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Teachers claim victory in school-reform elections but results may have little impact

Teachers won a nearly clean sweep over charter schools and Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa in elections for school-reform plans that were held last week. The Los Angeles Unified School District released the election results Tuesday, packaging them with separate professional evaluations of each reform plan that sometimes resulted in a different verdict.

Neither the election results nor the evaluations are the final word on who will run 12 persistently low-performing schools and 18 new campuses under a school-reform strategy adopted in August. L.A. schools Supt. Ramon C. Cortines will issue his own recommendations, and the school board is scheduled to make a final decision Feb. 23.

The main competitors for the campuses have been groups of teachers -- frequently allied with district administrators -- and charter schools. Charters are independently run public schools that are free from some restrictions that govern traditional schools, including district labor contracts. Teachers, in effect, were fighting to maintain more than 1,000 union jobs as well as for a chance at real local control over school sites. With support from United Teachers Los Angeles, the district’s teachers union, teachers launched vigorous grassroots campaigns for their homegrown reform proposals.

Charter operators decried misleading claims by some teachers and alleged voter intimidation as well as inconsistent or unfair voting practices. The League of Women Voters of Los Angeles conducted the election.

Voters cast ballots by category. It was no surprise, perhaps, that school staffs voted almost unanimously for internal district proposals.

So did high school students and public school parents.

In the run-up to the election, one of the most contested schools was the new campus east of downtown named for former Congressman Esteban Torres. It will house five small high schools to relieve overcrowding at Roosevelt and Garfield high schools. On the ballot were five teacher-led plans and five charter-school proposals. 

Garfield and Roosevelt students favored the teacher plans by an average margin of about 536 to 31. Among parents, the average margin was 86 to 13. Public school parents with children who will reach high school age next year favored teachers by a margin of 2 to 1. Among public school parents of younger children, the margin was 3 to 1.

There were also categories for “community” and “unverified parents,” but these tallies could be manipulated by interest groups so the league regarded them as essentially meaningless.

The professional evaluators, for their part, could reach no consensus regarding the Torres campus. They gave a thumbs-up to every plan.

At Jefferson High in Central-Alameda, Villaraigosa was trying to add to the 12 schools already run by his education nonprofit. But the mayor made little public relations headway, losing to the internal Jefferson proposal among students by 239 to 4, among current parents by 116 to 9 and among parents with students in schools that feed into Jefferson by 36 to 15.

“It’s fun the way we learn,” said senior Chris Harris, 17, on the day he voted for the internal Jefferson plan. “If we go charter, we’re not going to be able to play sports. We’re going to have to wear uniforms. And we’re going to be getting out 4:18 every day.”

The mayor’s plan did not, in fact, call for a charter school -- he’s willing to abide by district labor contracts. Nor did he contemplate ending sports, but uniforms have indeed been part of the mayor’s schools.

Margarita Duran, who has a daughter in 9th grade at Jefferson, declared herself “very satisfied” with the school: “I believe the structure that we have is great and the school is working the way it is.”

The mayor did win the plurality among feeder parents at Carver Middle School, but only 70 voted.

His highest vote total among parents was 61 at Griffith-Joyner Elementary, but the internal proposal claimed 417. The district is looking into allegations that the principal violated a district neutrality directive by having students write letters home urging parents to “save” the school.

The evaluators gave the mayor’s team good marks, but also blessed at least one other plan for three existing schools and one new campus that the mayor sought.

-- Howard Blume and Jason Song

 
Comments () | Archives (22)

According to California Education Code §47601(g), one of the intents of the legislature in enacting charter public schools is to "Provide vigorous competition within the public school system to stimulate continual improvements in all public schools." I don't know about you, but I've never seen UTLA work so hard before since they knew their jobs are at stake. This is exactly why charter public schools are needed. When charter public schools outperform regular public schools, the rest of the public school system wakes up and starts to play catch up, benefitting all students attending both types of public schools (regular and charter).

