By Besha Rodell
By Patrick Range McDonald
By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
Although charter schools technically qualify as public schools, their test results are not factored into district scores. If L.A. Unified’s schools show a lack of improvement, they could lose the federal funds that are earmarked for low-income children, according to the terms of President George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind Act. To put it another way, every time a high-achieving child transfers from an L.A. Unified campus to an independent charter school, the campus that is left behind becomes even more financially vulnerable.
Villaraigosa pulled off an amazing hat trick by bringing together a coalition that combined Green Dot parents with United Teachers Los Angeles, the powerful union that has grown increasingly anxious over the rise in influence of the city’s charter schools — a byproduct of Villaraigosa’s yearlong education campaign. UTLA president A.J. Duffy argued that Green Dot, unlike L.A. Unified, has the luxury of weeding out children who have learning problems or uninterested parents.
“If 100 kids apply, they take 40 or so in, so they get to screen the best,” he said. “That could mean the smartest. That could be the families with two parents. They could be the middle-class parents who are going to put more time and effort into their kids’ time and education.”
Villaraigosa promoted the charters by scheduling many of his appearances at their campuses. Green Dot, in turn, aired television commercials featuring Villaraigosa delivering a passionate stump speech to a crowd of cheering charter-school students. Many of the parents sent up to Sacramento to support the mayor’s bill wore the blue T-shirts of the Los Angeles Parents Union, a group whose members come primarily from Green Dot.
“[The charters] have seized upon the moment and are riding this horse as long and as far as this horse will carry them,” Duffy said. “They’ve gotten the imagination of people, and it’s difficult to stop the train. That’s why I think we need a moratorium.”
How Villaraigosa will reconcile the two camps — charter-school advocates on the one side, skeptical teachers on the other — is unclear. Either way, Schwarzenegger did little more than echo the mayor’s mixed message, homecoming be damned. The governor touted Villaraigosa’s bill as one that would “clone” all the things that L.A. Unified does right. And then he derided that same district as one that chokes the life out of even its most heady successes.
“We all know that there are many great, great schools here in the Los Angeles Unified School District,” Schwarzenegger told the audience gathered at the library. “There are many great teachers, great students and everything. But the system has failed all of them.”
The governor knows the score: It’s much easier to keep trashing the district when you don’t run the place.
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