East L.A. Group to Challenge Charter Schools

By Gloria Angelina Castillo, EGP Staff Writer

Applicant teams in the second round of Los Angeles Unified School District’s Public School Choice (PSC 2.0) are in the process of developing plans to be included in their application bids to turn-around chronically underachieving schools and manage new campuses. The applications are due Dec. 1.

Locally, East LA Star Academy High School falls under the district reform plan. Two charter school applicants, an education-focused organization, and a group from the LAUSD’s local district office have expressed interest in running the school.

On Thursday Oct. 7, numerous East LA parents, students and community members met at the Centro Maravilla Service Center to begin work on a Public School Choice 2.0 proposal for East LA Star High School. Teachers and local school district representatives, supported by members of the Community Service Organization (CSO), was the primary applicant group at the public meeting.

Community Service Organization’s Carlos Montes (left) was one of many speakers during the meeting, about 20 people attended the meeting. EGP photo by Gloria Angelina Castillo.

The group says it’s armed with experience from defending Garfield from “privatization” earlier this year. They said they are preparing a major campaign to gain community support for the type of school the community [really] wants for its students.

Veronica Ramirez, mother of four and community activist, led the meeting. She pointed out that while the applicants are supposed to have the freedom to design the educational model and curriculum, the school already has “academy” attached to its name.

She says for now the school should only be called East LA Star High School, since the word “academy” is “different from a public school” and evokes a certain image. Ramirez is a CSO member and told participants that they need to organize to increase the involvement of stakeholders. About half of those in attendance were students from Garfield and Torres high schools or Cal State University, LA.

Former Belvedere Middle School employee Juanita Gonzales said supporters of public schools are facing considerable resistance.

“Right now, I think the [school] board is trying to make a statement with going to charter schools… and I think we have to as a community push back against that,” Gonzalez said.

She thinks that the school district may change the voting process this time around. “… the parents voting, the community voting, that may not happen this time because they saw what kind of grassroots efforts we had to push back against the Torres take-over,” she said, adding LAUSD officials are “a little afraid of what the community wants.”

Long-time community activist and CSO member Carlos Montes said charter school operators profit from the “privatization” of public schools.

Ingrid Villeda, teacher and UTLA leader, took the comparison to another level. She described the charter school model as problematic. The concept was imported from France where at age 12 children are tracked into professional and vocational schools without regard to what their full potential will be once they mature, she said. Charters foster rigid social stratification.

“Public schools everywhere, whether they are here, in Europe, Mexico or in El Salvador, are created for one reason, to equalize society. Everybody can go to public school…We don’t check you at the door, we don’t ask you how much money your parents make, we don’t ask you if you’ve eaten, we don’t ask you what you did last night, we take you all in,” Villeda said in Spanish. “That’s what public school do, they equalize society.”

Teachers do not currently have the flexibility to add elements to their curriculum—like Mexican-American history—that could help engage students, said Villeda, adding she sees the charter school movement as an attack on immigrants.

“In five years Latinos will be in the majority, that’s a little bit scary — not for us — but for them,” she said. “So why charter schools now, why not in five years?”

While the goal of the meeting was to start putting together a design plan for the school and most of the people at the meeting seemed sympathetic to the before mentioned points of view, one resident said she wants to hear more about charter schools. Too often UTLA dominates the conversation and parents have little say, said Julia, who wanted to be identified by just her first name.

Julia says she was a very active parent when her three children were in school. She was on Garfield High’s Title 1 Advisory Council and worked side-by-side with the teacher‘s union, but became disillusioned when she saw that the union only looked out for it’s own interest, she said.

She said parents have been at a greater disadvantage ever since the last teachers’ strike, when many changes were made in the union’s contract.  That is when she really saw that parents have no power, she said.

“I was involved for many years and it really frustrates me because students still aren’t achieving at the required academic level, very few graduate.” Julia said UTLA contracts should be renegotiated with parents participating at the same level as teachers and administrators.

