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L.A. mayor urges charters to take on more challenging schools and students

Not long after excoriating the local teachers union, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is taking charter schools to the woodshed as well, saying they need to take on bigger challenges such as turning around low-performing schools and educating greater numbers of disabled students and English-language learners.

In a speech, prepared for delivery at a state charter schools conference in San Diego on Wednesday morning, Villaraigosa offers a milder rebuke than the one he delivered to the union in December. But the occasion was carefully chosen to drive home his points. Villaraigosa will be accepting an award as the “elected official of the year,” according to his office.

“We need you to not only build new schools, but take on the lowest-performing, failing ones,” according to the speech. “We need you to hold yourselves to a higher standard, and hold unsuccessful charters accountable by shutting them down.”

Charter schools are authorized by school districts and other education agencies, but are independently operated, publicly funded and free from some restrictions that govern traditional schools.

In his remarks, Villaraigosa referenced an ongoing debate regarding charter schools: whether they serve the same students as traditional schools.

Charter operators point out that they are required to accept all applicants -- and hold a lottery if too students apply. They say many students enter charter schools performing well below grade level. Charter critics counter that charters serve a smaller percentage of the most difficult-to-educate children.

Villaraigosa put the onus on charter schools to prove the critics wrong: “We need YOU to destroy your detractors’ claims that your success is rooted in ‘cherry-picking’ your students by taking on more of our highest need students: more English-language learners, more students with severe disabilities, more students in foster care, more students coming out of the juvenile justice system.”

The mayor also talked of the need for more cooperation between the traditional school system and charters, with the long-term goal of making charters indistinguishable from other schools.

“We must start blurring the lines between charter and traditional schools until the distinctions cease to exist,” Villaraigosa said. “And we need to end once and for all the damaging us-versus-them mentality that has polluted relations between school districts and the charter community and jeopardized the potential for meaningful reform and positive change that benefits all students. Imagine a public school system that creates a true variety of good choices, rather than a behemoth of a bureaucracy that centrally governs our schools.”

In an interview, Villaraigosa said the speech was intended as a follow-up to his speech in Sacramento in which he lambasted the L.A. teachers union as "one unwavering roadblock to reform.”

At the time, United Teachers Los Angeles responded that it was unfair to characterize the union as anti-reform for favoring some different approaches for improving schools.

Some observers characterized the earlier speech as marking a formal separation between Villaraigosa and the union, his onetime employer and former political ally. The charter community, in contrast, has become tightly allied with Villaraigosa.

And that alliance is ongoing, despite the mayor’s cautionary words. Villaraigosa continues to assert, for example, that “high-quality” charter schools should obtain more campuses under a process that allows bidders to take control of new and low-performing campuses in the Los Angeles Unified School District.

-- Howard Blume

Comments () | Archives (9)

It would seem to me, that Mr. Villaraigosa does not know his place. Is it not the responsibility of the school board to manage the school district? Would it not be prudent for him to dedicate more energy to other issues in this great big city, rather than trying to do the job of the superintendent? The city is in a financial crisis, what are we paying the school board for, if the Mayor's office is going to try to run things?

Shouldn't the mayor be putting more energy to crime prevention? economic stimulation? otherwise managing the business of the city? Or could it be he is courting these charter organizations, in an attempt to make friends so that when he is out of office, he'll have a warm reception in that big business.

I see the relevance of charter schools, and applaud those who are truly successful and have made a difference. However, giving our schools over to business, which in the end, is what these charters are, moneymakers, is not the answer. Parents need to be more involved in the education of their children. We have too many parents who send their kids off to school, the kids come home, the parents don't go to parent conferences, don't stay on top of their students to see that they are handling their business. They expect the school to teach them, counsel them, give them life skills, teach them common sense, which is fair enough, but without significant parental reinforcement and involvement, most students will not succeed, but do just enough to get by.

If I were a school board member, or a teacher at a school that is a target of this Public School Choice, I'd be offended by the Mayors efforts. He obviously doesn't care about anything but lining his pockets, and getting more camera time.

Foster kids and kids with disabilities (along with all kids who are not the Bright and the Neat) are excluded from charter schools, which puts the achievements of those schools in perspective. No big deal to show good test scores if the only kids you'll admit are those destined to succeed regardless of the school.

This is the real problem with vouchers too. With vouchers, what's to stop all the highly motivated, bright kids from leaving (and taking most of the money) and leaving the public schools with inadequate funding and all the kids no private school wants?

Ha ha ha!!! He's right, and this will show the lie of charter schools, they succeed only because they can, one way or another, weed out the most difficult to educate students.

As soon as charter schools must accept -- and keep -- the most disruptive, bullying, unacademic children, they will cease to be seen as a panacea, but they will help take the burden off traditional schools by spreading out the trouble makers.

