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School board approves plan to open up schools to outsiders

The Los Angeles Board of Education voted today to open up 250 schools, including 50 new multimillion-dollar campuses, to outside charter operators and others. The move came after a nearly four-hour debate on a 6-1 vote, with board member Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte opposing.

Under the proposal by board member Yolie Flores Aguilar, nonprofit charter groups and the mayor's group that oversees 11 schools could compete for the chance to run these schools. Ultimately, it will be up to Supt. Ramon C. Cortines to select the winning bid for these campuses.

The debate was heated at times -- with at least one person calling for a recall of Flores Aguilar. Others accused the board of acting out of political ambition and not on behalf  of the students in the nation's second-largest school district. Cortines said he supported the proposal because "for too long we have protected the status quo."

Labor unions were especially opposed to the plan, with teachers union head A.J. Duffy saying the district needs to be collaborative if it wants to reform schools.

Board members strongly defended their positions. Flores Aguilar said she found "no sense of urgency" to improve schools during her two years on the board and that she believed her colleagues needed to be the "leaders and reformers that we were elected to be."

Earlier in the day, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa spoke outside district headquarters before a crowd of at least 2,000 charter school parents and supporters. Most wore light blue shirts emblazoned with the slogan: “My Child, My Choice.”

“We’re here today to stand up for our children,” Villaraigosa told a cheering crowd while standing with about 25 students called up to appear with him. He stood under a banner proclaiming a “Parent Revolution,” which is the name of a parent-organizing campaign supported by leading charter school companies.

Outside the meeting room, waiting to get in, were both supporters and opponents of the resolution, written by Flores Aguilar. Labor unions, especially United Teachers Los Angeles, have opposed the measure, which Villaraigosa addressed in remarks that lasted about seven minutes.

“I am pro-union but I am pro-parent as well,” the mayor said. “If workers have rights, then parents ought to have rights too.” He added: “This school board understands that parents are going to have a voice.”

Baldwin Hills parent Ennis Cooper and his wife took the day off from work to attend the rally.

“We are here to support parents’ ability to make choices,” Cooper said.

The crowd outside also included many opponents of the measure, which has been expanded to include persistently low-performing schools. About 200 schools could be affected, although the district already has the authority under federal law to restructure such schools.

“There’s no question schools need change,” said first-grade teacher Melissa Wiley, who also opposes the resolution. “But local control is the real issue. UTLA has been asking for it all along.”

-- Howard Blume and Jason Song

Comments () | Archives (69)

This is LAUSD washing their hands of schools that they themselves cannot improve. So, instead of working parents and teachers, they dump these kids on these charter schools which don't have any track records. In case LAUSD forgot, charter schools can expel those kids they don't want. That means that all of those kids that LAUSD can't educate, i.e., behavior problems, special ed, chronic truants, will end up on their doorstep anyway. And what about the money that they took from the taxpayers who thought that they would get new schools? Isn't this what is legally called an 'illegal gift of public funds'? I'd sure would like the courts to weigh in on this one. Is LAUSD going to reduce their clerical and classified staff as well? With LAUSD washing their hands of 200 schools, does that mean that there will be fewer people on the school board? The LAUSD administration and school board are cowards. They say that this is for the good of the students but in reality, they just don't want to work with a certain segment of LA's population. Shame on LAUSD. They have rung the death knell for public education in Los Angeles.

UTLA has failed to improve the schools. Teachers should dump that union and get another that has their interests and those of children at heart.

Hallelujah! I'm so happy. The children need this so bad, as well as the community. There's finally a light at the end of the tunnel. We've started to take our schools back, out of the corrupt politicians, and unions hands. L.A. should be so proud on this day. Finally, a chance for a future.

It's like a breath of fresh air. Thank you Yolie Flores Aguilar, and those who finally did what's right. Your efforts will be remembered.

The only thing missing is the fireworks in the sky. We'll remember August 25, 2009 as the day we started to reclaim what should have always been rightfully ours, our schools.

The unions will by vying for positions to control these schools. Let's make sure they don't get them. It doesn't end here. Let's support the governor's and President's Merit Pay, and ensure the union loses control, or else all of this will have been in vain.

Shame on our school board and our mayor for voting on such a monumentally important resolution during school vacation when our parents are out of ear and print communication from their local schools. Shame on our school board for neglecting our schools for years, economically starving our campuses, draining our school populations with pop-up charters and shame on our school board and our mayor for abdicating their elected roles to private interests.

Shame on the LA Times for their slipshot coverage of such an important resolution. LAUSD is the 2nd largest school district in the nation and this resolution effects 1/3 of the schools - but the Times has insufficiently researched and reported on this resolution.

Parent Revolution is run by Green Dot (kinda a huge conflict of interest you might say). What about the fact that none of the Green Dot schools have improved or have any continuity with their programs.

This resolution is a slap in the face for all the community involvement in local schools. If you look at (would be nice if the Times Reporters did) the schools that have dramatically improved you would see it is because of extended school based management - parents, teachers and administrators working together to improve their own schools.

I feel like this resolution is nuts - like if after we elected Obama he said that the country was in too much of a mess and the Chinese have submitted an offer to buy it and just one person has the right to approve of this deal!!

I'm sure the education-destroying unions are crying buckets now :)

Ii it true that a charter school can easily remove a student from its school if it deems it necessary ? Unlike regular public schools where there are long enduring procedures. Does anyone know? What happens to a kid if he/she can make it. Private schools have probationary periods for both academics and conduct.

