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L.A. Unified gets praise for authorizing, overseeing charter schools

A nonprofit that examines the authorization of charter schools gave good marks Thursday to the Los Angeles Unified School District -- a finding that may surprise some local charter school operators who have long battled the school system.

The thumbs-up comes from the Chicago-based National Assn. of Charter School Authorizers, which is “devoted exclusively to improving public education by improving the policies and practices of the organizations responsible for authorizing charter schools.” The organization is regarded as pro-charter schools; in fact, its board chair, James Peyser, is a partner in the NewSchools Venture Fund, which has provided funding to propel the growth of charters.

Charter schools are free, publicly funded schools that are managed independently of the education agencies that allow them to open.

The researchers noted that L.A. Unified, the nation’s second-largest school system, has authorized more charter schools than any other school district.

The largest five authorizers in the nation are, in order, the Texas Education Agency, the Arizona State Board for Charter Schools, the Los Angeles Unified School District, the Chicago Public Schools and the North Carolina Department of Education, according to the report. All told, these five agencies oversee 26% of all charter schools. 

The commendation for L.A. Unified goes beyond just allowing charters to operate.

L.A. Unified lands in the “top quartile” based on its overall “best practices,” said Courtney Leigh Beisel, a spokesperson for the organization. These include how the school district handles its application process, contracting procedures and performance evaluations as well as its general monitoring and oversight of charters.

The caveat is that the finding is based entirely on survey information provided by the district itself.

Charter operators have credited the district with some recent improvement, but some also have sued L.A. Unified, claiming that the school system has violated a legal obligation to provide sufficient classroom space to charters. And this week, once again, many charters were unhappy over the amount of school space the district said it could offer.

At the other extreme are critics of charter schools, who contend the school system has kowtowed to charter advocates at the expense of traditional schools and failed to hold charters accountable for poor performance and a legal obligation to provide services to all students.

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-- Howard Blume

 
Comments () | Archives (5)

What a joke. A pro-charter school organization applauds charter schools. What's next? McDonalds awards its highest honor to the Big Mac?

Start doing some real reporting, LA Times. You're pathetic.

This is a case of the fox watching the hen house. The organization doing the evaluation is a charter organization with an obvious agenda. How objective can they be? Has anyone forgotten about Ivy Academia and the almost 40 charges against the owners? Or how about New Academy with the principal being accused of absconding with at least a million if not more? Last, what about ICEF, a supposed respected charter group that got into financial trouble and had to be bailed out? Not only that, with LAUSD authorizing so many charters, has anyone forgotten about the vast majority of students in traditional schools who are facing dire budget cuts, made worse by the charter explosion? I don't think national charter organizations care, as long as they can keep the charter movement going and enriching the operators.

If this continues, so much for local control of schools. All schools will be charters run big corporations whose bottom line is how much of a profit can they make off the backs of our children.

In Echo Park, Camino Nuevo is one of two school plans tying to take over a $68 million publicly funded school and does not even provide the type of curriculum for the diverse population it is supposed to serve. Not to mention that their motto is "Parents as Partners" but there are no parents on the board (nor teachers or community members), only corporate stakeholders who make the decisions. These decisions will affect our lovely Echo Park neighborhood. The Community School is all-inclusive in its curriculum,serving all children and will have parents helping to make decisions.

I am a fairly newly-minted teacher who had no idea of the maelstrom into which I'd be swept when I accepted the job. Bungalows were trucked in to help relieve over-crowding. But, when new school construction allowed those bussed-in kids to return to their neighborhoods, we experienced the consequence of staff reductions to preserve the student-teacher-administration ratios. Our school enjoyed an amazing degree of collaboration and began to make neccessary improvements in academic performance, but we routinely have to struggle against the seemingly tone-deaf decisions coming out of downtown. Then, with additional cutbacks, including furloughs, reductions-in-force (teachers, administrators, custodial and clerical) and other resources, in marches a Charter to which the formerly- temperary-bungalows have now been assigned. As the Charter expands and grows, and, they lay claim to even more now unoccupied rooms (RIF's), stressing our limited facilities, resources and patience even more. Not to mention their indignant sense of entitlement! I thought separate-but-equal was an artifact of mid-20th-Century social mores? I mean, c'mon? Really?!?


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L.A. Now is the Los Angeles Times’ breaking news section for Southern California. It is produced by more than 80 reporters and editors in The Times’ Metro section, reporting from the paper’s downtown Los Angeles headquarters as well as bureaus in Costa Mesa, Long Beach, San Diego, San Francisco, Sacramento, Riverside, Ventura and West Los Angeles.
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