“If parents are not happy with the school program, it is a school of choice. They are free (and indeed encouraged) to remove their kids from the school. There are plenty of other public school options for their children.”
-Mr. Tschang, former KIPP Principal
As I walked off stage at the only debate in the race for LAUSD’s District 2’s Board seat, a student walked up to me to express his support and to say that “we need you on the Board.” I thanked him and also assured him that I would continue fighting for the students of the District, win or lose. This pledge immediately came to mind as I found a flyer delivered by the District to the house in East L.A. where I had rented a room in order to run against Monica Garcia and her allegiance to charters. The public school closest to where I had lived for the past six months is scheduled to become the latest host for a charter school parasite and the District had scheduled an informational meeting to discuss the issue. On Tuesday morning I attended this meeting with approximately 60 parents of Marianna Avenue Elementary school. According to the flyer, staff was also invited to this meeting, but how exactly were they supposed to participate while school was in session? So much for the LAUSD’s goal of “parent and community engagement”.
Like the parents of Arminta Street Elementary School, the parents of Marianna Avenue are organized and ready to fight back. They also seemed to have a more angry tone as they denounced the planned co-location of a KIPP charter. They questioned why space was being given up when there were not enough pre-school seats to meet demand. They wondered why kindergarten and first-grade students were sharing a classroom if the District had determined they had unused space. They decried the lack of green space on the school’s campus and accused the District of ignoring their request to remove aging bungalows so that room could be made for a charter school. They demanded that the LAUSD staffer tell Board Member Monica Garcia that they do not want to share their space with a charter.
Unfortunately, the message to Garcia is likely to fall on deaf ears. As one parent stated, “charters are a super-business.” In the last election cycle, these publicly run private schools contributed over $570,000 to the incumbent Board member so that there will not be any interference in their plans “to reach 50 percent charter market share” in Los Angeles. Ten of Garcia’s donors listed their employer as one of the KIPP affiliates. It is a safe bet that it will not be public school parents that Garcia is listening to as she prepares to begin her final term on the LAUSD Board.
At the Arminta meeting last week, Board member Ratliff sent her Chief of Staff to listen to the community’s concerns. There was no representative from Garcia’s office at the Marianna meeting. The local superintendent, Director of the Charter Schools Division, the Operations Coordinator for the Charter Schools Division, the Administrator of Parent and Community Engagement and the Operations Coordinator for the local district were also not present at this meeting. Unlike the Arminta meeting, only a representative of the Facilities Services Division was on hand to provide information. Additionally, while the Arminta parents were given an overview of the plans that had been proposed to Celerity, the District refused to provide the Marianna parents with the plan for their school. They are, therefore, left to wonder how the separate and unequal co-location will affect their school’s cohesiveness both mentally and physically.
The president of Marianna Avenue’s English Learner Advisory Committee proudly declared to the LAUSD representative that their “school is worth saving.” After watching the involvement of these parents I agree with this statement and it saddens me that Garcia’s win last week will mean that they will not get the support that they need. If charter candidates Nick Melvoin and Kelly Gonez are successful in their runoff elections, the prospects for these parents and their children will become even worse. Anyone who believes in the importance of public education must make sure that this does not happen.