Archives for category: Los Angeles

Parents in South Los Angeles are angry that their schools have been forced to share their space with a charter school. This practice, called co-location, creates tension and rivalry. Robin Urevich of Capital & Main tells the story:

In the Los Angeles Unified School District, some 50 public schools share their campuses with charter schools. It is often a contentious relationship. But now parents and teachers at Baldwin Hills and Trinity elementary schools in South Los Angeles, asserting that such arrangements jeopardize their children’s education, are demanding the Los Angeles Unified School District board end them for the 2022-23 school year. Baldwin Hills Elementary shares its campus with New Los Angeles Charter Elementary School, while Gabriella Charter School 2 is located at Trinity Elementary.

Students at Baldwin Hills take violin lessons on the playground during recess because there is no other space, said Jacquelyn Walker, Baldwin Hills’ community school coordinator. A program that offers fresh produce and clothing to kids and families who need them was forced to move to a nearby school for the same reason, Walker said. Private rooms are sometimes unavailable for counseling kids and families in crisis.



“We lost our computer lab,” said the Rev. AmberMarie Irving, DD, whose son is a second grader at the school. “If that happened at a majority Caucasian school, all hell would break loose,” Irving said.

“We’ve worked tirelessly to find a permanent home that is not on an LAUSD campus,” said Brooke Rios, executive director of New LA Charter School, which has about 198 students on Baldwin’s campus, according to Rios. “We’re aware of the tension,” she said.

Designated a 2020 California Distinguished School, Baldwin Hills is one of just three elementary schools in the district with a majority African American student body that includes a magnet school for gifted students. The school emphasizes science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics. It boasts robotics, engineering, yoga and chess classes, and higher than average test scores. But teacher Marie Germaine said the district has undermined the school’s efforts with the space sharing arrangement. “They want us to accept our own suffering and our own demise. We refuse to accept it.”

Germaine, Walker and Irving were among parents and educators from Baldwin and Trinity who demanded the district get charter schools off their campuses when they addressed the school board on Nov. 1, the deadline for charter schools to request space on district campuses for the upcoming school year. Baldwin and Trinity are both among some 34 LAUSD community schools that are designed to be neighborhood hubs, offering services to children and families after traditional school hours. United Teachers Los Angeles treasurer Alex Orozco said that in 2019, the district agreed to avoid co-locating charter schools on such campuses, but hasn’t done so.

Trinity Elementary is at the other end of the achievement spectrum; it is struggling as one of 100 schools that LAUSD Superintendent Alberto Carvalho has targeted for improvement, said teacher Tanya Flores. However, Flores said it is hard to improve when kids do not have adequate space for learning. A fifth grade class meets in the auditorium and a section of the school library serves as a makeshift second grade classroom, she said.

Parent Yuvicela Ruiz said when her fifth grade son’s special education class was moved to another school because of lack of space at Trinity, “it hurt him academically and emotionally. It showed that my son’s education is not valued by the district,” she said.

*   *   *

Relationships between charters and the traditional schools with which they share space have long been fractious. Sharon Delugach, chief of staff to school board member Jackie Goldberg, said sharing campuses can be “like having a really horrible roommate.” Delugach said few co-locations are successful. “There are places where they’ve managed to have a civil relationship, but there’s rarely a positive one.”

This just in:

FOR PLANNING PURPOSES
ADVISORY FOR THURSDAY, APRIL 28   

On-site Contact
Rosalina Cardenas 

C: 213-280-1144

E: rosalina@cardenasgroup.net


Follow Up ContactGlenn Goldstein

Organization & Field Services, AFT
C: 510-735-4815
E: ggoldste@aft.org

Charter educators to strike on Thursday, April 28, as management continues to deny right to unionize

Educators demand Alliance College-Ready Public Schools begin negotiations on the educators’ first contract after three years and multiple PERB violations

Educators at four Alliance College-Ready charter schools will be going on a one-day Unfair Labor Practice strike on Thursday, April 28, in response to the Alliance Board of Directors continued refusal to negotiate the educators’ first contract after multiple orders by the Public Employment Relations Board to bargain.

