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L.A. Unified stops charters from letting 'volunteers' get admission preference

December 13, 2011 |  5:25 pm

The Los Angeles Board of Education on Tuesday passed a resolution that would ban charter schools from offering admission to families in exchange for volunteer work or other services. The admission preference had been offered by two charter schools overseen by the Los Angeles Unified School District.

One, Larchmont Charter School, ended the practice recently. The other, Los Feliz Charter School for the Arts, was headed toward dropping the preference when the school board acted.

Critics have called such preferences inappropriate, noting that the law provides for a lottery when there are more applicants than spaces at a charter school. They said skirting the lottery could lead to abuses, such as families getting into schools because of connections or because they promised substantial donations or other valuable services. Charters are independently managed, free public schools exempt from some regulations that govern traditional schools.

Until recent exposure of the practice, the school district's charter school office had tolerated the preference policies. In one instance, the charter office directed Los Feliz to rename the beneficiaries, calling them “founding parents” rather than “community participants.” But the district didn’t order the school to stop what it was doing.

A third Los Angeles campus, New West Charter Middle School, continues to offer admission to selected volunteers, but it’s overseen by the state rather than L.A. Unified.

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-- Howard Blume

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