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El Camino Real, defending Academic Decathlon champion, expected to become charter

December 13, 2010 |  6:41 pm

Camino2007580_jf4dvtnc El Camino Real High School, one of the highest-performing campuses in the Los Angeles Unified School District, is poised to leave the school system and become an independently managed charter school.

The Woodland Hills school is moving forward with a petition to become a charter school, and no significant obstacles would prevent the move, said L.A. schools Supt. Ramon C. Cortines on Monday.

The charter petition is scheduled for a public hearing at Tuesday’s board meeting. Final approval is expected within the next six months, with the school reopening as a charter next fall.

Charter schools are publicly financed and independently run.

In the words of the petition: “We at El Camino Real would like to convert to charter to further develop academic standards and opportunities on campus for all learners at varied levels. We would like to have more control over governance and curriculum so that students may find more opportunities to excel in academics, athletics, and extracurricular activities.”
 
To Cortines, however, the main driver is money. He said the school could increase its budget by millions of dollars annually by cutting its ties to the nation’s second-largest school system. And this would occur at the same time as the district at large has been slashing budgets for three years because of the ongoing state budget crisis.

A prime example concerns funding for students from low-income families. About 25% of El Camino’s students are low-income, but a school doesn’t get supplemental money for these students from L.A. Unified unless at least 40% of its students are low-income. Schools that surpass this threshold receive at least $472 for each low-income student, and at least $17 more per low-income student for parent involvement.

Currently, El Camino is the only L.A. Unified high school that doesn’t qualify for these funds. However, as a charter school El Camino would receive these monies. Under district rules, that change would mean an annual infusion of about $415,000.

Cortines said the district’s impending loss of El Camino would incrementally worsen the district’s own budget vise. But he also praised the administration and staff of El Camino for their amicable negotiations and for what the school has accomplished; it is typically among the highest performers, and its Academic Decathlon team won the national competition this year.

-- Howard Blume

 Photo: Members of El Camino Real High School's decathlon team celebrate their March 2007 victory.

Credit: Ken Hively, Los Angeles Times

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