Parents at the Catskill Avenue Elementary School in Carson, a suburb of Los Angeles, are fighting to prevent a charter school from crowding into their fully utilized school. 

State law requires districts to provide free space for charters, even in schools and communities that don’t want them.

“On a sunny afternoon in early April, in the working-class Los Angeles suburb of Carson, well over a hundred students, parents, teachers and community members gathered with a mission: to extol the virtues of Catskill Avenue Elementary School. But it wasn’t entirely a feel-good gathering. They were sounding an alarm that the Catskill campus was slated to share its space with GANAS Academy Charter School in the fall of 2019.

“Days after the rally, teachers and parents, backed by the United Teachers Los Angeles union, petitioned the Carson City Council to keep GANAS out of Catskill. Last Friday the council voted 3-0, with the mayor and one member absent, to support Catskill. The council’s resolution, which is symbolic and non-binding, will be sent to representatives of the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), which had approved GANAS’ charter.

“The founder and CEO of GANAS Academy, Sakshi Jain, has until Wednesday, May 1, to decide whether to accept the LAUSD offer to co-locate at Catskill. A LAUSD spokesperson said, in an email, that final offers of co-location sites are legally binding, suggesting the district would not offer GANAS another site if Catskill is rejected.

“Critics say GANAS is an example of the problems of charter schools in California: lack of oversight and transparency, and the tendency for districts and the state to greenlight charter schools whether or not there’s a clear need for them. In effect they say GANAS is a solution in search of a problem. And in search of a community. Before Carson’s Catskill Elementary was chosen, GANAS had plans to locate in nearby Wilmington, and used Wilmington’s demographic data in its petition to LAUSD.

“Phylis Hoffman, who teaches second grade at Harry Bridges Span School in Wilmington, called into question why Jain picked Wilmington for her school.

“The [GANAS] petition didn’t say where in Wilmington the school would be located, and the academic mission statement seemed very boilerplate and vague. And Jain has no California teaching credential. She appears to be a carpetbagger….”

”Elizabeth Untalan, who teaches fifth grade at Catskill, said that every room in the school is being used, including three computer labs, a counseling room, a science lab and a parent center. However, California’s Proposition 39, passed by voters in 2000, requires school districts to offer equitable and adequate unused public space to area charter schools. The key word is “unused,” and if a space is empty for part of the day, it is potentially eligible for a charter school to take it over.”

If the charter decides to move into the school, it will lose its computer labs, its counseling room, its science lab, and its parent center.

Someone, please remind me why stuffing a charter into a public school is a good idea.