WHAT: One-day Unfair Labor Practice strike

WHEN & WHERE: Thursday, April 28, 2022

· MAIN EVENT (rally with speakers, followed by march) — 11:30 a.m.
2301 S Union Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90007 (MAP)

· Picketing starts at 7:15 a.m. Main picket location is Gertz-Merkin 6-12.
2023 S Union Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90007

WHO: Teachers, counselors, and education professionals from Alliance College-Ready charter schools, and rally speakers (below).

· Emcees: Brittany Cliffe and Erin Belefski (UTLA Alliance educators)

· Jamie Garcia, UTLA Alliance educator from Burton Tech High School

· Jackie Goldberg, LAUSD School Board Member District 5

· Gloria Santos & Manuela Chaidez, parents of Alliance students

· Ron Herrera, President of the LA County Federation of Labor

· Jeff Freitas, President of California Federation of Teachers

· Cecily Myart-Cruz, President of UTLA

VISUALS: Strike picket signs, banners, educators leafleting the community, rally, speakers, DJ, march after rally to school for afternoon picket.

A supermajority of educators at the four Alliance charter schools (Alliance Burton Tech, Alliance Gertz-Merkin, Alliance Leichtman Levine Family Foundation ESAT, and Alliance Morgan McKinzie High School) voted to unionize over three years ago with United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA). Since that time educators have gone on multiple occasions to the Alliance Board of Directors to get the board to begin negotiations, but they have refused to bargain.

On February 28, 2022, the California Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) announced that Alliance College-Ready Public Schools is in violation of the Educational Employment Relations Act (EERA) for refusing to bargain with educators and once again ordered Alliance to negotiate.

However, the schools’ leadership have yet to meet with the educators to negotiate for their contract. 

Teachers, counselors, psychologists, and parents at the schools are coming together to ensure the highest quality of education at Alliance. Educators love their schools and students, and they believe that — through the collective voice that union membership and the bargaining process provides —  they can advocate for small class sizes, teacher and counselor recruitment and retention, health and safety, and a commitment to social, emotional, and educational support for students that will help build the schools Alliance students need and deserve.

###

 

About Alliance Educators United

 

Alliance Educators United is a movement of dedicated and passionate teachers, counselors, and education professionals in the Alliance College-Ready Public Schools committed to fulfilling the mission and vision of a college-ready education for all Alliance students. We are forming a union with United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) to have a collective and effective voice in the decision-making processes at our Alliance schools.

 

About UTLA

 

United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) is 35,000 educators in Los Angeles dedicated to quality public education

Los Angeles public schools have the most ambitious COVID testing practices in the nation. “The district operates the most ambitious school coronavirus testing program in the nation, with more than 500,000 mandatory tests administered every week for all students and staff.” Even so, the Los Angeles Times reported, one-third of all students stayed home.

Glenn Sacks, a social studies teacher in the Los Angeles Unified School District, explains the COVID protocols that have enabled the district to keep its schools open safely.

He writes:

At Los Angeles Unified, everybody gets tested every week, and anyone who doesn’t have a negative test result can’t come to school. We’ve proven this can be implemented and made routine with only a modest amount of disruption.

Los Angeles Unified’s James Monroe High School, where I teach, is typical. Every Thursday a COVID testing team sets up in our multipurpose room. All students are tested – one week all the English teachers take their classes, next week the math teachers, etc.

The testing was rocky at first and some teachers, myself included, complained about the wasted time. Yet within a few weeks it was running efficiently, and testing now usually takes only 10 to 15 minutes.

All teachers and support staff are also tested. Everybody gets their test results back in 24 to 48 hours, delivered via email and also on our “Daily Pass” phone app.

Each morning all students and staff must generate a Daily Pass, which certifies that they have a current, negative test result and are thus eligible to enter campus. The students line up and present their Daily Pass’ QR code to the administrators and support staff for scanning, and the lines move quickly.

