The board of the L.A. Unified School District moved today to tighten control of “founding parent” preferences in charter school lotteries, following an L.A. Weekly report on the issue.

The report found that two L.A. charter schools were awarding parents “founder” status, even after the schools were founded, in exchange for pledges to volunteer. The designation gave those parents a leg up in the schools' admissions lotteries, creating an unequal playing field for applicants.

In response to the story, Board Member Bennett Kayser urged his colleagues to crack down on the practice. Kayser authored a motion, which the board approved today, to limit “founding parent” status to the first year of a charter school's operations.

Charter schools are required to hold public lotteries if they receive more applications than they have seats. The lotteries are random, but schools are allowed to give a handful of “preferences,” including to siblings of current students, children of staff members and children of founders. The “founding parent” preference is intended to ensure that parents who start a new charter school will be able to send their children there.

But the term has never been clearly defined, which allowed Los Feliz Charter School for the Arts and Larchmont Charter to offer enrollment priority to new “founders.” Both schools have since abandoned the practice. Larchmont dropped its policy in August, and Los Feliz scrapped it after the Weekly story was published in October.

Kayser asked the district's Charter School Division to establish a policy on “founding parents,” as well as a mechanism to enforce it. At today's meeting, a representative of the California Charter Schools Association spoke in favor of the motion.

The school board — which includes both charter advocates and charter skeptics — passed the motion unanimously. The Charter School Division was expected to bring back a report within 60 days.

LA Weekly