Parental Engagement

By Carl J. Petersen

Education issues as seen from a father's eyes.

Broken Promises: Another Failing Charter Gets A Pass

It’s not about the kids

- Monica Garcia

Snapshot_1_(10-8-2017_7-37_PM).pngWhen the LAUSD School Board handed control of Locke High School to  Green Dot Public [sic] Schools in 2007, the school ranked “among the lowest-performing schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District and in the state.” At that time, Green Dot’s Steve Barr said that if this public school was given to his unelected charter organization they would “work together [with parents and teachers] and make Locke a great school.“ He further promised that “people around the country are going to come to Watts and see what a great urban turnaround school looks like."

Ten years later nobody is calling on Green Dot to provide their key to success. In both 2015 and 2016, the California Charter School Association (CCSA) gave the school a Statewide Rank of one out of ten. The LAUSD Charter School Division ranks its Student Achievement and Educational Performance as “Developing”, or a two on a four-point scale. When compared to Resident and Similar Schools Medians, “Locke reclassified [English Learners] at a lower rate”, had “low graduation rates” during the past three years, and “has a high disproportionality suspension rate for African Americans and Students with Disabilities.”

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Conference: Opposing Charter Schools

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Without Discussion the LAUSD Board Chooses a President

Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

- Paraphrasing George Santayana

Just months after assuming a majority of the LAUSD School Board, the charter supporters already find themselves embroiled in controversy. Their first selection for President, Ref Rodriguez, is facing felony charges and was forced to resign from the position. As they prepared to select a replacement, I addressed the Board and asked for them to follow through with their promise to put “Kids First”:

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Rookie Mistake?

I sent the following letter to the editor of the Los Angeles Times in response to the charter industry's op-ed diminishing the charges against Ref Rodriguez. It was not published.

 

If we are to believe Peter Cunningham’s September 21, Op-Ed, Ref Rodriguez’s alleged violations of the law should be ignored because they are a result of a “rookie mistake”. This reasoning ignores the fact that the defendant was employed by PUC charter schools as a treasurer, with a responsibility to understand financial rules. He was also asked by KPCC radio in 2015, about the actions that are now detailed in the felony complaint and denied that the donors were being reimbursed. This is a case of deception, not of ignorance.

Contrary to Cunningham’s assertion, perjury and money laundering are not “crime[s] with no victim”.  The actions described deprived “the public of information about the true source of a candidate’s financial support” making every voter a victim. Furthermore, it demonstrates the character of a man who is supposed to set an example for the 640,000 children of the District.

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Rules? Where we’re going we don’t need…rules.

This is much ado about nothing

- Attorney Mark Werksman

According to the Felony Complaint against Refugio (Ref) Rodriguez, he and his cousin allegedly conspired in a scheme that hid the source of almost $25,000 in campaign donations from the public. While a lawyer involved in the case maintains that this is “a small amount of money”, the amount donated by each of the listed donors has raised suspicion since the time of the original filing. As noted by KPCC in an article dated February 5, 2015, “Rodriguez collected $21,000 in campaign donations from employees of his charter school network, Partnerships to Uplift Communities” including “a handful of his workers – a janitor, maintenance worker, tutor — [who] are donating at or near the contribution limit, $1,100.” Rodriguez insisted at the time that “the employee contributions weren't coerced and will not be reimbursed”, but the District Attorney charged both the Board member and his cousin with “25 counts of ‘assumed name contribution’” for allegedly using Rodriguez's own funds to pay back the donors. While it is not illegal to lie to the press, lying on a campaign contribution report will subject you to a felony charge of perjury.

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On Deaf Ears: My Public Comment to the LAUSD Board

On September 12, 2017, the LAUSD School Board was set to take a vote to approve several charters for five-year renewals, including ICEF Innovation. However, before doing so they needed to hear public comment. The following are my remarks before the Board:

We are told continuously that the purpose of charters is innovation and experimentation. Looking at this school’s website, it seems that their experiment is taking Gifted and Talented methods and applying that to the entire school population. This is interesting in itself because 0% of the student population is identified as Gifted and Talented. But that was their experiment.

I guess that we could have a debate about whether it is great to be experimenting with children, to begin with, but that is the law. However, part of experimenting is we have to recognize when the experiment has failed. When the California Charter School Association itself gives a statewide ranking of the school a three out of ten, in my book that is a fail. How can we continue with the same process? It failed, so why not stop it?

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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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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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