Parental Engagement

By Carl J. Petersen

Education issues as seen from a father's eyes.

How Have Charter Schools Affected Students with Special Education Needs?

On February 20, 2018, the LAUSD School Board put the proposed Holding GHCHS Accountable to Their Charter on the agenda of their Committee of the Whole meeting. The following is the written statement that I provided to the Board:

Honorable LAUSD Board Members:

Chanda_Smith.jpgThis is Chanda Smith. She was an LAUSD student with special education needs who fell through cracks in the system. In 1993, lawyers from the ACLU filed a class action suit under her name. The result of that suit is a consent decree that the District is still struggling to comply with 22 years after it was signed.

Around the same time that Ms. Smith’s lawyers were filing their paperwork, California began its experiment with charter schools. Since charters claimed that this would give parents more choice, the LAUSD embraced these new types of schools and became the largest charter authorizer in the country. Did those in charge consider the effect on students like Chanda Smith? Were these students given more choices or were they left behind?

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Granada Announces Expansion - But Who Gave Them Permission?

It's easier to ask forgiveness than it is to get permission.

- Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hopper

Granada Hills Charter High School has used its student-run newspaper to announce that its “Devonshire campus will open as a transitional kindergarten through eighth-grade school starting in the fall semester of 2019.” The article declared that “there is excitement from the community for this new change” but did not provide quotes from anyone in the community. In fact, Granada’s Executive Director, Brian Bauer, was the only person quoted by the author, which gave the article the feel of a press release carefully constructed by the school’s administration. While pushing Bauer’s agenda, it did nothing to address the many consequences for the surrounding community and the student body of Granada.

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Charters: Public Schools or Private Businesses?

It is the intent of the Legislature in enacting this act to do both of the following:
(a) Ensure that charter school governance is transparent.
(b) Ensure that monitoring and oversight of charter schools are conducted to protect the public interest.

-California AB 1478

CCSA.jpgAs recipients of public funding, one would expect that organizations running charter schools would be subjected to the same open government regulations that other government entities, including elected school boards, must follow. While it is not always convenient to conform to the Brown Act, the California Public Records Act (PRA), or the Political Reform Act of 1974, these provisions of California law help ensure transparency to the taxpayers.  Unfortunately, under the state Education Code, the charter industry is currently exempt from following these requirements, leaving parents of students in these schools blind to their operations.

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Tone Deaf: Granada Misses the Point in Promoting its iGranada Program

choice

noun  \ ˈchȯis \

2 : power of choosing

- Merriam-Webster

iGranada-Picture-768x576.jpgMore than 19 months have passed since the LAUSD issued a Notice To Cure to Granada Hills Charter High School, demanding that they abide by their charter and give “first preference for enrollment...to students residing in the former attendance area.” As lawyers wallow through the “formal ‘dispute resolution’ procedure,” students are forced to attend classes supervised by uncredentialed advisors in buildings that need to “be razed given [their] age and condition.” In at least one case, their actions violated the education code which mandates that “students with special needs who wish to participate in independent study to have an individualized education program (IEP) that provides for independent study.”

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LAUSD Board Set to Consider "Holding GHCHS Accountable to Their Charter" Resolution

It’s hard to light a candle, easy to curse the dark instead

- Nightwish

GHCHS_1.23.18.jpgIn order to prevent charter schools from discouraging parents from enrolling children with special education needs, the Office of the Independent Monitor required that the District prohibit them from asking for any special education paperwork prior to enrollment. As originally pointed out in a Uniform Complaint filed on December 21, 2016, Granada Hills Charter High School (GHCHS) has blatantly violated this prohibition for years without any intervention from the LAUSD Charter School Division, the LAUSD School Board, or the State Department of Education. In fact, as the school enrolls students for the next school year, it still requests prohibited documents on three different pages in the enrollment section of its website.

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Whack-A-Mole: The Los Angeles Approach to Charter Regulation

Our oversight is “proactive and responsive.”

- José Cole-Gutiérrez, LAUSD Charter School Division

Last June, I informed the LAUSD School Board that a charter school under their jurisdiction was violating the privacy of their students by publishing “Parent Volunteer Hours” reports on their website that included student names. The charter’s Chief Development Officer defended the practice by saying that even though the list included the names of students and not volunteers, it was “a way to recognize and congratulate those who are involved.” No mention was made of the obvious violation of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).

