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$12.6-million grant will open 13 new L.A. charter schools

September 28, 2011 |  2:07 pm

Photo: Judy Burton, President and CEO of Alliance. Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times

This post has been corrected. See the note at the bottom for details.

Two California-based charter school organizations have been awarded $12.6 million in federal grants to start 13 new campuses in Los Angeles, federal education officials announced Wednesday.

Alliance College-Ready Public Schools, which received $3.1 million, will open 10 new campuses in Los Angeles County, adding to 20 existing middle and high schools.

The organization, headed by Judy Burton, a former senior administrator for the Los Angeles Unified School District, focuses on smaller campuses, longer school days and years, rigorous instruction and high expectations.

"This is absolutely great news," Burton said. "Given all the financial cuts in California now, it makes a huge difference to know we have startup funds for the new schools."

KIPP, which stands for Knowledge Is Power Program, will open three new middle school campuses in South and East Los Angeles beginning with fifth-grade classes next year.

The charter organization received a total $9.4 million in grants and will also open 15 other schools in Atlanta; Austin, Texas; Chicago; Washington; Gaston, N.C.; Houston; Jacksonville, Fla.; Memphis, Tenn.; Newark, N.J.; New York; and San Antonio.

KIPP, which also emphasizes high expectations, more time in school and effective school leadership, operates 109 schools in 20 states and the District of Columbia, enrolling more than 32,000 students.

KIPP and Alliance have been highly praised for raising academic achievement among their students, who are overwhelmingly low-income Latinos and African Americans.

Burton said one of the biggest reasons for success has been more instructional time.

Alliance school days are an hour longer than those in traditional schools, and while the school year is 190 days at a time, many school districts have cut back to 175 days to reduce costs.

In addition, Alliance students attend a 20-day summer session.

"We believe that, particularly at the secondary level, the students can learn -- they just need more time to learn," Burton said.

Marcia Aaron, executive director of KIPP LA, said high expectations, giving principals power over budgets and hiring, and focusing on results are key to her students' success.

"We believe all can and will learn given the right environment," she said.

The awards were among nine grants totaling $25 million awarded by the U.S. Department of Education. All told, the new schools will serve nearly 45,000 students in 124 new and three expanded charter schools over the next five years.

Charter schools are publicly financed and independently operated; most are nonunion.

"Several high-quality charter schools across the country are making an amazing difference in our children's lives, especially when charters in inner-city communities are performing as well, if not better, than their counterparts in much wealthier schools," U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said in a statement.

For the record, 8:56 p.m. Sept. 28: A previous version of this post referred to Judy Burton as a former Los Angeles Unified superintendent. She is a former senior administrator for the district. 


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Photo: Judy Burton, president and chief executive of Alliance College-Ready Public Schools.

Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times