"This is a compromise, but we owe that to our children and the way that we can model compromise as a Board and as a community. Let's not forget that the disenfranchised here are our students...If you don't compromise it leads to this retrenchment and cynicism that then goes to this downward spiral and even more resentment and cynicism and disappointment, and that is never the source of progress."- LAUSD Board Member Nick Melvoin
Last July, the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) Board had the opportunity to put a parcel tax on the regularly scheduled November ballot. Unfortunately, the California Charter School Association (CCSA) opposed the resolution by George McKenna and Scott Schmerelson, falsely claiming that "the proposal [excluded] 110,000 charter public [sic] school students." Therefore, Ref Rodriguez (in one of his last actions before pleading guilty to felonious acts related to his campaign), Nick Melvoin and Monica Garcia voted against asking the voters for funding that was desperately needed by the students of the district.
Less than nine months later, Melvoin and Garcia had a change of heart. Perhaps they read the writing on the wall and realized that Jackie Goldberg's impending election meant that the parcel tax was going to pass without their support. Or maybe it was the fact that Melvoin's expectations for a quick victory in the January strike crumbled when parents and the community supported the demands made by the teachers. In any case, they finally joined McKenna and Schmerelson to take the steps needed to place Measure EE before the voters on June 4, 2019.
Unfortunately, district students will pay a price for the opportunity to get access to badly needed funds. While the district will be absorbing the financial risk of paying for the election, charter schools are guaranteed to receive a share of the revenue based solely on their percentage of the total student population within the district boundaries. While "the Measure would require fiscal accountability and oversight provisions", it is unclear how this would apply to the charters given the district's poor record of providing oversight over these publicly funded private schools. For charters authorized by the county and the state, there will be absolutely no oversight by the district to ensure the fulfillment of the promise of transparency and accountability that has been made to voters.
The revenue sharing guarantees written into Measure EE exacerbate the negative effects of privatization on the LAUSD, but is this enough to justify voting against the parcel tax? Proposition 13 has ensured that California public schools are chronically underfunded. Trump's attacks on funding for special education programs means that money from the federal government is also likely to be reduced. With students facing class sizes that are too large, elementary school libraries without library aides and schools struggling to meet the needs of the communities that they serve, the chance to secure additional funding is much too important. Measure EE needs to be supported.
While the loss of 20% of the revenue to charters from the parcel tax is a tough pill to swallow, it should also emphasize the need to bring accountability to the charter school industry. This includes overcoming resistance from the CCSA and passing the four measures before the state legislature that would bring much-needed changes to the state's 25-year-old charter law. Locally, the LAUSD's Charter School Division must be revamped and the Board empowered to revoke the charters of schools who refuse to conform to the rules. Board members who forget that the 0% of students who attend LAUSD schools should be their first priority must be opposed and removed from office.
The sacrifices made by teachers and parents during the strike brought the problems facing public education to the forefront of public consciousness. The approval of Measure EE provides the opportunity to take another step forward, even if allies of the charter industry have made it an imperfect vehicle for change. That is not a problem if we vow to continue the fight for public education.
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.