Steve Zimmer, a board member of the Los Angeles Unified School District, is a hero for public education. He joins the honor roll.
He has stood up to the powerful privatization lobby, which wants to hand more and more public schools over to private management.
Zimmer has the temerity to ask where the charter movement is going in Los Angeles. What is the end game? Who is looking out for the 86% of students who are not in charters? What are the consequences of “co-location” (i.e., giving charters free space in a public school, taking classrooms, facilities and resources away from the public school students)?
Zimmer has offered a resolution calling for greater oversight of charter schools in the city and requiring that the charters present the same data as public schools.
Zimmer points out that the 232 charters in the city of Los Angeles enroll 14.5% of the district’s students, yet the board approves charters without more than five minutes of deliberations.
Only 7 of the city’s 232 charters participate in the LAUSD data system, making it hard to know who they are serving and what they are doing.
He notes that charters are supposed to be incubators of innovation, yet they share nothing with public schools, and the board has no process by which to evaluate and share any best practices incubated in charters.
He notes that charters serve only 1/3 of the proportion of students with moderate-to-severe disabilities as compared to the public schools in the districts.
He wants the LAUSD superintendent to “issue a comprehensive report to the Board about the benefits, challenges andresponsibilities of being the largest charter authorizer in the world.”
He recommends a commission to ”provide detailed recommendations to the Board about charter authorizations, renewals, amendments, Proposition 39 allocations, authorizing guidelines and issues of governance and oversight.”
Two charter chains object to his proposal. They want no constraints on their ability to continue expanding and drawing down public funding away from public schools without any oversight. It works for them. They claim Zimmerman wants to hamstring their growth. But in fact he is calling for responsible oversight of public-funded institutions.