Let us hope that the charter school proponents choose well for their children, since now the LA Unified School District has abdicated its responsibility. Surely the mayor, a former UTLA staffer but never a teacher, knows exactly how to educate all the English-language learners, special ed kids, foster children, and poor children who will be clamoring to attend the new charter schools. Good luck to all who wore "My Child, My Choice" t-shirts, and God help the rest of us.

Historically, we established public options for the public good. One of those options was public education. While health care has traditionally remained within the realm of medical care for corporate profit, we've at least long recognized the inequities involved with basic education for the sake of profits. Simply put, those lacking the means begin to slip through the cracks as shareholders demand greater dividends.

We may one day see ourselves as an altruistic society, but that day is yet to come. Make no mistake, in a United States of Corporate America, the poor will be left by the wayside.

It seems like everyone's out to make a name for him/herself. The board JUST finished letting go of 2,000 some teachers, after initially sending letters to some 8,000. Not injuring teachers and students enough, now they vote to "give away" the newest built schools! Were these schools not built with taxpayer money to alleviate the overcrowding that still exists? and for PUBLIC use, not private interests? I know my major is not in economics or government, but I am pretty sure that PRIVATE does NOT EQUAL PUBLIC. If these groups are so interested, they are certainly welcome to build their OWN schools with THEIR money. As I understand it, these chartered schools can hire teachers outside of the UTLA/LAUSD bargaining agreement, accept and not accept select students. They are certainly not under the same rules that public schools are. If Ms. Flores has not seen a "sense of urgency to improve," perhaps I can suggest she visit some of our schools where, in fact, we DO FEEL a strong sense of urgency to improve, and where, in fact, there HAS been significant improvement. We have suffered through several principals that had little interest in seriously improving our scores. It is through our teachers that students have prevailed. I suggest that Ms. Flores and others talk to TEACHERS about what we need in order to improve. It isn't just one thing, and it isn't for lack of trying on the part of the teachers. In the 24 years I've been at the same school, I've had 2 principals worth the title of leader. How is "giving away" our schools the answer?, or is that you, the board, have given up? It is analogous to giving away a problem child. Do you solve your family squabbles by sending your challenging children away? Giving their new clothes away? How small minded and inconsiderate you are of those of us in the trenches. Shame on you!

What ever happened to just hiring people that were qualified to do the job? LAUSD fumbled the ball of accountability, and allowed a industry employee workforce in, and kicked out caring educators who had a passion to teach our kids real time.

Howard and Jason, if you don't believe that 'non-profit charter groups' running public education can lead to tuition fees, please ignore my previous comments.

It seems the board is actually voting its conscience. 6-1. I guess the unions are going to be really upset about this. But maybe when these charters open I can get a real teaching job and not have to be a day-to-day sub. It will be interesting to see how this all pans out. Interesting that Cortines was supportive of the measure. At least now there will be options other than leaving the new schools empty since we have increased the class sizes and we have had declining enrollment.

Privatization of the public institutions. Reagan got his wish.

It is unfortunate that we have a school board that abdicates its role to lead and reform how things are done. This is the same board that accepted a low bid on payroll reform and employees are still recovering from that decision!

Surely there are many good reasons to at least try some new approaches and to test the efficacy of contracting out these services. There are, of course, legitimate arguments on both sides, and the Board apparently looked at these arguments carefully. One argument left me a bit stunned. That was the argument that this shouldn't be done because there was no scientific evidence or testing to prove that Charter Schools are doing a better job than conventional schools at the present time. This argument was propounded by the very same people that, for years, have resisted efforts to develop and administer tests for teachers and schools that, among other things, could have provided such evidence. Good grief! It will be interesting to watch, with hope, this experiment. And thanks for the reportage.

This is Cortines' way of doing his job. He is downsizing his duties-the ones he so solemnly vowed to uphold as an educator. "I don't know how else" he says.

I am a very proud parent of 2 Children at the Open Charter Magnet & it is one of the very best scoring schools in California & it really shows what you can do when there are great & innovative teachers along with parents that want to make a difference in the education process. For to long people have thought to just let teachers teach but we need more parents who are involved to see that there children are getting the best out of the school that they are going to & if not then get involved with like minded parents & stand up & make a difference.

We need more charter schools & they should look at the way some of the charters are running now some are working & some need fixing so go out & get involved in whatever way you can Parents....

Why not?! God knows this is NOT our country anymore, it's someone else's! We can't do, don't do, won't do.......... ANYTHING!

Really a educative and informative post, the post is good in all regards,I am glad to read this post

wow!! Valar, making a smart choice for once. The CTA is so corrupt. This is exactly what they deserve.

I watched the news coverage on this earlier today. It seems like all the people protesting, are all the same people receiving free health care and free schooling for their kids. Start paying property taxes then start complaining. Go back home and see what type of education you receive.

How could they even think about making 250 schools of lausd private. As a student from Garfield high school i strongly oppose. How is making our school charter going to reduce the drop out-rate. Where are our votes, where are our rights. Why dont we get a say in what we think is better for ourselves. lausd should focus more on thinking of ways to help students give a danm their future education. Instead their getting rid of us. Their quitting on us. Last year 75 percent of garfield high graduated. our drop-out rate rose. we are only getting better. they cant quit on us now when we are improving the most

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