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SBE Approves Los Angeles Charter School Waiver, Over California Teacher Association's Objections

By Jeff Hudson - May 13, 2010

In action last Friday, the State Board of Education unanimously approved a request from the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) to waive an education code requirement that charter schools enroll any student who wants to attend the school rather than limit enrollment to a specific attendance area.

The waiver, which was recommended for approval with conditions by California Department of Education staff, would apply to those charter schools specifically approved by the LAUSD board to operate a LAUSD campus under the LAUSD’s Public School Choice (PSC) resolution.  The charter school operators currently selected as PSC school operators are Camino Nuevo Charter Academy, Para Los Niños, Aspire Public Schools, and Magnolia Schools.

Under the waiver, PSC charter schools would be required to limit their enrollment based on the place of residence of their students. Those students who are residents within the attendance boundaries of a particular PSC campus would be admitted to the charter school first.  If additional enrollment space is available at PSC charter schools, LAUSD will allow these charter schools to enroll any student who wishes to attend their schools according to the admissions requirements for charter schools in state education code.

Ken Burt, representing the California Teachers Association, expressed concern that by approving the waiver, the SBE would be going beyond existing law regarding charter schools.  Burt said “the same kind of rules that apply to public schools don’t always apply to charter schools . . . I have no idea how the rights of these kids are protected under these four charter schools. There are so many kinds of questions that are unanswered . . . I believe you need to postpone this.  If you act today, you should vote no.  You are going to be legislating (if you approve this).”

However, the SBE proceeded to approve the waiver.  Prior to voting, newly appointed SBE member Ben Austin -- a Los Angeles resident who has been active in Parent Revolution organization in that city -- gave an impassioned speech, saying “This is about competition, about choice, about taking away LAUSD’s monopoly to run failing schools forever, without consequence or change . . . (This is) the first glimmer to hundreds of thousands of parents who have been trapped in systemic failure in Los Angeles. We are finally able to give parents the ability to give their children the education they deserve.”

Austin’s comments were a contrast to his remarks during last Wednesday’s SBE session, when he voted to deny an appeal by the proposed Piru Charter School -- a case involving a small elementary school (currently operated by the Fillmore Unified School District) in a thinly populated, unincorporated portion of Ventura County.  Reviewing the Piru situation last Wednesday, Austin said “(Piru) is not like Los Angeles. This is a rural community, there is not a lot of choice there. If this were an independent charter giving parents more choice and more power, this would be an easy decision, and I would vote yes. But this (school) is the only choice for this community, so I’m going to vote no.”

Editor's Note:  Jeff Hudson is the editor of EdBrief and an award-winning education reporter and writer in print, radio and television media.