Education issues as seen from a father's eyes.
By Carl J. Petersen
Education “reformers” claim that charters were created “as testing grounds for new and alternative educational models”. However, if these publicly funded private schools were actually engaging in innovation, it would seem that a high percentage of them would fail. After all, playing it safe is rarely a recipe for successfully making radical changes. However, in the LAUSD, there has been only been one charter revocation in the past three years. This hardly seems to back up El Camino Real Charter High School’s (ECRCHS) assertion that “the district has become more hostile towards charter schools.”Read more
There are currently more than 640,000 students enrolled in the LAUSD. These students are not widgets in a factory, they are individual people, each with unique needs. Every individual student has their own interests, most effective method of learning and challenges of achieving success. All are important and deserve the opportunity to reach their full potential - every single one of those 640,000 students.
For too long the education “reform” movement has been allowed to operate in the LAUSD in a way that ignores individuality. Instead of supporting students with special education needs, the District has forced them to mainstream with general education students, even when doing so is harmful to the student. When some parents objected to the closure of special education centers, the District fought them in court. As a School Board member, I will fight to end this litigation and keep these centers open as an option for parents.Read more
Before the LAUSD School Board began debate on the Issuance of Notice of Violations for El Camino Real Charter High School (ECRCHS) “requesting the charter school remedy violations by September 23, 2016”, the public had an opportunity to speak. Other than a three-minute time limit, there is little formal structure to this comment period and speakers are free to bring up anything that they feel is relevant to the subject at hand. During this time, ECRCHS’ case was presented by their lawyer, several teachers (who were at the Board meeting instead of teaching their students), a couple of parents and the charter’s Chief Business Officer, Marshall Mayotte. Notably absent was David Fehte, the “Executive Director” who has been at the center of the controversy surrounding the charter.
Ironically, one of the first speakers used the analogy of Charlie Brown’s repeated attempt to kick Lucy’s football to make her case against the resolution at hand. She was trying to make a case that the LAUSD Charter School Division (CSD) had been moving the goal post so that ECRCHS could not meet the terms of the Notice to Cure that was issued in October. However, it was the speakers who engaged in diversionary tactics as they tried to take the emphasis off of the “financial shenanigans” by focusing on the academic achievements of the charter, the incompetence of the CSD and wild conspiracy theories that the District is trying to “take down” ECR because they “are thriving too much.” Despite evidence that ECR has violated the law and “generally accepted accounting principles” compiled by both the CSD and the Los Angeles Daily News, the speakers each requested that the Board not issue a Notice of Violations.Read more
When the LAUSD approves a charter, they accept the responsibility (and a fee from the state) for holding the charter accountable to both the charter and the California education code. By placing a former California Charter School Association staffer as the head of the LAUSD Charter School Division (CSD), the Board of Education has signaled their lack of interest in providing this oversight. It is, therefore, not surprising that complaints to the CSD by parents seem to be routinely ignored. However, given the possible financial liability to the District, if this lack of interest was misinterpreted as complicity, one would assume that both the CSD and the School Board would make sure major allegations would not be ignored. A possible example of impropriety would be removing $600,000 from an account held in trust for the student body without permission of the Associated Student Body (ASB) representatives or approval by the charter’s Governing Board.Read more
In many ways, District 2 is a microcosm of the 2016 Presidential race. I am a Berniecrat running on a platform that supports public education, empowers parents and teachers and stands up for the most vulnerable, including students with special education needs. The incumbent, Monica Garcia is an establishment Democrat who attended the Democratic convention as a delegate for Hillary Clinton and whose Facebook page is titled @iamwithmonicagarcia. Standing in for Trump is Walter Bannister, who even uses the slogan “make our schools great again”. He has tweeted that we should forcibly arm ALL teachers, that vaccines are ineffective and harmful, blows the dog whistle by calling for the “end [of] compulsory busing” and says that “government ownership, operation, regulation and subsidy of schools and colleges should be ended.” There are also two other candidates who currently have a limited internet trail.Read more
The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) is the largest school district in the country that is governed by an elected school board. Only the New York City school district, which is under mayoral control, has more students. Los Angeles has more than 640,000 students enrolled in the district, attending over 900 schools that are spread out over 720 square miles. The District is also the largest authorizer of charters with over 130,000 students enrolled in about 250 independent and affiliated charters.Read more
The Los Angeles Times reported on August 18, 2016, that the LAUSD is considering revoking El Camino Real Charter High School’s [ECRCHS] charter, saying that “fatal flaws in judgment … call into serious question the organization’s ability to successfully implement the charter in accordance with applicable law and district requirements.” The school’s principal, Dave Fehte, sent out a response to parents, which is reprinted below along with my annotated comments:Read more
The LAUSD School Board includes former teachers and school administrators. A student representative is also included in an advisory role. However, not one of the seven Board members has a child who is currently enrolled in the District. With this lack of representation is it a surprise that too many parents feel that they do not have a voice in how the District operates?Read more
- El Camino Real Alliance Board Meeting Agenda
A surefire way to rile up a charter advocate is to compare charters to “public schools”. In response, they will claim that “Charters [SIC] schools are public schools.” While one could argue that not all charters are truly non-sectarian, some illegally charge student fees and as a whole, they are not open to any student who wishes to attend, there is one thing that makes them “public”; charters operate using taxpayer funds. As a result, their Governing Boards in California are subject to the Brown Act requirement that “all meetings of the legislative body of a local agency shall be open and public, and all persons shall be permitted to attend any meeting of the legislative body of a local agency, except as otherwise provided in this chapter.”Read more
“In 2011, a group of educators at El Camino Real High School, inspired by a desire for more autonomy and flexibility in instructional practices, curriculum, governance, and finances, led the school’s conversion to an independent charter school.”
-El Camino Real Charter High School (ECRCHS) Web Site
While the bloated bureaucracy of the LAUSD is certainly not a model of efficient governance, the extra sets of eyes pointed at a school site does make it more difficult for a site administrator to go rogue. This makes it harder for schools to be innovative with their academic programs and is a reason why the District needs to learn to sometimes stay out of the way. However, it also means that financial improprieties are more likely to be discovered. Given the recent reports of “lavish credit card use” by ECRCHS’ principal, one has to wonder if the school’s administration knew this when they converted the school to a charter seeking “more autonomy and flexibility” in their finances. After all, it hard to imagine an LAUSD principal being able to use a “school-issued American Express card to charge $100,000 over two years” including $885.96 for an itinerary made out to “Mr. David Patrick Fehte/San Antonio Spurs.”