Charter public schools today are needed because they are doing exactly what they were intended to do. They are:

§47601 (a) Improving pupil learning.

§47601 (b) Increasing learning opportunities for all pupils, with special emphasis on expanded learning experiences for pupils who are identified as academically low achieving.

§47601 (c) Encouraging the use of different and innovative teaching methods.

§47601 (d) Creating new professional opportunities for teachers, including the opportunity to be responsible for the learning program at the school site.

§47601 (e) Providing parents and pupils with expanded choices in the types of educational opportunities that are available within the public school system.

§47601 (f) Schools established under this part are being held accountable for meeting measurable pupil outcomes, and schools are being provided with a method to change from rule-based to performance-based accountability systems.

§47601 (g) Providing vigorous competition within the public school system to stimulate continual improvements in all public schools.

One thing that the Public School Choice advisory vote showed was how entrenched the system is and how polarizing the union can be, to the detriment of students. LAUSD needs to make sure that they base their final decision on the merits of individual plans and on their proven track records. By the way, if the failed schools that are part of the Public School Choice process had proven track records, there would be no need for this reform effort in the first place. Let those with proven track records have an opportunity to be a part of the solution.

To be clear:

Charter schools are public schools.

Charter schools cannot "cherry pick." On the other hand, magnet schools can "cherry pick" (i.e., LAUSD's Balboa Gifted/High-Ability Magnet, which takes gifted/high-ability students as its name so eloquently describes.) Nothing against Balboa since its intent is to better serve gifted/high-ability students whose needs may not be met elsewhere, but did you know that only 2% of their student body is African American and less than 1% are English Learners? That's cherry picking to the extreme, and Balboa is an LAUSD school. Come on people, let's stop using the "cherry picking" cliche. I give Balboa Gifted/High-Ability Magnet credit for serving their students well. As educators, we need to give public charter schools credit as well and not just blow them off like juveniles and attribute their success to "cherry picking."

Those who still don't understand what charter schools are and why they are needed to read section 47600 et seq. of the California Education Code. Especially if you are a public school educator, you owe it to yourself equip yourself with valid information, to have an open mind, and to play fair. Are those not the same values you instill upon your students?

Self-corrected and caught my own typo...

Those who still don't understand what charter schools are and why they are needed should read section 47600 et seq. of the California Education Code. Especially if you are a public school educator, you owe it to yourself equip yourself with valid information, to have an open mind, and to play fair. Are those not the same values you instill upon your students?

Unions stuffing the ballot box? No!
I can't believe the power of Unions running failed school systems, get to do it over and over and over again. And the folks willingly march along. Statism, socialism, communism, and the children growing up expecting, demanding hand outs, welfare and cronyism.

What does this say? Although work needs to be done, I think it says that the parents and students seem to be mostly happy with the education they are getting. Hopefully the district bureaucrats, politicians, and the mainstream media will get off the backs of teachers because it takes a village to raise children, not reformers who have a political stake, Villaraigosa, or outside interests, many of whom have no personal connections to the students.

This vote clearly demonstrates that students and parents have a great deal of confidence and respect for their teachers. It is the LAUSD bureaucracy that the voters rejected.

I am excited that there was such strong support for Pilot Schools in East LA. I voted as a community member since I live near the new school and graduated from Garfield. It's disappointing to hear that my vote is seen as meaningless! Someone should have told me when I voted. There was a strong effort by community members, parents, students and teachers to inform voters about why Pilot Schools make the most sense in increasing student achievement & creating district reform. We took that information to the streets, door-2-door and did the HARD work of organizing. My mom voted since my brother attends GHS- she is an immigrant parent who disputes that notion by some that she was manipulated and lied to. Educating the community is hard work- and many of us were not afraid to roll up our sleeves. I hope that the Supt. hears the call for change!

The Mayor should know by now that you don't enter a contest that you are sure to lose. Roosevelt teachers for the past year have given bad marks to the Mayor's so-called reform effort. Now, we will see if the Superintendent and the Board majority respect the democratic process or cave in to the political pressure from their mentor the Mayor. Is the Superintendent going to personally talk to the staffs, parents and students of the schools where he rejects the democratic election? Congratulations to the staffs, parents and students who voted their conscience, and I hope that they prevail.

