In a jaw-dropping (some might say defeatist) move, the LA Unified School district Board of Education voted to turn over 250 campuses to charter school and other kinds of private operators. This is about a fourth of the district's schools. The vote was 6-1. Here's an article from the LA Times. Those 250 campuses include 50 new multi-million dollar campuses.
Why did this happen?
"The premise of the resolution is first and foremost to create choice and competition," said board member Yolie Flores Aguilar, who brought the resolution, "and to really force and pressure the district to put forth a better educational plan."
There you go - competition. A business model because we know that business does everything well and hence our great economy. The Gates Foundation and their Transformation plan initiative as well as their small schools within high schools are now national models, right? Education is a lot harder than it looks.
"The vote occurred after a tense, nearly four-hour debate during which supporters characterized the resolution as a moral imperative. Foes called it illegal, illogical and improper.
The action signals a historic turning point for the Los Angeles Unified School District, which has struggled for decades to boost student achievement. District officials and others have said their ability to achieve more than incremental progress is hindered by the powerful teachers union, whose contract makes it nearly impossible to fire ineffective tenured teachers. Union leaders blame a district bureaucracy that they say fails to include teachers in "top-down reforms."
Oh come on! The teachers are the entire reason that they can't move forward? How smart of the district to place the blame solely on teachers when they know how many people view the teachers' union with suspicion. As we are learning from KIPP schools, as reported earlier this summer in the NY Times, many teachers without unions eventually want them back.
"Among those who could take advantage of the board action is Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who could use it to enlarge the 11-school effort run by a nonprofit that he controls. Villaraigosa, who helped elect a majority of the seven-member board, was an active participant Tuesday, speaking before more than 2,000 parents, teachers and others before the vote."
Controls a non-profit that runs 11 schools? Helped elect a majority of the Board? Wow, that's a lot of power not to mention a seeming conflict of interest.
"Other critics have joined Duffy [Union President A.J. Duffy] in questioning whether schools built with bond funds to relieve crowding, can be turned over to entities not under direct district control.
For their part, charter schools may have to operate differently in district-owned sites. They could be required to enroll more disabled students and higher numbers of lower-income students than at some current charter schools."
You'd think the charters would have to be responsible for more special ed students, heck, the general population of all the LA schools they take over for the deal they are getting.
Boy, this must look like a gift from the gods to the charter school movement. Well, like New Orleans, who went to a largely charter model after Katrina, here's a big bold experiment on charters. I think we'll see what we already know; overall, charters do no better than other public schools.