Gonzalez said it is unfair to compare the graduation rates of public and charter schools, since charter schools can be selective about who they admit.

“It’s easy to graduate 99.9 percent of your students when the only students you have there are the best in the district,” Gonzalez said.

In the first round of public school, charter schools opponents used the issue of selectivity as a rallying point. Charter schools applicants and the school board responded to the criticism by including requirements for enrolling students from the attendance areas, including both special education and English Learner students.

Villeda defended the union, saying employees have a right to unionize.

LAUSD teachers and their union have come under sharp criticism over the last year or so with many people blaming them for the 50 percent drop-out rate across the district and for schools failing to meet adequate yearly progress bench marks.

Advocates for charter schools argue that their schools are performance-based and have more flexibility in their curriculum. They operate under a different labor agreement with teachers, and claim the arrangement makes teachers more accountable for their student’s academic achievement.

As an in-district educational reform, LAUSD’s Public School Choice gives applicants an opportunity to submit plans for turning-around chronically underperforming schools and all new campuses. Once proposals are submitted, presentations to stakeholders will follow, then advisory and school votes, and if the process remains the same, two district committees will review the applications, the superintendent will make his recommendations and the school board will vote in February 2011 to award the school management contracts.

When East L.A. Star opens in the fall of 2011, it will accommodate up to 702 students in 22 classrooms, and should relieve overcrowding at Garfield and Wilson high schools, according to the district.

The new high school will share the site with the East LA Star Adult Education campus, currently housed in 16 bungalows and called the Eastside Learning Center. It is run by the Garfield Community Adult School office, and is not part of Public School Choice.

For more information on PSC visit http://publicschoolchoice.lausd.net/

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October 14, 2010  Copyright © 2012 Eastern Group Publications, Inc.


3 Responses to “East L.A. Group to Challenge Charter Schools”

  1. Darren Beck on October 14th, 2010 4:44 pm

    Why are you allowing others to tell you how to proceed with educating your children? Local control is what it is all about. Your CSO should organize and apply for a charter and then tell everyone else to stay out of your way as your kids show them what they can do! Also, charters do not support or give rise to rigid social stratification, ignorance does! Be openminded enough to fight the powers that try to keep you as second-class citizens, including those who claim to have your best interest at heart! I know what a community united behind a common goal can achieve, so make a community school that is the envy of the world. Don’t worry about what it is called, charter or traditional or whatever. Worry about what it does for each individual student!

  2. Turan Melik on October 17th, 2010 2:34 pm

    Publicly funded yet privately managed – Charter School fraud is an easy concept. Charters can be succesful it depends on the “agenda” of the the managing company. Accountability has not caught up to the growth of the Charter movement. In the USA we have an Islamic Imam – Fethullah Gulen (Gulen Movement) that manages over 130 US Charter schools they have taken over $1 billion in Educational monies in the last 10 years and are growing like rapid fire. In los angeles they are called Magnolia Sciece Academy.
    The Gulen schools have a network of foundations and instutitions layered over the schools and much of our educational money is going to non-educational expenses such as: Turkish Olympiads, trips to Turkey for the students and local politicians, H1-b Visas of over 2,000 uncredentialed teachers from Turkey (while American teachers are handed pink slips) this money is to fuel the grand ambition of Fethullah Gulen who lives in exile (for a reason) in the Poconos, PA area with his $25 billion in wealth from inflitration in: education, media, police, poltics and military. Seems the same model works very nicely in the USA. Do your research!!!

  3. Carlos M. Montes on October 19th, 2010 9:20 am

    CSO advocates for a well funded public educaiton for all with community control. We organize parents and students to be involved in running their schools. But we regect charters as part of the puch to privatize educaiton and public services and see it as an attack of pubic employees and unions. Pirvatization will lower the standard of living and quality of life as it pushes to drive down wages and transfer our public taxe monies to the private sector.

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