Picking Cherries

The “LAUSD has been under federal court oversight since 1996 for systemic non-compliance of special education law...The Independent Monitor is responsible for determining whether LAUSD meets compliance with the Modified Consent Decree and special education law.” One of the ways that he gathers information is through public hearings where members of the LAUSD community are invited to provide comments.

Since Board members have stated their desire to remove the district from the oversight of the Consent Decree, the information presented in this hearing should have been of interest to them. Unfortunately, not one of them bothered to attend this mornings session.

The following is the statement that I provided at this hearing:

My name is Carl Petersen and I am the father of five. Three of my children are students or alumni of Granada Hills Charter High School, which is a conversion charter and our neighborhood’s home school. My other two daughters did not have the opportunity to attend the same school as their siblings. They are on the autism spectrum and the school does not provide the services that they need.

Granada states that its “Special Education Program is grounded in the philosophy that ALL students can learn.” On its face, this is a commendable policy, as the entire purpose of an education system should be to  encourage all students to meet their maximum potential. Unfortunately, it quickly becomes apparent that children who are severely intellectually disabled need not apply. While the school’s web page provides great detail about how special education students will be integrated in academic subjects with their general education peers, it fails to explain how my daughters would understand anything that was being taught. Wishful thinking is not an educational strategy. As  a parent, I celebrate my children’s achievement based on their capabilities, even if it does not bring them closer to being “college-ready.”

If the rules were being followed, Granada would have to at least cover the costs of programs that they do not provide. However, we were not even offered placement at this school. We also discovered during the last IEP meeting that despite being the home-school for our area, it is not listed that way on the district’s paperwork. When we pointed this out and requested that it be changed, we were told that it could not. Someone from the district had hardwired my daughter's school of attendance into the form as her homeschool. The LAUSD is, therefore, responsible for all of the costs of her education. How much has the district lost in funding because this is happening with other students?

As a former candidate for School Board, I have watched many Board meetings where special education has been scapegoated for everything from MiSiS to the current budget deficit. What remains unsaid is that the Board has helped cause the budget problems by allowing charter schools, like Granada, to cherry pick out the most difficult-to-serve-students. Legitimate public schools must educate all students, not just the ones that are college-bound.