This entry is intended to give you some background about why the District has made these offers and what we are doing to protect the instructional programs currently operating at our schools.
The Los Angeles Unified School District has offered space on its campuses to charter schools. As you may know, charter schools are publicly funded schools that are freed from many of the regulations governing traditional public schools in exchange for greater accountability for student achievement.
In 2000, voters approved Proposition 39, a statewide ballot measure that lowered the threshold for passing local bonds. That measure also included language that requires school districts to identify and allocate space on their campuses to charter schools serving a minimum of 80 students within the districts¹ boundaries. Charter schools must submit a formal application each year to request space under Proposition 39.
While the District has endeavored to make space available for charter schools since 2000, the California Charter Schools Association and two charter operators filed suit against the District alleging that the District violated state law by not providing adequate facilities for charter school students. In February, after many months of negotiation, the Board of Education approved a proposal to settle the lawsuit.
The District agreed to offer classroom space to all charter schools that apply, as Proposition 39 requires. The settlement protects traditional public schools by outlining the criteria for placing charter schools on District campuses. Specifically, the District does not need to offer space to a charter school where doing so would:
-Require a District school to covert to or remain on a multi-track calendar
-Require District students to involuntarily ride a bus restrict a District school from maintaining full-day kindergarten
-Require a District school to force teachers to travel from classroom to classroom (unless the space offered to charter schools recognizes that charter school teachers
might have to travel as well)
-Restrict the ability of the District to maintain certain programs (i.e. parent centers, learning centers, school based health clinics, special education rooms, computer and science labs, multimedia and technology rooms, textbook rooms, and early education and adult programs.)
In addition, according to the settlement, ³Each District and charter school shall be able to utilize space on secondary schools necessary to implement and operate small learning communities, including space for teacher planning and meetings and administration for small learning communities.²
This year the District received a record 55 Proposition 39 applications for approximately 17,000 seats, three times the number requested last year. In recent months, the District has been working to identify space on all public school campuses to accommodate this seat need. Last week, with input from local district administrators, the Superintendent approved a list of charter school matches. Charter schools that received offers will have until May 1,
2008 to make a decision.
In the event a charter is interested in an offer, the Facilities Division will coordinate with Local District staff and the corresponding District principal to schedule a visit to the District campus in order for schools to become familiar with each other and their programs. Specific discussions related to use of shared space, campus modifications, and general co-locations issues will occur after the charter officially accepts the offer. Campus modifications can include fencing to separate the schools, creating new entrances, and the addition of sanitary buildings paid for by local bond measures which specifically earmark funds to assist the district to implement Proposition 39.
Most co-location configurations were determined when site reviews occurred at campuses prior to the extension of offers with the input of the principal and Local District staff. While in most cases, this is a new change for our campuses, I hope that our schools view this as an opportunity to share best practices, create instructional partnerships and learn from one another.
This process has been incredibly taxing on all of us, from parents, community members, principals, local district staff to Superintendent Brewer. While I understand our obligation to provide space for public charter school students, I strongly encouraged the Superintendent to consider the instructional priorities at each District school and work to ensure that locating a charter school on the District campus does not disrupt those priorities.
I understand that the addition of charter schools on District campuses may be of concern to you, but I want to reiterate that the District is mandated by state law to provide space to charter schools. As we move forward, I want to assure you that the safety of all students is one of my main priorities and that the District is doing all that it can to ensure the academic success and safety of both our traditional and charter school students.