Teacher, curiously both UCLA and Stanford studies on charter schools have shown they are NOT doing "exactly what they were intended to do," as you claim. They are:

NOT enrolling the same amount of English learners as traditional public schools
NOT enrolling the same amount of special education students
INCREASING segregation in schools

and in the case of Green Dot, their test scores are essentially the same as LAUSD schools in spite of the large amount of private donations from philanthropists (at least $10,000,000 just for Locke HS last year!)

As for the cherry picking, if you want to have blinders on and not see that the charter admission process (attend a meeting, fill out long application, commit to 40 hours of volunteer work per year, sign a contract---and in some cases both students and parent must write an essay) does garner a more motivated group of parents, then you are fooling yourself.

LAUSD has rarely allowed teachers to govern their own schools. The last time I can remember was in the 90's during school-based management. It has been to their detriment to keep teachers out of school governance and perhaps being allowed back into the process is the ONLY good thing to come out of this farcical process.

Methinks you are cranky to have lost the so-called vote. You need to realize parents know better than anyone who to trust. If your charter product is that much better, parents will flock to it, as they do to The Accelerated School, New West, Animo Leadership, etc.

It seems that the Public School Choice Plan has backfired. I expect that Ms. Aguilar did not anticipate that this plan would expose the weaknesses of charters and the mayor's schools. Once the public was informed, they were in a position to make intelligent decisions. The embarrassment to the district is that the teacher/district plans were highly supported. This exposes the years of complaints that the district itself was and still is incapable of handing over real responsibility of its schools to the people who are on the front lines.

It seems that the Public School Choice Plan has backfired. I expect that Ms. Aguilar did not anticipate that this plan would expose the weaknesses of charters and the mayor's schools. Once the public was informed, they were in a position to make intelligent decisions. The embarrassment to the district is that the teacher/district plans were highly supported. This exposes the years of complaints that the district itself was and still is incapable of handing over real responsibility of its schools to the people who are on the front lines.

As long as Charter schools can choose who enrolls and require uniforms, Charter schools are PRIVATE schools run by private entities with PUBLIC (TAXPAYER) money. They are not held accountable to taxpayers. They pay their staff like employees of Fortune 500 companies. A director was paid over $300K and there was no improvement in their test scores!!! That's more than Cortines who is in charge of the 2nd largest school district in the country! Where's the outrage over that? Boy....are taxpayers going to get royally screwed!


It seems that the Public School Choice Plan has backfired. I expect that Ms. Aguilar did not anticipate that this plan would expose the weaknesses of charters and the mayor's schools. Once the public was informed, they were in a position to make intelligent decisions. The embarrassment to the district is that the teacher/district plans were highly supported. This exposes the years of complaints that the district itself was and still is incapable of handing over real responsibility of its schools to the people who are on the front lines.

This advisory vote sounds like an example of the Stockholm Syndrome. The failing school's teachers, backed by the their union, convince their students and their parents that only the union teachers love them and will take care of them.

Tim,

Methinks you are absolutely right about parents and students suffering from the Stockholm Syndrome since they are ironically supporting the very system that has failed them all these years. For those of you that don't know what that is, the Stockholm Syndrome refers to the phenomenon in which hostages puzzlingly start to express positive feelings towards their captors, even though their lives are clearly endangered by their captors. One explanation of the Stockholm Syndrome is that this is a defense mechanism that arises from the need of the endangered hostage to form an emotional bond with the nearest powerful adult (the captor) in order to ensure their survival. The Stockholm Syndrome is named after a bank robbery and hostage situation that occurred from August 23 to August 28, 1973 in which the hostages actually developed an emotional attachment to their captors and continued to defend them, even after their release.

