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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 3/10/21

Citizens Of The World Set To Invade Another Public School

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lboa Neighborhood Council supports Bassett Street School and rejects the co-sharing of the campus with a charter."

- LBNC Motion

Families within the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) have many choices for the education of their children. The parents of 625 students in the Lake Balboa area of the San Fernando Valley have decided that Bassett Street Elementary School is the best option for their families. For some, this is because of the high-quality after-school programs that ensure that their children are well taken care of while they work. Others are attracted to the robotics team which went to the world championships in 2017. The special education program draws in other families. The Media Arts and Technology Magnet program attracts so many students that it currently has a waiting list.

Delivering these services on this campus is space-intensive. Classroom space is taken up by Youth Services and LA's Best, the providers of the after-school programs. A STEAM classroom provides space for students to "develop their creative science and engineering skills". Another room is set aside for the robotics program. Recognizing that special education services are best provided in quiet and confidential spaces, two classrooms have been partitioned for use by the School Psychologist, Psychiatric Social Worker, Resource Specialist, Speech teacher, and other special education itinerants. The magnet program uses five classrooms to support the specialized instructional program with a stage and green screen area, a control room and viewing area, a special effects room, a pre and post-production room, and a computer lab for media graphics and research.

From Bassett Street School presentation
From Bassett Street School presentation
(Image by Bassett Street Elementary School)
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Unfortunately, since none of the rooms described above have a teacher with a roster assigned to them, they are attractive targets for charter schools looking to take space under PROP-39. The proposition does not actually mention anything about co-locations, but instructs districts to "make available...facilities sufficient for the charter school to accommodate all of the charter school's in-district students". It also states that if space is unavailable, the district does not have to obtain more. However, litigation by the charter school industry has resulted in a system where any room without a rostered teacher is considered "empty" and available for the taking. Smelling blood, the Citizens of the World chain of publicly funded private schools has set its sights on the Bassett Street Elementary campus.

On March 1, 2021, the Lake Balboa Neighborhood Council (LBNC) held a special meeting to discuss the proposed co-location. They heard from staff at the school who described the plumbing problems at the aging campus and how these would be exacerbated by an influx of charter school students. They also noted that existing lunch facilities were already taxed by the current student population but would have to be shared with Citizens of the World if the co-location moves forward. Concerns were also expressed about the ability to socially distance when district campuses reopen.

The council also received public comments on the issue. I used this opportunity to give a little history about Citizens of the World charter schools and their previous co-locations:

Charters were brought to us to supposedly give parents choices. It seems to me that the parents of Bassett have chosen the school that they want. Part of the reason that they made this choice is their attraction to the magnet program and now that program is in jeopardy. It seems that this proposed co-location has ruined the whole concept of choice.

Under PROP-39, the district is not required to provide space that it does not have. So if there is no space at Bassett for the charter to use, then the charter cannot take it. The LAUSD must fight off this colocation.

I would like to point out that while we are going to lose space in this school for programs that parents have chosen, Citizens of the World has a bad habit of requesting more space than they actually need. They currently owe the district $983,180.97 for over-allocation penalties. That includes each of their existing three campuses. They refuse to pay that money.

This charter chain used to operate in New York. At the Williamsburg, New York campus, they had less than 75% of the students that they had projected. During the first year of operation, they suspended 23 kindergarteners and three first graders. They had some of the lowest-performing schools authorized by the State University of New York, which authorizes charter schools in that state. They ended up shutting down that school. They no longer operate in New York.

At their Hollywood campus, only 8.5% of their students have disabilities. The LAUSD average is 11.81%. This provides an example of cherry-picking.

They have been caught red-handed fudging the list of students that they say will be attending this school. The principal of this Hollywood campus was caught on Facebook requesting that people sign a form saying that they had an interest in this school even if they had no real intention of attending, calling this a "fun game schools get to play each year." This is not a game. These are students' lives and their future will be affected by the quality of education that they receive.

I hope that you will support Bassett and come up with a resolution that opposes this co-location.

From Bassett Street School presentation
From Bassett Street School presentation
(Image by Bassett Street Elementary School)
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The LBNC did draft a motion that supported their local public school. With a unanimous vote, they urged the LAUSD to reject the co-sharing of the campus with Citizens of the World. This was followed by a vote by the Education Committee of the Northridge East Neighborhood Council (NENC) their board to support the efforts of the neighboring council.

Despite the evidence provided that this co-location will hurt the students of Bassett, it is unlikely that the LAUSD will stop it from happening. Last year, the Shirley Avenue Elementary School community also pleaded that they be spared from an invasion by Citizens of the World, but they were ignored. In fact, the charter school chain is said to be looking to take even more space from this school next year.

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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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