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L.A. school board rejects charter oversight measure

November 14, 2012 | 10:57 am

Charter school advocates Albert Santiago and Guadalupe Fores participate in a rally in front of the LAUSD headquarters in downtown Los Angeles Tuesday in opposition to a proposed moratorium on new charters. Credit: Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times

A majority on the Los Angeles Board of Education wanted no part of a resolution that sought to impose more oversight on charter schools.

The proposal, by school board member Steve Zimmer, was voted down 4-2 Tuesday after a brief discussion.

Charters are independently operated and exempt from some rules that govern traditional schools. L.A. Unified has more charters than any other school system in the nation.

Zimmer’s resolution, introduced in September, originally included a moratorium on new charters that would have lasted while a committee and the district superintendent developed new guidelines for approving and overseeing charters. It also called for new rules on when and how a charter would be allowed on a campus also shared by a traditional school.

Charter advocates responded by flexing their financial and organizational muscle through three rallies at the school board, including one outside Tuesday’s school board meeting involving more than 1,000 participants.

In addition, a political action committee, the California Charter Schools Assn. Advocates, paid for a political-style mailer against Zimmer, who is up for reelection in March. It also paid for a radio ad that aired on three stations.

Zimmer amended his resolution to ask charter operators to accept a voluntary moratorium. He also deleted the new oversight committee, which would have included labor groups resistant to charters. Most charters are non-union.

“We made significant changes in the resolution” based on input, including from charter advocates, Zimmer said. “This is not about closing a single charter school or limiting a single parent’s choice.”

He said he does not oppose competition among different kinds of schools, but “competition without guardrails” ensures there will always be winners and losers in a way that is detrimental to students.

His concessions weren’t enough for charter advocates, and they failed to win over his colleagues.

“I’ve offered you friendly advice,” said board member Nury Martinez, implying she had suggested he drop the issue. His effort “doesn’t help anybody but polarizes hundreds of thousands of parents. ... I don’t want to continue to debate this. ... Let’s be done with this, Mr. Zimmer.”

Martinez said that if Zimmer didn’t like state laws that supported charter schools, he should “put another proposition on the ballot.”

Zimmer backed away from his original moratorium partly on advice of district legal counsel. Under state law, school districts are required to approve any valid charter petition. Not all districts follow this law, said advocates, who’ve applied consistent pressure to ensure L.A. Unified does comply.

School board member Tamar Galatzan said she questioned whether Zimmer’s resolution was entirely legal even in its current form. She said the question of where a charter would operate could not be linked in any way to the approval process.

Board member Richard Vladovic asked L.A. schools Supt. John Deasy for his analysis of Zimmer’s proposal.

“I think this work can be done without this resolution,” Deasy said. “I don’t think this resolution is necessary.”

The only vote Zimmer won other than his own was from Bennett Kayser, a close ally of labor groups on the school board. A second labor-backed board member, Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte, was not present during the discussion and vote, although she deliberated and voted on matters before and after Zimmer’s proposal was taken up.


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-- Howard Blume

Photo: Charter school advocates participate in a rally in front of the LAUSD headquarters in downtown Los Angeles on Tuesday. Credit: Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times