When there is a positive test result, administrators are notified, and the student isolates. There is contact tracing – all teachers have submitted their classroom seating charts to the administration, so when there is a positive test result, administrators can quickly identify the students most likely to be exposed.

Masks are readily available for students and staff, as is hand sanitizer. We have proper ventilation and filters, and each school site has a COVID Task Force in which both union representatives and administrators participate.

Sacks hopes that the finger-pointing and blaming will end. There is a safe way to reopen schools.

Teresa Watanabe wrote a wonderful story about kids in a public school in Los Angeles who are college-bound, despite their demographic profiles. They don’t have college-educated parents or SAT tutors. What they do have is a school—the DowntownMagnets High School— where the professionals are dedicated to their success. Read about this school and ask yourself why Bill Gates is not trying to replicate it? Why is it not a model for Michael Bloomberg or Reed Hastings or the Waltons? Why do the billionaires insist, as Bloomberg said recently, that public education is “broken”? Despite their investing hundreds of millions to destroy public schools like the one in this story, they are still performing miracles every day.

They represent the new generation of students reshaping the face of higher education in California: young people with lower family incomes, less parental education and far more racial and ethnic diversity than college applicants of the past. And Downtown Magnets, a small and highly diverse campus of 911 students just north of the Los Angeles Civic Center, is in the vanguard of the change.

Last year, 97% of the school’s seniors were accepted to college, and most enrolled. Among them, 71% of those who applied to a UC campus were admitted, including 19 of the 56 applicants to UC Berkeley — a higher admission rate than at elite Los Angeles private schools such as Harvard-Westlake and Marlborough.

This month, the Downtown Magnets applicants include Nick Saballos, whose Nicaraguan father never finished high school and works for minimum wage as a parking valet but is proud of his son’s passion for astrophysics.

There’s Emily Cruz, who had a rough time focusing on school while being expected to help her Guatemalan immigrant mother with household duties. Emily is determined to become a lawyer or a philosopher.

Kenji Horigome emigrated to Los Angeles from Japan in fourth grade speaking no English, with a single mother who works as a Koreatown restaurant server. Kenji has become a top student and may join the military, in part for the financial aid the GI Bill would provide.

“The main thing my kids lack is a sense of entitlement,” said Lynda McGee, the school’s longtime college counselor. “That’s my biggest enemy: the fact that my students are humble and think they don’t deserve what they actually deserve. It’s more of a mental problem than an academic one.”

What the students do have is a close-knit school community, passionate educators and parents willing to take the extra step to send them to a magnet school located, for many, outside their neighborhoods.

Principal Sarah Usmani leads a staff mindful of creating a campus environment both nurturing and academically rigorous; she has scrounged for money for a psychiatric social worker to help with mental health problems, an attendance counselor to stay on top of absences, an intervention counselor to monitor whether grades drop and an additional academic counselor.

And the students have McGee, who since 2000 has helped shepherd thousands to higher education.

On a recent morning, students lined up to see her in the campus College Center, an inviting space with comfortable sofas, a bank of computers, colorful pennants and stuffed toy mascots from dozens of colleges.

Never mind that it was Thanksgiving break. UC and Cal State application deadlines were just a week away, and McGee’s students needed her.
Ms. McGee, I need a fee waiver! I’m not sure about a major. How do I figure out my weighted GPA?

“I can say no to evening, weekend and holiday work, but that means someone won’t go to college,” McGee said. “There are too many kids, good kids who will take themselves out of the process, and they’ll go to a community college with a 3.9. I can’t carry that guilt.”

McGee keeps close tabs on as many students as she can, often suggesting they consider options other than “the religion of the UC,” as she says many parents, particularly Asian Americans, regard the renowned public research university system.

