From the August 24, 2015 issue of Update
The Los Angeles Times reported earlier this month that the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation is leading an effort to expand the number of charter schools in LAUSD. The Broads are being joined by the Walton Family and the Keck Foundations, among others. The expansion of charter schools is supposed to decrease the number of children attending what the charter industry calls failing schools or those with lower test scores. The aim is to get at least 50% of these children in the privately-run charter schools which could potentially be located on District sites. LAUSD already has about 100,000 students attending charter schools, more than any other school district in the country. In an email to LA School Report, the officials from the Broad Foundation wrote, “Too many of our school children still aren’t getting the quality of education they deserve, which is why tens of thousands of students are currently on public charter school waiting lists. We are in the early stages of exploring a variety of ideas about how to help give all families—especially in low-income communities of color—access to high- quality public schools and what we and others in the philanthropic community can do to increase access to a great public school for every child in Los Angeles.”
Officials from charter organizations, such as ICEF and Green Dot, are, understandably ecstatic about the proposal as it will generate more dollars for their programs. The foundations could provide funding for early administrative costs of new charters and for teacher training. Board Member Mónica Garcia said she is open to the foundations’ plans and says that her district could benefit from additional charter schools. However, not everyone is happy about this expansion. Because charter school teachers are not unionized, UTLA is not supportive of these independent schools and feels that input of teachers is disregarded. In a call to members, Alex Caputo-Pearl, UTLA President, vowed to fight the plans of the foundations, saying they are “out to destroy collective bargaining.” Board President Steve Zimmer is concerned that the charter schools will continue to be selective about who they enroll, leaving those students who require more specialized services and resources at the District schools. A mass exodus of students to charters will also severely decrease state and federal funding for the traditional schools.
As has been noted before, Eli Broad, the Waltons and other billionaires have been active in LAUSD politics for many years and have supported controversial efforts for reform. Financial resources have been provided candidates for the Board of Education that AALA has not supported and who have been strongly procharter. It should also be noted that Dr. John Deasy, former LAUSD Superintendent, was a graduate of the Broad Superintendent Academy and is now the Superintendent-in-Residence for the Broad Center. In fact, it has been reported that Eli Broad said that John Deasy was the best Los Angeles superintendent in memory. That, in and of itself, should give us all a reason to pause and look at this expansion plan with a critical eye.