Education issues as seen from a father's eyes.
By Carl J. Petersen
- ACLU and Public Advocates
The LAUSD Charter School Division (CSD) says that “a review of charter school pre- and post-enrollment forms is part of our oversight process”. It is, therefore, unclear how these regulators missed the fact that both Granada Hills Charter High School (GHCHS) and El Camino Real Charter High School (ECRCHS) have admission requirements that appear to violate LAUSD policy, their respective charters, the California Education Code and federal law. These organizations rely on public funds to operate but appear to be screening out students who should have a right to attend. Some examples of this cherry-picking are as follows:Read more
As the father of two daughters who are on the autism spectrum, I was astonished while I sat in the LAUSD Board meeting on March 8, 2016, and heard Mónica García declare that she did not represent children with special education needs:
“When we say $1.4 billion for special ed and we only have $700 million from the federal government and the other $700 million are coming from every child in this district, I’m not about defunding special ed. I just know that we have a serious issue to how can we serve our own kids?”
Knowing that all children deserve to be represented on the LAUSD’s Board, including the 12.7% that are enrolled in special education programs, my decision to run against García in the election on March 7, 2017, became finalized. Unlike the incumbent, I will not declare that there are “people I represent most” or vote to continue fighting parents in court. I understand that all children are unique and they all have a right to meet their full potential. I have not lost sight that a student in need of vocational training is just as important to the District as the student who will go on to college after graduation or that a well-rounded education requires access to art and music classes along with the academic subjects.Read more
- Mónica García, 12/14/16
During last week’s LAUSD meeting, the Board suddenly reversed course and abandoned a carefully compromised plan that would have slowly returned the beginning of the school year closer to its traditional Labor Day start. Without a warning to the parents who had been pushing for this change, they rejected the calendar that they told Superintendent Michelle King to craft last September and told her to start over again with the schedule that is already in place. After the vote, Board member García took to Twitter to thank “all the effective voices that made this possible for our youth!”, ignoring the fact that she had effectively silenced all other voices through her parliamentary maneuvers. Those who had celebrated their advocacy for change just a few months ago only found out about the reversal in the next morning’s news reports. Once again parents’ voices had not been heard during the deliberative process of the LAUSD Board.Read more
- Los Angeles Daily News, 11/30/16
The administration at El Camino Real Charter High School (ECRCHS) admits that David Fehte charged “more than $6,000” in personal charges on his school-issued credit card. An investigation by the Los Angeles Daily News found that “over the two years, Fehte charged more than $100,000 to the card”, including “$15,500 at Monty’s” Prime Steaks & Seafood and “first-class airfare and luxury hotel rooms”. The LAUSD Charter School Division found that the school had “no policy for Credit Card use” and issued a Notice to Cure on October 28, 2015. Almost a year later the “CSD still had ongoing concerns regarding the capacity and accountability of the Charter School, the charter organization, and its governing board, to operate ECRCHS effectively and in compliance with applicable laws and the terms of its charter”. The LAUSD Board scheduled a hearing to discuss Notice of Intent to Revoke ECRCHS’ charter.Read more
Disruptive Person Letters (DPL) are issued by principals within the LAUSD when someone interferes with the ability “to maintain a safe campus free of disruption.” There is concern among parents that in addition to protecting against “behavior that poses a danger to staff or students”, these letters are also being used to retaliate against those who question a school’s implementation of policy. For this reason, they are better known as Disruptive Parent Letters. On November 22, 2016, the LAUSD’s Early Childhood and Parent Engagement Committee held a hearing on improving the DPL policy. The following is a copy of my testimony before this committee:
I have heard it stated a couple of times today that these “Disruptive Person Letters” are rare. Truthfully, we have no way of knowing that. I issued a Public Records Act request in August of 2015, and I asked for any email, memo or letter containing the language that is found in these letters. In response, I was told that the District does not capture “specific data on disruptive parent letters.” On September 28, 2015, I was told that “this information is not captured at this time.”
If Mónica García has grown weary of the LAUSD, then why doesn’t she step aside for someone who is willing to serve the students?
In the months leading up to the March 7, 2017, LAUSD election, incumbent Mónica García has made some questionable comments about the children that she is supposed to represent. For example, in March she suggested that students requiring special education services are not “our own kids”, excluding 12.7% of the LAUSD’s population. Then in September she said that “our biggest problem is that most of our kids, all of our kids, can’t read.” If this statement is true, then García has little to show for the ten years that she has spent on the Board. More likely, this represents her disdain for the teachers of the District and their ability to succeed despite the obstacles that she has put in their way.Read more
The LAUSD’s goal of “parent and community engagement” is stated in black and white on the District’s website. Unfortunately, the District’s actions often speak louder than those words. As an example, when the parents of children with severe special education needs lost the first round of a court case against the District, a press release stated that it was “a civil rights victory for our students”, as if these children needed to be protected from their parents. A higher court overruled this decision, but last June Mónica García and the rest of the LAUSD School Board voted to continue the court fight. Sitting across from each other in a courtroom does not count as “engagement.”Read more
On November 16, 2016, the Office of the Independent Monitor held its semi-annual public hearings about the services provided by the LAUSD to students with special education needs. The following is a copy of my testimony before Dr. Rostetter:
When I saw your reaction to Adam’s speech, it gave me something that I haven’t had in a long time at these meetings and that is hope. It showed that you really care about what happens to our children. But Adam shouldn’t be the exception to the rule. Instead, the LAUSD shows hostility towards special education.
Mónica García said in a Board meeting just a few months ago that “I’m not about defunding special ed, I just know that we have a serious issue to how can we serve our own kids.”Read more
If we accept the notion that education is the great equalizer, then we must demand that all children have equal access to education. This does not mean that we should expect that every student will have the same results. However, we should expect as a society that all children are given the opportunity to reach their full potential. Unfortunately, all of my opponents do not share the view that every child is worthy of an education.Read more
“The October staff recommendations represent a fundamental and drastic departure from the Charter School Division’s expressed values of consistency and transparency, and the District’s historic focus on student outcomes as an authorizer.”
-California Charter Schools Association (CCSA)
Both El Camino Real Charter High School (ECRCHS) and Granada Hills Charter High School (GHCHS) were originally LAUSD public schools. While charters are marketed as a way to offer alternatives to poorly performing schools, both of these schools had excellent reputations before their conversions. El Camino has won seven Academic Decathlon National Championships, both as a charter and a public school. GHCHS “had one of the best academic records in the district [prior to its conversion], but it was bothered by cuts in district funding and hampered by rules that limited its own fund-raising abilities.” Like LAUSD schools, the teachers at both schools continue to be represented by UTLA. It should be no surprise that both of them continue to meet their academic benchmarks.Read more