Mayor Villaraigosa – shadowed closely by dimwitted gold-digging school board officials and academic liar Superintendent Deasy – only chased mayoral control of LAUSD a few years back for political expediency, and not because of his deep and respectful empathy toward students and educators. He is a transparent political poseur who couldn’t lead (or teach) his way out of a paper bag. Now that the dust has settled on his little “partnership” of schools, and now that there is no more confetti to throw over his successful and ill-advised power grab of public schools, and after his support ratings have tanked, he and his goons are left with the dregs of LAUSD campuses that they can’t turn around like they promised. Boy, Mr. Mayor, it IS a little more challenging to operate effective schools in screwed up areas than you wanted to believe. But your goal was never to improve the schools, see, your goal was to engage in political grandstanding at a time when you thought you had the political capital to do so. Your goal was to attack a slow behemoth like LAUSD for political gain, not educational improvement. A secondary goal, also for political gain, was to blame the teachers for failure at your new schools in an effort to bust up UTLA. Well, those goals are neither here nor there at this precise moment. What we do know at this precise moment, on this day, is that kids are attempting to attend classes at these decrepit, gang-infested school prison yards known as the Mayor Partnership School campuses across LAUSD. We know that Mayor Partnership schools are poorly secured danger pits of drugs and violence with little or no administrative oversight regarding that most primary of school concerns – student and staff safety. Right now we can be certain that teachers are being abused by students at the Mayor’s schools. Right now, students can be seen running around campuses during class because the leadership lacks both the smarts and the will to stop student-generated defiance. In addition, we know that some kids are attempting to learn on these filthy campuses, even though their mostly unaccountable and largely illiterate parents often fail in there ability to properly clothe, feed, or supply their own children. Lastly, we know that the Mayor has added another layer to his little education adventure by blaming hardworking and effective teachers for his inability to roll up his sleeves and take real ownership of these schools in a way he had promised in those heady battle days of yore with the LAUSD.

The Mayor is dead wrong! It's the "more challenging students" that bring everyone else down in the classroom, so the Mayor doesn't want anyone to learn!
Let the charter schools do what they do best, teach and prepare students for a successful life! Keep out those who do not want to learn, and are the cause of the problem in the first place!

There's a typo in this; "hold a lottery if too students apply" should read "too many students."

There's also some factual errors. Charters take public money and are privately operated by unelected boards, typically by corporations. Charters are free from nearly any rules or regulations, and only have their charters revoked when they're exposed in the media, which occurs once in a blue moon. State Senator Liu's SB 433, which would require charters to follow public school rules in regard to suspension and expulsion of pupils, could go a long way towards changing that.

The Mayor can't seriously think his well heeled friends in the lucrative charter-voucher sector would actually take his advice and do things that would effect their bottom line. Besides, his reasoning is absurd. The only way we could make "charters indistinguishable from other schools" would be to make them public schools. Private, is of course, an anathema to public, and the charter operators are laughing all the way to the bank.

A recent LA Times headline read "President Obama enlisted the help of billionaires Bill and Melinda Gates in selling his education reform ideas."

I hope Obama has gotten the message from Los Angeles. Don't bring your ideas of reform to this city!!
California leaders rallied during Obama's campaign and his "Change we can believe in." Well, not in this backyard.

Did LaMotte, Karen Bass, Watson, Waters, Feinstein, and Boxer really believe in Obama's pledge of "Yes We Can."

They may have told us Yes, but their actions were a resounding NO!

Each time the Obama Administration tried to give money to California, our "leaders" said no. Even when the Board of LAUSD were asked if they wanted to be considered for education stimulus dollars, this courageous Board that professes to speak for the children of this city, said, "NO!"

I thought the District was broke? I thought LAUSD was going to have to lay people off? Lay offs that we were told would adversely affect the education of our children.

Apparently not. This was never about change (reform), or money. This was all about control.

In 2012, we will hear from these same cast of characters about how wonderful it will be to re-elect Obama.

Yes We Can! Re-elect Obama, but behind their smiles they will be gritting ("just as long as Obama stays in Washington and stops talking about education reform").

What about the students?

Well, they have a President that gives them Hope, and local leadership that snatches it away.

As long as the charter administrators can keep collecting their six figure salaries while the teachers make peanuts all will be well in the world. As long as the owners of the charters can just go down the street and start up a new one under a new name after their previous one gets shut down for dishonesty or graft all will be serene. I hope all the charter owners still have the mayor's address for his expected kickbacks after he's out of office. Large bills only please.

Why is the mayor an authority on educational issues? He has never taught in an LAUSD public school, nor will he ever. That is below him. But he feels the need to have back room meeting to gain control of the school district, fundraise and buy the LAUSD Board of Education. Is this about ego? If he was really concerned, he would teach to know the challenges that the schools face, and then do everything possible to support those that do it everyday for low pay.


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