It’s all about fit, she tells them. If you like personal relationships with faculty, consider smaller private colleges. Think about leaving California to stretch yourself. She gently nudges students with low GPAs away from pinning their hopes on hypercompetitive UCLA and Berkeley and suggests well-regarded but more attainable alternatives: Cal State Dominguez Hills, Woodbury University, Mount St. Mary’s College, Dixie State University.

But she also needs to make sure her top students are aiming high enough.

The day before UC’s Dec. 1 deadline, McGee called Nick into the College Center to check in. The soft-spoken senior and his family live on an annual income of $30,000; at one point, when his father lost his job and the family faced eviction, they had to turn to relatives for help. His parents instilled in him an ethic to never waste — not money, not food, not college opportunities.


At Downtown Magnets, Nick entered the International Baccalaureate program, staying the challenging course when his friends dropped out. He tackled his weakest subject, English, by poring over Harvard professor Matthew Desmond’s exploration of evictions and poverty, to master academic language, text analysis and oral expository skills.

Physics is where Nick soars. His face lights up as he describes his hunger to unravel the mysteries of the universe: why it expands and whether it will stop; how stars become black holes.

Nick has earned a 4.47 GPA, making him the school’s fifth-ranked senior. He didn’t realize that until McGee called him in to tell him.

“You are in the top five, and this is a very competitive senior class,” she said. “If you want to apply to the Ivy Leagues, go for it! Know your worth, and give yourself the opportunities.”

Ivy League schools offer large financial aid packages that can make them cheaper than UC for low-income students, a point McGee amplifies by handing out lists of schools that meet full financial need without loans.
Nick had applied to UCLA, UC Berkeley, UC Irvine and UC San Diego, along with Stanford. But McGee’s encouragement expanded his thinking beyond top California colleges to the Ivy League.

“I didn’t think I could apply to the Ivy Leagues,” he said. “I didn’t have that much confidence. Hearing from Ms. McGee that I can, I’m going to try.”

The story goes on to offer many other stories of students who came from homes where money was scarce. At Downtown Magnets High, they learned to believe in themselves, and they had the support and guidance to make good choices.

Don’t write off public schools. They have been the gateway to opportunity for millions of students, and they still are.

Someone please send this story to Bill Gates, Michael Bloomberg, the Waltons, Reed Hastings, John Arnold, Laurene Powell Jobs, and all the other billionaires who waste their money on charter schools, instead of paying attention to successful public schools like Downtown Magnet.

Jack Ross of California-based Capital & Main posed the question: Will Alberto Carvalho, who was recently hired away from Miami-Dade public schools to become the new superintendent of the Los Angeles public schools, expand the number of charter schools in L.A.?

At Carvalho’s first press conference, the first question to him was about where he stood on charter schools. This issue has prompted billionaires like the late Eli Broad, Michael Bloomberg, and Reed Hastings of Netflix to pour millions into school board races. The current board has a 4-3 pro-charter majority.

Ross wrote:

So where does Carvalho stand? During his 13 year tenure in the Sunshine State, the number of charter schools in the south Florida district rose from 65 to 145 (while more than 30 charter schools also closed). More campuses were converted into magnet programs offering specialized education in subjects like robotics, computer science or performing arts: In 2010, around 41,000 Miami students attended magnets, and by 2019 that number had risen to more than 72,000. The Miami magnets, however, are operated by the school district and not by private owners. “I have always been a proponent, and dramatically expanded, publicly offered, accountable choice in Miami-Dade public schools,” Carvalho said at his press conference, referring to his investment in public magnet schools. “In Florida, charter schools are enabled by Florida statute, and school boards, by and large, do not have great latitude in the approval of charter programs.”

Carvalho liked the story so much that he tweeted it with a comment:


Alberto M. Carvalho@MiamiSup
Publicly accountable choice, under the leadership of representative boards, that serve all children, regardless of their diverse abilities, not profits, is a model that has worked well. Will L.A.’s New Superintendent Expand Charter Schools? @capitalandmain

Right below Carvalho’s tweet was a response from Carol Burris, executive director of the Network for Public Education.

