"Transparency is key."
- CCSA Email marked "Confidential"
The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) is not always a welcoming place for a person who needs accommodations. According to a report released on October 25, 2017 , a child with a physical disability would be unable to enter through the main entrance of one-fifth of the schools within the District. Once inside, they could not access all areas above the first floor in a quarter of all facilities. "Fewer than one-third of schools have accessible restrooms on campus. "
In an attempt to fix this problem, the district allocated $600 million from construction bond funds "to make schools more accessible to disabled students. " Since this would reduce the funds available for charter schools to use for their own projects , the California Charter School Association (CCSA) sued the LAUSD claiming that using the bond funds to make schools more accessible as "the board approved were unlawful. " After Board Member Nick Melvoin disclosed to the CCSA that the Office of General Counsel was confident in the district's legal footing , it became clear that the charter school industry would not be able to use the suit as a way to make the district relent. The suit was dropped.
"I'm concerned that they are not expressing concern for making our schools, where some of their charters are located, more accessible to disabled students, especially given the situation where charters are frequently accused of not supporting special ed kids . "
- David Holmquist, LAUSD General Counsel
As Michael Kohlhaas dot org continues to release the treasure trove of confidential documents that it has obtained from the charter school industry, it is increasingly clear that the long-time accusation that these publicly funded private schools are obsessed with keeping their operations free from the prying eyes of the public is true. They demand to receive ever-increasing amounts of taxpayer funding but want no oversight over how this money is spent.
As the CCSA used Melvointo push through a method to rank schools, their internal deliberations make it clear that their ultimate goal was to "create another pathway for access to facilities." They wanted this to be above and beyond what they were receiving under Prop 39, a system that is already diminishing the educational experience of those in public schools . In their words, this "pathway should not be to the exclusion of Prop 39. Supplement not supplant Prop 39. "
As Melvoin worked to reduce public speaking time and resisted efforts to increase access to school board meetings, he emphasized that he wanted the "charter community in the room and providing input in all Prop 39
Instructional Committee meetings. " Melvoin proposed that the LAUSD "establish a facilities working group " to resolve Prop 39 issues that would be similar to the one that had charter schools deciding how they would be overseen by the district . However, he also wanted "political cover " in the case that they had to "pivot in a few weeks " because the "working groups [were] not effective " in pushing their agenda. "Behind the scenes work " might be needed to "effectuate the change " they wanted.
The classified documents also highlight the charter industry's public relations strategy as they ask if they can "obtain political viability via noise ". Apparently, with their schools not delivering as promised and endangering the safety of studentsit is impossible for the CCSA to rely on arguments based on facts. They, therefore, create diversionary tactics like painting every effort at common-sense regulation as an effort to close all charter schools. Fearful parents are whipped into a frenzy, children are bussed into school board meetings in color-coded shirts to create a show and the press is given a diversion so they never ask about the truth behind the curtain.
Mirroring the suggestion that has been propagated from the board room that district schools benefit from Prop 39 co-locations, Melvoin suggests that the CCSA "have district parents talk about positive co-location relationships or at least a district parent/staff desire for consistency/stability in long-term agreements or desire for more $$$ to go to co-located schools. " The discussion ends before they reveal where they will find these mythical parents.
With the emails released so far, the public has seen the secret dealings that have gone on between Superintendent Austin Beutner and Board Member Melvoin. The only reason that we have this information is that the CCSA shared this information with charter schools who are now subject to the California Public Records Act. It is no wonder that the CCSA opposed this bill when it was presented to the California legislature last year. They have no problem accepting taxpayer money, they just don't want the public to see what is being done with these public funds.
Carl Petersen is a parent, advocate for students with special education needs, 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.