal agreement that ended the teachers strike last week, United Teachers of Los Angeles President Alex Caputo-Pearl and other teachers union leaders have long opposed charter schools in LA and elsewhere because most of them are not unionized (here, too).
Charter schools are public schools that are run independently of bureaucratic districts. They must follow all the same admissions and accountability requirements as district public schools, but they are have more freedom and flexibility to innovate, which makes them an attractive options for parents. Importantly, charter schools typically receive less per-pupil funding than their district counterparts, they have no taxing authority, and if they don’t meet the academic and other conditions of their charter contract, they can be shut down.
There are 225 public charter schools serving more than 112,000 students in the LAUSD alone—more than any other school district in the country. The Board’s resolution would have to be approved by Gov. Gavin Newsom, the State Board of Education, and the California Department of Education for the moratorium to go into effect. Still, the teachers union influence in Sacramento is powerful, and many political officials, including the governor, are backed by them.
But LA parents, teachers, and other advocates are fighting back. Here is just some of the reactions:
Hugo Hernandez, a charter parent and a business owner, said at the rally that “competition is good for our kids’ education.” He said charter schools compete for students “to serve them better, what’s wrong with that?”
An L.A. Unified graduate, who now has a bachelor’s degree from UCLA, also spoke against the resolution, fondly remembering her charter school in Huntington Park that gave her access to seven AP classes and four SAT practice tests her senior year. “I don’t know if I would have made it to UCLA without my charter school, without my mother’s choice to send me there. …I am the educational impact of charter schools. Although I am one person, if you want to see the educational impact, you can go outside [referring to the 3,500 people rallying in support of charter schools].”
According to a formal news release after the LAUSD Board vote:
…”the voice of LAUSD charter public school students and families was completely disregarded during recent contract negotiations” and denounced the “backroom deal that threatens to compromise high-quality public school options throughout the Los Angeles area.”
Myrna Castrejón, president and CEO of the California Charter Schools Association, stated, “For parents, the issue isn’t about politics, it is about what their child needs and what learning environment will help them thrive. Without a doubt, this charter school ban will unfairly target the most vulnerable students in Los Angeles.” She added, “This resolution to ban charter schools is a solution in search of a problem. The real problem facing Los Angeles public schools is the persistent achievement gap.”
UC Berkeley researchers, for example, found that years after receiving $4 billion in additional funding to help low-achieving students, LAUSD still suffers from “glacial incrementalism” when it comes to making sure those funds actually reach those students, according to Bruce Fuller, professor of education and public policy at Berkeley.
Parents shouldn’t be forced to keep their children trapped in schools that refuse to reform. Charter schools offer LA parents alternatives their children need now. Gov. Newsom and other officials in Sacramento should reject LAUSD’s charter school moratorium and support more educational options for all California families.