Opposed to for-profit @miamiSup? Why did largest for- profit Academica more than double # of schools in your district?

Academica is a huge for-profit chain based in Florida that is unusually avaricious and highly political.

The board of the Los Angeles Unified School District has hired Alberto Carvalho, superintendent of the schools in Miami-Dade, too PPP become superintendent of the Los Angeles. Carvalho has served in Miami as superintendent since 2008. Mayor Bill de Blasio tried to hire him in New York City in 2018, but Carvalho backed out after the appointment was announced.

Alberto Carvalho, who has led Miami-Dade County Public Schools since 2008 and is among the nation’s most experienced and admired school district leaders, has been named the next superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District, district officials announced Thursday.

The Board of Education made the announcement after a special, closed meeting. In recent weeks board members have interviewed and deliberated over candidates in a series of closed sessions.

In coming to L.A. Unified, Carvalho, 57, moves from heading the fourth-largest K-12 public school system in the country to the second-largest, taking on one of the highest-profile and most challenging posts in public education…

Born in Portugal, he came to the U.S. at age 17. Carvalho learned English as a young adult and quickly worked his way up from construction and restaurant jobs as he attended Broward Community College. He later won a scholarship to Barry University and enrolled on a premed track. He excelled academically, but took a hard turn in his career path when, in his mid-20s, he interviewed for a teaching position at Miami Jackson Senior High. He was offered a job the same day, a Tampa Bay Times profile reported in 2019.

After four years in the classroom — teaching physics, chemistry and calculus — he became an assistant principal. The superintendent at the time was so impressed that he brought Carvalho to work downtown without his having been a principal. Carvalho oversaw federal programs and later became the district’s chief communications officer. He gained further experience by overseeing grant administration and lobbying state officials.

Under Supt. Rudy Crew, Carvalho launched several initiatives, including a Parent Academy and a School Improvement Zone, focusing on schools with low academic achievement.

After becoming superintendent, Carvalho eventually filled a gap in his resume, serving as a principal. He put himself at the helm of a new campus called iPrep Academy, a pre-kindergarten-to-12th-grade magnet school “designed to promote respect and responsibility among the students and staff,” according to its website. All students are required to take honors classes.

While some parents are disrupting school board meetings to protest mask and vaccine mandates, a parent group in Los Angeles thanked the school board for mandating COVID vaccinations to protect students, teachers, staff, and families from a deadly disease.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 9, 2021


CONTACT: Jenna Schwartz, Co-Founder, 310.994.9764 (c); PSTLAUSD@gmail.com Nicolle Fefferman, Co-Founder, 323.376.6513 (c)
Parents Supporting Teachers Supports Vaccine Mandate for LAUSD Students

Parents Supporting Teachers (PST), the largest parent advocacy group supporting Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) teachers and families, announces its support for the district’s recent approval for a COVID-19 vaccination requirement for eligible students. The vaccine requirement goes one step further to ensure the health and safety of teachers, staff, and students.
“We have been waiting for this and fully support the requirement that all students in LAUSD get vaccinated once they are eligible. With positive cases being reported weekly, the single best Covid mitigation measure is to ensure everyone in the community is vaccinated, both inside and outside of schools,” said Jenna Schwartz co-founder. California law already requires all students in both public and private schools to have certain immunizations, the Covid vaccination would be one more added to the list. It is imperative that in conjunction with this mandate, the district commits to educating and informing reluctant families about the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine.

“I am thankful to our Board members for taking the necessary steps to protect teachers, families, and students. The district prides itself on having the safest safety protocols and mitigation measures among all school districts nationwide, including requiring that all teachers be vaccinated by October 15th. Requiring vaccines for students was an appropriate next step and one more added layer of protection we haven’t had yet this year.” said co-founder Nicolle Fefferman.

