"We cannot truly have the impact charters were intended to have - to reinvent public education - if we do not close those charters that have demonstrated an inability to meet the challenge of excellence and chronically underperform."
- California Charter School Association (CCSA)
According to the statistics provided by the CCSA, View Park Middle School (VPMS) appears to be accelerating towards failure. In 2015, the charter's Similar Students Rank was a mediocre four out of ten. Last year, it dropped to a one out of ten. Included in a "Findings of Fact" dated January 10, 2017, the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) Charter School Division (CSD) noted that, on the 2014-15 SBAC assessment, only 5% of VPMS' students met or exceeded the performance standards in math. In 2015-2016, this dropped to 3%. In both years, 0% of students with disabilities met or exceeded these standards. These statistics are part of the reason that the CSD found that VPMS "has presented an unsound educational program" and recommended that the LAUSD Board deny its renewal petition. With a 4-3-0 vote, the Board ignored this recommendation and the charter will continue to operate.
With their votes, Mónica Garcia, Ref Rodriguez, George McKenna and Richard Vladovic showed that they cared so little about the students of VPMS that they will allow them to continue to receive an inferior education. They also caused the LAUSD to become complicit in an organization that has demonstratively ignored the needs of our most vulnerable students. Like large charters in the valley, VPMS is another organization where cherry-picking is an accusation borne by facts. The charter is located in an area that is 17.3% Latino, but the CSD reported that "Hispanic/Latino was not a numerically significant subgroup for the 2014-2015 SBAC". For the last three years, "the school has demonstrated a 0% reclassification rate", which means that no English Learners "acquired sufficient proficiency in English to perform successfully in core academic subjects without English Language Development support." When the charter was last renewed in 2012, only 6% of the students were receiving special education services. While there has been an improvement in representation for these students, the percentages are still below other similar schools. Unfortunately, it is also clear that not all of these students are receiving the services that are mandated by law.
At the end of the last school year, "only 60% of the students were receiving their services." The CSD found that the VPMS "staff has limited special education capacity and knowledge." In this school year, no Resource Specialist Program services were provided until October due to the fact that the school year began "with no RSP teachers". Of the 58 Individualized Education Plans governing students at the charter with special education needs, 17% were overdue when the CSD performed their oversight visit. Still, four Board Members voted to approve the charter renewal.
Garcia explained during the Board meeting that ensuring that these services are provided is a "judgment call" because "one difference for charter schools is we're not...they don't...any of those parents could have gone to another school if that service wasn't available." However, providing these services is not optional. Federal law clearly states "that each child who has a disability and needs special education and related services will receive a free and appropriate public education (FAPE)". Furthermore, the California education code mandates that "individuals with exceptional needs attending charter schools" shall be served in the same manner as individuals with exceptional needs in other public schools."
If Garcia's vote was truly about respecting that "parents made a choice", then one would expect that she would consistently side with parents and their ability to choose the educational setting they felt was best for their children. However, last June she voted to continue fighting parents of children with severe needs in court rather than provide them the continued option of sending their children to special education centers. Perhaps these parents should have followed the lead of the charter industry and donated massive amounts of money to her re-election campaign. This seems to get her attention.
I am a parent, special education advocate and a candidate in LAUSD's District 2. I am endorsed by Network for Public Education (NPE) Action and Diane Ravitch called me a "strong supporter of public schools." For additional information, please visit www.ChangeTheLAUSD.com.