At its regular meeting Tuesday, Los Angeles Unified’s board of education handed over control of about a dozen schools to groups that had responded to its “request for proposals.” It’s the second year of this so-called Public School Choice reform model. Last year, the district awarded schools to charter school companies, groups formed by school teachers and an education nonprofit started by L.A.'s mayor.
Thirteen schools that’ll educate about 20,000 students were up for bid this time. Teachers, parents and charter school supporters packed the school board chambers. For three hours, dozens of people testified; most supported the reform proposals.
California Charter Schools Association chief Jed Wallace urged the school board to accept the charter bids. "Through charter schools we endeavor to radically transform the outcomes that students are able to achieve."
Studies don’t back up Wallace’s claim. In the end, the board awarded charter companies about a quarter of the campuses up for bid for the next school year. Groups that submitted so-called "pilot school" proposals with streamlined teacher contracts won most of the bids.
L.A. Unified Superintendent Ramon Cortines and his staff scrutinized the proposals’ instructional integrity and viability and singled out the plans they regarded as best. Cortines defended his choice for a new Echo Park elementary school.
"I felt that I had to recommend a plan that had dual language," said Cortines, "but also would have other choices at the school."
The board set aside his recommendation and awarded the school to the Camino Nuevo charter group.
L.A. Unified’s teachers union vehemently opposes the Public School Choice process. United Teachers L.A. calls it a “giveaway” and a “privatization” of schools.
Board member Marguerite LaMotte, recently re-elected with the union’s support, agreed. "Tell Antonio he won this one but he lost the other one, because this is what it’s all about."
LaMotte’s talking about L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, whose allies hold the most votes on the school board. That makes it unlikely that LaMotte or the teachers union can stop the next round of schools L.A. Unified will release from its administration for independent groups to operate.