“At this point there is no denying that being vaccinated is the best defense against Covid-19. While some vaccinated people can still get infected, evidence shows that the vaccines are effective in reducing transmission and preventing severe illness and death. Not only that, but we do have students and staff unable to get the vaccine because of underlying health conditions. This policy helps protect these students and staff by building the community’s immunity to Covid. We hope families will feel safer about sending their children to school,” Fefferman added.

Parents Supporting Teachers also opposes the upcoming California governor recall election. Republican candidates have vowed to rescind mask and vaccine mandates for schools, and if successful would allow Covid 19 to spread throughout schools and our communities, putting the health and safety of all teachers, students, and families at risk.

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About Parents Supporting Teachers: Parents Supporting Teachers is a parent education advocacy group in Los Angeles with over 25,000 followers and is the only organically created group of this size exclusively dedicated to parent communication and education support in the entire LAUSD. Visit http://www.parentssupportingteachers.org to learn more and support our shared vision for equitable and inclusive LAUSD schools.

The board of the Los Angeles Unified School District will vote Tuesday on a funding scheme promoted by conservatives and neoliberals. Its promoters call it “student-centered funding,” but that’s a euphemism for the “backpack full of cash” idea, which encourages school choice. Critics of SCF say it introduces free-market principles into school funding and will benefit charter schools while harming public schools.

Jack Ross of the California-based journal “Capitol & Main” writes about the debate over student-centered funding.

Even though it is flush with cash from several federal relief packages, the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) wants to switch funding models next year, instituting a controversial structure called Student Centered Funding (SCF) that ties a school’s funding to its student enrollment. Under SCF, schools are awarded a base rate for each child and receive additional funds if the student is considered needier — if they are learning English, for instance, or if they’re in foster care or qualify for free lunch.

If the student leaves the school, the funding goes with them as if they carried a “backpack full of cash.” This could pit schools against each other in a competition for students and the dollars they guarantee, critics say. The funding switch has its origins with Betsy DeVos, Donald Trump’s secretary of education, who instituted grants for school districts to explore Student Centered Funding. Los Angeles received one last year

LAUSD board member Jackie Goldberg says Student Centered Funding will fuel downward enrollment spirals that will shutter underfunded schools in poor neighborhoods. The more students leave, the less money a school has, and parents and children begin jumping ship at an increasing rate. Proponents of the model say SCF gives schools more flexibility to spend their money on what they need rather than locking them into certain programs designed by remote authorities, like the school board or the state or federal government.

Goldberg disagrees. “[SCF] says districts don’t need to spend the money, individual schools do, by trying to assemble the right combination of kids with the right combination of money,” she says. “A child that’s learning [English as] a second language and has a disability, you might get a lot of money for that student. What do you do if you’re a principal? You start recruiting those students — because they bring their money with them.”

LAUSD insists Student Centered Funding furthers equity by placing schools in better control of how they use their money, and by more directly targeting money at the neediest students. “It really is that iterative process of contending with, what do we do now to better serve our students?” Deputy Superintendent Pedro Salcido told the board. “Student Centered Funding really is that next iteration: How do we deepen the work, how do we deepen progress in our schools?”

In LAUSD’s own calculations of how SCF would affect its school budgets under a “fully loaded” funding formula, 348 schools were found to lose money under SCF, while 367 schools would gain

Sorting the data by percentage of students qualifying for free or reduced lunch reveals further inequities. Ann Street Elementary in Downtown Los Angeles, which tops the list with 100% of its students receiving free or reduced lunch, will lose $3,197 per student and $268,568 in total. It’s not alone: Of the schools with 95% to 100% of students qualifying for free lunch, 29 will lose money under Student Centered Funding, the district found. Between the 85th and 94th percentiles, 141 schools face cuts.

Under a similar student-centered funding policy (lower-cased when we refer to the broader policy; capitalized when we refer to the LAUSD model), Chicago public schools went from 460 librarians in 2012 to 123 in 2020, according to the Chicago Teachers Union. More research on the implementation of student-centered funding in Chicago found teachers felt pressured to take on extra classes because of tightening budgets, while some teachers were just laid off.

