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Bidders for LAUSD schools begin presenting plans to parents today

January 14, 2010 | 10:01 am

Parents today will attend the first formal presentations by groups competing to take over their neighborhood schools. The gatherings are the next step in a plan that allows groups inside or outside the Los Angeles Unified School District to bid for control of 12 existing schools and 18 new campuses. The plan was approved by the school board in August.

The main competitors are groups of teachers -- working with the teachers union -- and charter-school operators.

Charter schools are independently managed and free from some restrictions that govern traditional schools, including abiding by district union contracts.

Finding quality facilities has been one of their most difficult challenges, a primary reason they lobbied intensely for the school-control resolution.

Final bids were due early this week and, in the end, charter operators almost exclusively sought the new buildings. They turned in no proposals for Burbank Middle School and Gardena, San Pedro, Maywood Academy and Lincoln high schools.

"It is revealing that only a few charter operators are interested in LAUSD's most challenging schools," said L.A. school board member Steve Zimmer. "For most charters, public school choice seems to be about land and facilities."   

One widely respected charter operator, the Alliance for College-Ready Public Schools, was expected to bid for at least one existing school. It ultimately opted to put in for two new small schools at the new Esteban Torres high school complex, which will relieve overcrowding at Garfield and Roosevelt high schools east of downtown.

An exception is Hillcrest Elementary; there, two charters, along with a group of teachers from the school, are competing to take over. 

As expected, a nonprofit controlled by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa put in for three schools, including Jefferson High. In all, 84 bids were turned in, district officials said.

At the meetings for parents, each bidder will have 10 minutes to lay out its proposal. There will also be question-and-answer sessions. At a later date, parents will take a nonbinding vote, as will other groups, including district employees. The final recommendations will come from L.A. schools Supt. Ramon C. Cortines, with final approval by the school board next month.

-- Howard Blume