The Charter Industry Proves Again That They Are Not Public Schools
“Money comes based upon some hypothetical projection of how many special needs kids you might have in the school...if they give you more than you need, you don’t have to give the money back.”
- LAUSD Board Member Dr. George McKenna
As the LAUSD School Board continues to ignore the fact that Granada Hills Charter High School is actively discouraging the enrollment of children with special education needs, District staff has taken note of the effect of these actions on surrounding neighborhood schools. In the “Single Plan for Student Achievement” for Northridge Academy Senior High, the school notes that “a larger percentage of the students from the Granada Hills Charter High School area are students with special needs and have active IEP’s as compared to the students coming from the other high schools.” Even worse, Kennedy is not the most heavily impacted school as 19.9% of the students at Valley Academy of Arts and Science have special education needs. With a student population that is less than half of Granada’s, John F. Kennedy High School has more students with special education needs than its larger neighbor.Read more
A Nightwish Come True
I was a little hesitant about buying tickets to see Finland’s Nightwish on their current tour. The press release promoting the tour was promising to feature “rarely heard material from the earlier era,” but these weren’t the songs that had drawn me to the band. I had discovered the band after stumbling across their Showtime, Storytime video on YouTube and the newer songs from their twenty-plus year career are the ones that had made them one of my favorite bands. These are the songs I wanted to see them play.
I should have had more faith.Read more
Los Angeles Charter Schools Allowed to Write Their Own Rules
“The statute as I understand it...gives the District...the responsibility and authority of oversight”
- LAUSD Board Member George McKenna
Under District rules, every charter that is submitted to the LAUSD for approval must contain District Required Language (DRL). Some of this language simply ensures that the charter conforms to the California Education Code. Other sections cover requirements specific to the LAUSD, like conforming to the Chanda Smith Modified Consent Decree. The most disputed sections require protections that have been successfully blocked in Sacramento by the California Charter School Association (CCSA). An example would be the requirement that the “charter school shall comply with the Brown Act and the Public Records Act.” Charter schools have also been critical of the language that gives the Office of the Inspector General “broad authority — including subpoena power — to sniff out ‘waste, fraud and abuse’".Read more
Collecting Campaign Cash is Not a Progressive Value
“Jesse Gabriel announced that his campaign has raised more than $500,000 for the upcoming April 3rd Special Election.”
- Jesse Gabriel
What do the former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s adviser David Crane, “symbol of the greed and money of the tech sector” Ron Conway and WalMart Chairman Greg Penner have in common? They are co-founders of Govern for California, an independent expenditure committee that seeks “to influence elections for the California Legislature under the state’s new top-two primary system”. Their efforts are focused on supporting moderates and Republicans. One of their beneficiaries has been Jesse Gabriel, who is running in Tuesday’s special election for Matt Dababneh’s seat.
Ankur Patel Will Defend Public Education in the California State Assembly
“I commit to working to increase the amount of funding that goes to public education and specifically to students at their school site.”
- Ankur Patel
When choosing which politicians to back, the California Charter School Association (CCSA) seems to care more about how they will help them to avoid regulation than the candidates’ ethical values. In the LAUSD, they helped Ref Rodriguez defeat Bennett Kaiser only to have Rodriguez step down from the Board’s presidency after being indicted on felony charges that included perjury. During the 2016 election cycle, the CCSA spent $30,282 to re-elect Matt Dababneh to the California State Assembly after he sponsored a bill that would have limited the ability of school districts to conduct independent investigations of charter schools. In December 2017, Dababneh was forced to resign from office “after three women accused him of sexual misconduct, including a lobbyist who said he followed her into a restroom and masturbated in front of her.”
On April 3, voters in Assembly District 45 will go to the polls to replace the disgraced Assemblyman. As an advocate for public education, I am endorsing Ankur Patel in this race. A win by the former School and Community Coordinator for LAUSD Board Member Scott Schmerelson would send a clear message to the CCSA that their days of purchasing politicians are over. Going forward, their schools will be held accountable for the public funds that they receive.Read more
My Daughter Sings the National Anthem
My daughter is on the autism spectrum and spends a portion of her day in a special day class. However, due to the efforts of the teachers at LAUSD's Kennedy High School, she has several opportunities for mainstreaming including ROTC and choir. In this video, she had the opportunity to sing the National Anthem with a general education peer prior to a basketball game. This is what mainstreaming should look like.
I wrote about this program in this article.
Three Headlines That Got Buried Last Week
“Her current scandals and controversies will continue throughout her presidency and we will make it honestly, look, it's gonna be virtually impossible for her to govern. Now, the Republicans have talked very tough and the Democrats. It's gonna be just another mess for another four years, folks. A mess. We've got to get back to work, right? I mean, we have to get back to work.”
- Donald Trump, November 5, 2016
At no other time in history have we had access to so much information. Unfortunately, even with 24-hour news channels and the Internet, our news media provides us with very little depth. As an example, you probably heard plenty in the past week about trade wars, White House staffing turmoil and a possible summit with North Korea. But how many times did the talking heads and Internet pundits mention the following aspects of the stories:
Parents Left In The Dark About Charter Schools
“I think it is important that parents know what is going on.”
- Scott Schmerelson, LAUSD Board Member
Under the current rules of the LAUSD, “a charter school [is] required to notify all parents, guardians and teachers in writing within 72 hours when the District issues a Notice of Violations...and that the notification include the District’s rationale for the action”. However, no such notification was made after a Notice of Violation was issued to Granada Hills Charter High School on March 3, 2017, detailing unapproved alterations to the District-owned campus that “were a risk to the health and safety of [the school’s] students, staff, and other individuals.” The Charter School Division staff did request “that they share that information with families because it was significant”, but the school’s administration refused to do so. To date parents and guardians have not been notified of the dangers existing in their children’s school and no formal action has been taken against Granada for breaking this rule.
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:
This 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?Read more
Finding Hope in Florida
“A gun has killed 17 of my fellow classmates. A gun has traumatized my friends. My entire school, traumatized from this tragedy. This could have been prevented.”
If the shooter in Parkland, Florida had been named Mohamad, we can be sure that Donald Trump would have immediately taken to Twitter in an effort to use the tragedy as proof for the need of his Muslim ban. If instead, it was Jesus or Jose, the subject of those Tweets would have been his border wall. Instead, the killer was just a run of the mill domestic terrorist who used a gun to kill 17 people in a high school. Therefore, we will be told to offer hope and prayers and ignore that this was the eighth school shooting in this new year. To do otherwise politicizes the tragedy and disrespects the victims and survivors and their families.