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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 9/24/21

Charter School Regulators Fail Again

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tps://" rel="noopener ugc nofollow">My daughter did call me while I was at work and informed me that some people, she didn't specify if it was staff or the board or anybody. She just said 'some people came in cursing at us and they pushed and shoved two kids.'" - Charter school parent

Just like any other day, parents dropped off their children at the Public Policy Charter School in South L.A. with the expectation that the publicly funded school would keep them safe while providing them with an education. Unfortunately, there were no classes provided for their students earlier this week. Instead, there was chaos and confusion. Parents received "frantic" phone calls from their children telling them that classes had been canceled. Police were called to the scene "following reports of a scuffle between kids and an adult."

The next challenge for these parents will be to find a new school for their children as the Public Policy Charter "school is being closed [on] October 1". As a publicly funded agency that is subject to California's Brown Act, the governing board's decision to cease operations should have been made in a properly noticed meeting that was open to the public. However, no mention of a possible closure is included in the agenda for the meeting held on September 7, 2021. Instead, parents were informed by a robocall after they had dropped off their children for school.

The failure of this school should not have come as a surprise to the Los Angeles Unified School District's (LAUSD) Charter School Division. When U.S. News & World Report ran its last listing for the school, the charter had a total enrollment of 104 students. Public School Review says that 139 students were registered for the 2021-22 school year. As of Monday, the actual number of students was 54. This dramatic decline in enrollment would have devastating consequences as the school attempted to cover its fixed costs and should have been an immediate red flag to the bureaucrats at the district.

This is not the first time that charter school parents have found themselves scrambling to find new schools for their children after the closure of a charter school. Just days into the 2018-19 school year, PUC schools closed their Eagle Rock franchise without prior notice. This school was founded by a former LAUSD School Board Member, convicted felon Ref Rodriguez. In 2016, City High School suddenly closed just one month into the school year. At one point, current LAUSD Board Member and Ref Rodriguez ally Nick Melvoin sat on the governing board of this charter school.

These mid-school year closures not only hurt the students at the affected schools, but LAUSD will also incur the cost of assisting their parents to quickly find new accommodations. Given that less than 5% of the students at this charter school had test scores showing that they were proficient in math and less than 25% showed proficiency in Reading and Language Arts, this transition is going to have to include intensive academic efforts. The cost for these services will have to come out of a public school budget that is reduced due to the diversion of education funds to charter schools, even if these privately run schools are failing to educate their students or are financially insolvent.

In an attempt to ensure that the LAUSD provides proper oversight of the charter schools that it authorizes, I proposed the 'Improving LAUSD Performance as a Regulatory Agency for Charters' resolution as part of my 2017 campaign to unseat Monica Garcia. This proposal included a directive to the Charter School Division to ensure that all charters have financing in place to complete the school year before allowing them to open for the first day of school. Unfortunately, this resolution was never formally proposed by any board member, even when those supporting public education held a majority on the board.

With the failures of the charter school division compounding, it is up to parents to push on our board members to hold charter schools and the Charter School Division accountable for both the public money they receive and the impact the lack of oversight is having on all LAUSD students. When parents put pressure on their board members it magnifies the issue for next year's election where at least one charter industry-supported candidate must be defeated in order to obtain a board whose majority has the courage to support proper oversight of these schools.

  • Board District 1: (213) 241-6382
  • Board District 2: (213) 241-6180
  • Board District 3: (213)241-8333
  • Board District 4: (213) 241-6387
  • Board District 5: (213) 241-5555
  • Board District 6: (213) 241-6388
  • Board District 7: (213) 241-6385

Carl Petersen is a parent advocate for students with special education needs and public education. He is an elected member of the Northridge East Neighborhood Council and serves as the Education Chair. As a Green Party candidate in LAUSD's District 2 School Board race, he was endorsed by Network for Public Education (NPE) Action. Dr. Diane Ravitch has called him "a valiant fighter for public schools in Los Angeles." For links to his blogs, please visit Opinions are his own.

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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 " (more...)

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