404.jpg

Clicking the link that used to provide access to the “Parent Volunteer Hours” reports now returns a “404 Page Not Found” error. It is reassuring that going forward the privacy of these students is no longer being violated. However, quietly removing this information from the website does not change the fact that the students’ privacy was already violated. It also leaves questions unanswered, including:

  • The LAUSD Charter School Division (CSD) has stated in the past that “We look at their websites, not only at that time but in their oversight.” Did they miss this violation or purposely overlook it?
  • Why did the administration of the school not realize that their actions were a violation of federal law?
  • Were parents notified that their children’s privacy had been violated?
  • What steps have been taken to ensure that other charter schools are not engaging in the same practice?
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LAUSD Stakeholders Are Not Reading From An Open Book

Access to information concerning the conduct of the people’s business is a fundamental and necessary right of every person in this state

- California Government Code


When LAUSD Superintendent Michelle King first disappeared from the halls of the Beaudry Building “some insiders said she injured herself in an accident while on vacation with her family.” In October, “a district spokeswoman downplayed the effect of the medical issue” saying that she would return the following Monday, but that did not happen and the medical leave was made indefinite. A District spokesman then announced that “the superintendent planned to return January 22.” This was proven incorrect when four months into her leave King announced that she will not “return to her position and plans to retire later this year”. She “also ended months of speculation by announcing the condition that prompted her medical leave: she has been receiving treatment for cancer.”

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If Money Continues to Talk, We're Screwed

In the congressional races in 2008, the candidate who had more money won more than 93% of the time. Our representatives don’t serve us; they serve the people who pay them — their corporate funders.

- Cenk Uygur

The Republicans passed a tax bill despite the opposition of 55% of Americans. Now in an ass-backward move, they will now rely on conservative groups to plan “a multimillion-dollar effort to sell the GOP’s tax cut law”. These efforts include the Koch brothers launching “a multimillion-dollar push next year”, a GOP super PAC spending “$10 million to protect House members” and the Committee to Unleash Prosperity spending “the majority of its $1 million annual budget selling the tax plan”. The success of this plan relies on the American people forgetting that the law could add “$2.0 trillion to $2.2 trillion (before interest)” to the deficit, purposely punishes the citizens of Blue States, and is crafted in a way that “nearly two-thirds of the benefit [go] to the richest fifth of Americans in 2018.” The key to enabling this amnesia is the (perhaps inflated) reductions to withholding rates that will take effect in February, distracting the middle class from the fact that by 2027, 53% of Americans will pay more taxes under the new tax scheme.

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A Very Different Definition of Choice

Further, as the CSD is aware, iGranada is a well-designed independent study option, wherein most students are on campus daily, actively engaged in 1-on-1 and group learning.

- Brian Bauer, GHCHS

The inclusion of a statement in each independent study agreement that independent study is an optional educational alternative in which no pupil may be required to participate. In the case of a pupil who is referred or assigned to any school, class, or program pursuant to Section 48915 or 48917, the agreement also shall include the statement that instruction may be provided to the pupil through independent study only if the pupil is offered the alternative of classroom instruction.

- California Education Code

In the most basic of ways, Granada Hills High School has always been a school of choice. As noted by one researcher, “the choice among public schools has been linked to the family's decision about where to live, a decision that gives wealthy families more choice than poor families.” Unlike in economically disadvantaged portions of Los Angeles, many families in the surrounding neighborhoods of Granada Hills had the ability, and, therefore choice, to move within the boundaries of Granada Hills High School, “one of the highest-achieving schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District”, even before its conversion to a charter in 2003. While the charter industry promotes itself as a way for parents to have more choice, Granada’s conversion had more to do with the school’s ability to choose its students.

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Depriving the LAUSD Board of Ignorance

At the Los Angeles Unified School District, our goals are...5. School safety

- LAUSD

Given the vastness of the LAUSD bureaucracy, there is no guarantee that the members of the School Board knew that Granada Hills Charter High School (GHCHS) had been cited for making unauthorized modifications to their District owned campus that threatened student and staff safety. Therefore, I used my three minutes of public comment at the LAUSD  November 14, meeting to make the board members aware of this situation:

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