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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 8/4/21

Reseda Neighborhood Council asks City for Help

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e district just give them whatever they want? I understand it's a law, but isn't there a law to protect our BIPOC communities from gentrification? They don't have the same demographics as Shirley and isn't that part of PROP 39? Someone should expose their real demographics." - Erick, a parent at Shirley Elementary

As the co-location of Shirley Avenue Elementary School enters its second year the students of this public school are about to lose even more space. Despite the fact that Citizens of the World missed its enrollment projections during the last year, it is requesting that the LAUSD provide it with two additional classrooms this year. The district plans to comply despite the fact that as of June 7, 2021, the charter-school chain has a past-due balance of $974,629.67 for overallocation penalties going back to 2016. These are assessed when a charter school requests space for more students than it actually enrolls. While Citizens of the World claims to have a substantial waiting list, these penalties were assessed at each of the three campuses that they were operating prior to the 2019-20 school year.

With the S hirley communities' pleas for help to the LAUSD being ignored, the Reseda Neighborhood Council has asked the City of Los Angeles to intervene. In a letter dated June 27, 2021, the council has brought "the inequitable colocation happening at the Shirley Avenue Elementary School" to the attention of the Arts, Parks, Health, Education, and Neighborhoods Committee of the Los Angeles City Council. The Reseda council noted that the Shirley co-location has taken classrooms "used for special-education services... music, dance, computer and robotics programs" and given them to Citizens of the World Charter School. Ending the colocation would return classrooms desperately needed as this primarily BIPOC school community recovers from the "unprecedented disruptions" to education caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

On July 21, 2021, the Northridge East Neighborhood Council (NENC) voted to support the Reseda Council's letter. The motion passed unanimously. Included in the information presented to the NENC during consideration of this matter was the demographic information for both Shirley Avenue Elementary School and Citizens of the World West Valley:

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While Shirley serves a much higher percentage of students with disabilities (17%) than Citizens of the World (9%), the co-location has made it more difficult for the public school to provide the services that these students need. The rooms transferred to the privately operated charter school were previously used for speech and occupational therapy in quiet settings that made them more effective. They must now share space with other programs.

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This demographic data also shows that Citizens of the World is not fulfilling their mission "to reflect their surrounding communities and the larger communities in terms of race, ethnicity and socioeconomic status." While 43% of the Citizens of the World West Valley students are white, only 5.5% of the Shirley student body are classified this way. Only 21% of the charter school's students are Socioeconomically Disadvantaged. For the students who have been displaced, 85% fall into this category.

While the City of Los Angeles has no operational control over the district, the council members do hold substantial influence. They must end their silence on this subject and stand up for the members of their community who are being harmed by PROP-39 co-locations.

Carl Petersen is a parent advocate for students with special education needs and for 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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