“As we lose students, we have less and less resources for the things we need,” one participant says. “The librarian got pulled from being a librarian to be a special education teacher because it was cheaper and because she was certified in that area. So, staff don’t teach what they love, and arts education has to be sacrificed because they are deemed as less important….”

Jill Wynn saw student-centered funding up close. The former San Francisco school board member says the system can flourish — as long as it includes strong protections for low-enrollment schools.

A self-proclaimed charter skeptic, Wynn is a “big fan” of student-centered funding models, which she believes can guarantee extra funding for schools with the neediest children while freeing them from restrictive requirements on how that money must be spent.

But the system works only if it sets in place rules the schools must follow with their money, she explains. When it switched to its own student-centered funding model, the San Francisco School Board mandated that all schools had to use their allotted funds for library services and some music and arts programs, and schools were guaranteed a minimum amount of funding to protect small schools from closure.

What advice would she give to LAUSD if it adopts the model? “Put the guardrails in and make them high,” she says

A 4-3 pro-charter majority on the school board means opposition to SCF is, for now, probably futile. But with a year until implementation of the new model, and an outraged and organized teachers’ union, the fight over Student Centered Funding is likely just beginning.

Some members of the Los Angeles school board are proposing a stealth voucher plan. Unsurprisingly, the United Teachers of Los Angeles opposes the plan.

DeVos-funded consultant pushes internal voucher scheme in LAUSD

This fall UTLA members will be building a vision for how to use the historic infusion of funding to transform education for our students. The privatizers have their own game plan to drive more public dollars to charter operators, and it involves an internal voucher-like scheme connected to Betsy DeVos. Under Trump, Devos’s office funded a grant for an outside consultant to push a competition-based system called Student-Centered Funding in LAUSD.

Basically, funding would move with each student instead of being allocated centrally for staff and programs. It sounds like a good idea when you first hear about it — but in cities like Chicago and Denver, these formulas have led to racially disparate negative consequences, including the loss of libraries and the arts, school closures, and the undermining of school stability, particularly in Black and Brown communities.

The funding scheme was sold in Chicago as a way to achieve greater equity for Black and Brown students, but it’s done the opposite.
Former student Styles Avant-Pinkston lived through a similar scheme — called student-based budgeting in Chicago — that led to under-resourced schools being starved of support and then often shut down. Avant-Pinkston was forced to travel across town to attend a school outside of his neighborhood.


“I shouldn’t have to take a 50-minute bus ride — I should just be able to walk to a good school,” Avant-Pinkston says. “These funding schemes are an attack on kids of color and minority communities. You never hear about schools in wealthy neighborhoods shutting down — they invest in those schools. Schools can be turned around if they see value in doing that — some people just don’t see the value in communities of color. The message is clear: Student-based funding schemes shut down neighborhood schools.”

The LAUSD School Board has yet to vote on the internal voucher scheme, but a decision could come as early as this month. With a highly paid consultant leading the way, the district has fast-tracked the plan, and families and educators have been left out of the discussions and development. Even some Board members have been given little information about this monumental shift in funding.

This internal voucher scheme has destabilized community schools wherever it’s been tried and has not proven to improve student outcomes. If implemented the negative effects would be:

Marketing Over Student Needs: Students would be turned into “backpacks full of cash” and schools forced to compete for market share. With every year a hustle to protect enrollment, school principals would have to prioritize marketing over student needs.

Downward Spiral: Schools that are already struggling with inadequate resources and that serve under-resourced communities would be hit hardest. Every time a student leaves, the school would have even fewer resources to support the students who remain, triggering cuts to staff and essential programs and pushing out other families.

