Good news on chronic absences and the budget, despite a ‘structural deficit’ — a wrap-up of board action

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On Deaf Ears: My Public Comment to the LAUSD Board

The LAUSD School Board rewards failure by approving yet another renewal of a charter that cannot show positive results.

Read the article on K12 News Network's The Wire.

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Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil, See No Evil: The Failures of LAUSD'S Charter School Division

State law provides that an authorizer is not liable for debts, obligations [or] liabilities so long as [they] provide appropriate oversight. We believe we are providing appropriate oversight.” [emphasis mine]

- José Cole-Gutiérrez

 As the District slides towards bankruptcy due to declining enrollment, the LAUSD School Board acted on Tuesday on another round of charter renewals and material revisions. Oblivious to the effects of refusing to oversee the charters under its jurisdiction, the Board approved these requests ignoring the shortfalls of these charters:

ICEF.pngThe ICEF chain of charters requested renewals for three of its locations. The chain has a laudable goal of “maximizing academic achievement” by focusing on the tenet that "if you teach students at the bottom 25% as though they are the bottom, they will always stay at the bottom." It, therefore, uses a model that “is designed to improve the education of disadvantaged and underserved students by applying the same ‘acceleration’ techniques used with gifted and talented students” as if children are widgets that can be manufactured to spec.

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Means, Motive, and Opportunity: Forcing the LAUSD School Board to Act

Charter schools may not enact admissions requirements or other barriers to enrollment and must admit all students who apply, just as traditional public schools cannot turn away students.”

- ACLU

On Tuesday, August 23, 2017, I made a third presentation to the LAUSD School Board about the enrollment practices of Granada Hills Charter High School (GHCHS) and the Charter Schools Division’s lack of enforcement of the school’s charter. The following are a transcript of my remarks:

I came before this Board in June to show you what I had found out about Granada Hills Charter High School and their enrollment practices. At that time, the Charter School Division was instructed to look into the matter and get back to me. The letter that I received in response is, to be polite, disappointing. This is included in the packet that I have provided to you.

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Change.org Petition: Stop GHCHS From Discouraging the Enrollment of Special Ed Students

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According to the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) Charter School Division (CSD), “requesting a copy of a student’s IEP (Individualized Education Program) or information contained in a student’s IEP during the pre-admission stage creates an inference...that the charter school may be using this information to ‘counsel out’ or otherwise discourage students with disabilities from seeking admission” For this reason, Granada Hills Charter High School (GHCHS) charter includes a statement that they “shall not request or require submission of a student’s IEP, 504 Plan, or any other record or related information prior to admission” (emphasis mine). Despite this prohibition, the school’s Enrollment For Incoming Students, enrollment entry page and New Student Information page on the GHCHS website still asks parents to submit IEP and 504 plans.

The LAUSD CSD was notified on March 12, 2017, about these violations of the school’s charter but did not force them to comply. The School Board was made aware of this lack of action on June 13, 2017. Over two months later, GHCHS has not been forced to make the appropriate changes.

If you believe in the importance of giving equal access to all educational opportunities and would like to demand that the LAUSD School Board do the same, please sign the Change.Org petition asking the LAUSD Board to pass the Holding GHCHS Accountable to Their Charter Resolution.

 

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Resolution: Holding GHCHS Accountable to Their Charter

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The People's School Board?

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

- The First Amendment

Blocked.pngApparently, the Bill of Rights is not something that LAUSD General Counsel David Holmquist or his staff was taught in law school. After I wrote an email to Board Member Ref Rodriguez in December 2015, Holmquist responded that there was “no legal support” for the assertion that Rodriguez’ use of the block feature on a Twitter account linked to his LAUSD sponsored web page was a “government supported abridgment of free speech.” Instead, he maintained that “under the law, communication, even communication with a government entity, is not unfettered.” He did, however, state that he was “open to reviewing” any “legal authority (e.g., statutes [sic], regulations, case law, etc.) supporting” my position. The message was clear - if you want to avail yourself of your rights in the LAUSD, you had better be prepared to pay for legal counsel.

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Sold to the Highest Bidder - The Charters Assume Control of the LAUSD

Although comparison of GHCHS’ current demographic data to the data of other schools in the surrounding community does show differences in the numbers and percentages of students in various subgroups, historical demographics data shows that GHCHS has generally increased its diversity over time. For example, in its current approved charter, the school reported that, since its prior renewal in 2008, it had experienced...a 5.0 percent drop (32.3 to 27.3 percent) in its White student population.

- LAUSD Charter School Division

As the school year begins it is clear that the students of LAUSD’s public schools are on their own. The charter industry and their allies spent $11,459,786.26 in the last election cycles purchasing a majority of the LAUSD School Board seats and they are now cleared to operate without even the minimal oversight that was previously provided. Under this new regime, the LAUSD’s Charter School Division (CSD) refuses to take action against charters, even when presented with evidence of wrongdoing.

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Team Red vs. Team Blue - The Further Fragmentation of America

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Politicon.jpgAccording to right-wing mythology, conservatives have been stripped of their free-speech rights. However, while attending this year’s Politicon in Pasadena, California, it was the conservative attendees that seemed determined to drown out speakers who did not conform to their world-view. While he is usually busy interrupting city-council meetings of cities he does not live in, anti-immigrant agitator Arthur Schaper took the time to yell out over questioners who had been called on and to disrupt panel members. Cenk Uygur was heckled throughout his debate with conservative commentator Ben Shapiro, with the shouting often starting as soon as he opened his mouth. In comparison, Uygar consistently motioned for his base to quiet down whenever they interrupted his opponent.

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Separate and Unequal

We urge you to make this a living NAACP action plan with a mandate and roadmap for saving America’s public schools by advocating for public quality education in every sector.

- NAACP Task Force on Quality Education

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When confronting the newly anointed Los Angeles County Board of Education President about his support for a charter that was failing its students, Alex Johnson accused me of being “against high-quality education for black and brown students”. Anti-immigrant agitator Arthur Schaper pulled from the same counterfeit deck of race cards to claim that I “believe Black/Hispanic Americans are too stupid to choose the school for their kids”. When presenting at the NAACP Task Force on Quality Education at their hearing in Los Angeles, I was heckled by charter supporters for targeting a “black school” when showing how View Park Middle School was allowed to continue operating despite the fact that it had “presented an unsound educational program”. Apparently, none of these critics realized that my most vociferous criticisms have been of Granada Hills Charter High School and El Camino Charter High School, both of which are located in the San Fernando Valley and serve high populations of white students.

Alex_Johnson.pngPerhaps the reason that charter proponents are forced to rely on desperate personal attacks is that the facts do not back up their assertion that charters help to improve opportunities for minority students. The NAACP report quotes a study that found 37% of charter schools “performed worse than their traditional public school counterparts serving similar students.” Another study “found that charter school enrollment explained less than one hundredth of 1% of the variation in students’ test  performance.” In comparison, Dr. Julian Vasquez Heilig, a Professor of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies at California State University, Sacramento, testified that “class size reduction [has] 400% more impact. Pre-K? 1000% more impact than charters.” This seems to suggest that those pushing for privatization of our schools over more proven methods of improving education outcomes have interests other than reducing the achievement gap.

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