"This requires the board to act in the interests of the 80% of Los Angeles students who attend district schools. You know, the students that you were elected to represent." - My reminder to the LAUSD Board
The following are comments presented to the LAUSD Board regarding PROP-39 co-locations:
For years the district has told communities fighting off co-locations that there was nothing that could be done to prevent them. PROP-39 was the law of the land and the LAUSD had only two choices: comply and give charter schools the space that they demanded or fight the "request" and end up in court.
The passage of AB-1505 has changed this dynamic. This legislation gives school districts more options. For example, during the authorization period, they are now allowed "to consider how the charter school would impact the community and the neighborhood schools". It cannot be argued that a neighborhood school forced to give up space used to provide special education services is not being negatively affected by a co-locating charter school. However, the board has to have the will to fight for public school students for AB-1505 to have any effect.
There are other methods for holding charter schools accountable. For example, charters can be revoked for fiscal mismanagement. Again, this requires the board to act in the interests of the 80% of Los Angeles students who attend district schools. You know, the students that you were elected to represent.
Last month I spoke to you about the WISH Charter Schools that owe the students of the LAUSD $424,326. I can't tell you if they have paid any of this debt since this time because the Charter School Division has not reported the balance of overallocation fees due to the district since January 17. Apparently, Jose Cole-Guitierrez believes the solution to the problem is not to hold charter schools accountable but to stop providing this information to the public. If, as I suspect, the charter school has not paid the money that is due, why are they being offered the entire Orville Wright campus instead of being shut down?
In the same vein, Ingenium Charter Schools owed the district $947,376 on January 17. Instead of shutting down this school, the district is offering to give them space on the Woodland Hills Academy campus.
Then there are cases that are even worse. The North Valley Military Institute (NVMI) has been caught illegally charging its students to attend summer school. It violated California labor law by paying parents and students less than minimum wage so they could pay summer school fees. Yet, the district still gives them space at the Valley Oaks Center for Enriched Studies (VOCES).
It has been said that earlier this year the operations at NVMI were shut down, allegedly by the County Health Department. Was the Charter School Division aware of this shutdown? Did they investigate to find out if the students at VOCES were endangered by the conditions that led to the shutdown?
During the renewal process, nothing was said about a lawsuit pending against NVMI that alleged sexual abuse by an administrator at the charter. This suit included an allegation that the school retaliated against the parents who made these allegations. Was the Charter School Division aware of this lawsuit? I have visited NVMI and found that the staff and students intermingled with the public school community. What did the Charter School Division do to warn the parents at VOCES that an alleged sexual predator may have had contact with their children?
PROP-39 may be the law of the land, but it is not the only law governing charter schools. What will this board do to protect students at the district schools that you represent?
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 www.ChangeTheLAUSD.com. Opinions are his own.