School Closures: Drops in enrollment lead to the closure of neighborhood schools and the destabilization of communities, particularly in Black and Brown neighborhoods. LAUSD has already been targeting small schools like Trinity Elementary in South LA for permanent closure, citing dropping enrollment figures. Closed schools are then handed over to a chapter operator. That trend will accelerate under this internal voucher scheme

Veteran Educators Pushed Aside: The scheme creates incentives to hire lower-salary educators and other staff. That’s what happened in Chicago, where principals are prioritizing hiring less expensive inexperienced teachers over the overwhelmingly Black veteran teaching staff.

Privatization on steroids: LAUSD has told the Department of Education that they plan to allow dollars to follow students to independent charter operators, a further threat to neighborhood schools and the stability of the public school system. The operational funding shift also lays the groundwork for money to eventually follow students to private or religious schools. This is why market reformers from both political parties — from Arne Duncan and Betsy DeVos to ALEC — support the formula: It is an important step down the road to achieving their longtime goal of dismantling our nation’s historic commitment to public education and freeing those dollars for the private sector.

Robert Skeels was a public education advocate in Los Angeles who decided to become a lawyer to fight the powerful corporate charter industry. After receiving his BA in classical civilizations at UCLA, Skeels spent years as an activist, inspired by Paulo Freire, then earned his law degree in 2018. This is the only instance to my knowledge where a charter critic decided that he had to get a law degree to fight the charter industry.

As a part-time associate at a law firm in Los Angeles, he has won two cases against the powerful and well-funded charter industry.

He wrote in Medium:

My first win against a corporate charter school was a year ago as third chair in a suit to overturn a wrongful expulsion of a student of color. The Partnerships to Uplift Communities (“PUC”) charter chain (of convicted felon Ref Rodriguez fame) violated that student’s due process rights. Violated isn’t a strong enough word for what they did. PUC unilaterally changed the charges at the appeals hearing and branded the child as a terrorist in his permanent record. Under the tutelage of the brilliant partners at the law firm I was a part-timer at the time (I am currently transitioning to full time there), plus sage advice from @DrPrestonGreen, we built a strong case.

Skeels’ second victory came just days ago, when he defended the blogger known as Michael Kohlhaas in his pursuit of the records of a charter chain. Kohlhaas exposes the dirty secrets of government, businesses, and other powerful forces in Los Angeles. In one of his important exposes, he revealed that Nick Melvoin, who represents the charter industry on the Los Angeles school board, had shared the board’s legal strategies with the California Charter Schools Association while in litigation with them.

Skeels writes:

This latest case was a charter trying to hide all its dirty secrets by not complying with the CPRA [the open records law]. The scandal-ridden The Accelerated Schools (“TAS”) charter chain’s leaders absconded when the community started pushing back and started asking questions about union busting.

Michael Kohlhaas dot org sent sent TAS several CPRA requests in 2018, which they ignored (unlawfully). A year later, I filed the petition for writ of mandate for them. Some ten months later TAS sent some records, but claimed “blanket exemptions” on a bunch of other ones.

An infamous law firm that only represents lucrative, privately managed charter school corporations staked out the position that any communications with the charter school industry’s trade association — the CCSA — was subject to a range of exemptions under the CPRA.

I suppose I can’t blame them. The charter industry — long used to unaccountably spending tax dollars in total secrecy — fought tooth and nail the imposition of the CPRA and Brown Act added by Ed. Code § 47604.1(b)(2)(A). When the law took effect January 2020, charter school corporations were already looking for ways to skirt the law. At the firm I’m a junior associate at, we use the CPRA for pre-discovery work against charter corporations. Michael Kohlhaas dot org, on the other hand, has used it to expose some of the ugliest, scandalous conduct by an industry already infamous for scandal. Uncovering the vile Nick Melvoin’s sharing Los Angeles Unified School District’s (“LAUSD”) confidential legal strategies with their party-opponent in a lawsuit (the CCSA) was a blockbuster revelation enabled by the CPRA.

The judge in the case ruled that the charter chain was not entitled to the blanket exemption from disclosure for its records.

Skeels wrote: “Let the corporate charter school industry know that they aren’t going to be able to hide their dark secrets anymore.”