I question how informed parents and students really were of the different school plans. In the article, the student quoted stated that the Mayor's plans at Jefferson included going charter and getting rid of sports which is completely untrue. It sounds like there was much more electioneering and bad mouthing the other side than actually really educating oneself on the merits of the various plans. Instead of counting votes of stakeholder groups separately, I'd rather see the tally of votes from those who could pass a basic quiz about each of the plans.

Remember: the voting was simply "advisory."

"Teacher", who seems to think that charter schools accept all students has not seen the reality. As someone pointed out, the admission process can be rather convoluted which eliminates many underpreforming students because their parents don't have the time and/or interest to go through it. It eliminates students whose parents aren't literate because they can't navigate it.

I am an LAUSD teacher. I have had several students who went to charter schools end up leaving them because the school wasn't happy with their academic achievement and/or behavior. They were "encouraged" to leave. The school I teach at doesn't have that option. We work with all students.

As someone who has worked in public schools for the past seven years, I have seen what happens when students and parents stand by the teachers (and or other supposed role models) that are not serving their best interests. Stockholm Syndrome is right on. Asking students to stand up against their teachers is like asking children to emancipate themselves from their parents. It's not fair to put children in the middle. They only know their school and therefore have a biased perspective. Working at a charter school (yes they are just a public as any LAUSD school). I often hear students compare their school experiences. Just today I had the opportunity to speak to a student, a very bright girl, who received a 1.8 GPA on her last report card. She was disappointed in herself but assured me she was going to do better. I asked her, "Why was last semester such a struggle?" She explained to me that coming to our school was a difficult transition. "At my last school, my teacher practically gave us the answers to the test. Everything was easier. Here they make us think and work harder.” These are the conversations that affirm my work at a charter school. I hope that once the dust settles from this debacle, the administrators that rarely visit a teacher's classroom, the teachers that hide behind their union contract, the parents that assume schools are doing their job and not checking on their child's progress, and the students who prefer playing sports over doing homework wake up and realize this isn't about a charter takeover or the privatization of education (which is personally offending); this about creating schools that fulfill promise of educating all students.

By the way EVE- stop spreading misinformation regarding charter schools being a vehicle for a corporate takeover of public education. People who are saying this have no idea what they are taking about. They point out the worst examples of a minority of offenders. Historically abuse occurs at all levels. How many times do we hear of congressmen, assemblymen, mayors, etc. abusing their authority and power using our tax dollars? It can happen anywhere and it is not indicative of the charter school movement. A movement that is grounded in providing better opportunities for the most impoverished. THIS IS NOT A POLITICAL ISSUE! This is a civil rights issue.

I wonder how many of the people who are bashing the pilot schools as "business as usual" actually went to any of the presentations. I did. And when it came to the pilot presentations vs. the charters, it wasn't even close. The pilot school presentations were far-and-away more professional, more detailed, supported by more data and had specifics about supporting "at risk" and special ed students. The charters were comparitively unprepared. It seemed as if they were surprised at the strength of the competition and expected to win support simply by showing up.

One more thing - it was also VERY clear that the teacher designed pilot schools are not "business as usual" for LAUSD. District policies have often prevented the most innovative and committed teachers from implementing systematic changes they knew would benefit students. The pilot schools empower teachers and give them a sense of ownership and responsibility that I believe will result in VERY positive changes at these schools.

It is obvious that some readers are simply going to use this vote as another excuse to bash teachers and unions. The comparison to the "Stockholm Syndrome" is particularly offensive and I can guarantee that the writer was not in attendance at any of the informative meetings leading up to this vote. Bravo pilots, bravo parents, bravo teachers.

To This is Crazy,
BTW isn't a civil right's issue, a political issue????

Thank you James!

I encountered the same thing. At the initial presentation I went to, the people advocating the charter school couldn't give any specifics of their plan. They basically spent their time saying how awful the public school was and stating (not true) that teachers were lying to and intimidating the parents and students.

Then they missed the deadline for submitting their application. The teachers at the middle school presented three great plans for setting up specific learning communities with their middle school.

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