In Partnership with 74

$18 million OKd for charter classrooms housed at district schools

Mike Szymanski | May 13, 2016

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SchoolBoardLA Unified’s school board this week approved spending $18 million on more than 900 classrooms and office spaces for 25,000 charter school students using classrooms that are co-located on 94 traditional district school sites.

The money is coming from Prop. 39 funds. Prop. 39, passed by California voters in 2000, allows charter schools to use under-utilized classroom space on district property. The funds approved at Tuesday’s board meeting will be used to upgrade technology and safety systems, change key locks, make repairs and find furniture for the classrooms.

School board President Steve Zimmer wanted to point out that despite criticism toward the board, they do take care of charter schools, and he said he wanted to find incentives for the host schools too.

“I do want to acknowledge that despite lawsuits to the contrary and other different kinds of messaging, we do want to make sure our charter partners are accommodated and children and families who choose charter schools have seats and facilities and the necessary adjustments,” Zimmer said. “This is proof positive that that happens.”

He added, “The law works best as it can to make sure that all children are served.”

Sarah Angel, managing regional director of the California Charter Schools Association, which sued the district for not following Prop. 39 properly, spoke at Tuesday’s school board meeting. She also said afterward that taking the money from the bond funds further diminishes what could be used for new charter schools. The school board approved the bond money so it wouldn’t have to come from the general funds.

Some of the money is going to repairs of existing charter rooms in the schools: 771 classrooms, 78 offices and 59 for special education. Then there are 349 new charter classrooms that have to be reconfigured at existing school sites, along with 41 new charter school offices and 53 new special education rooms.

Some of the biggest jobs include $1 million for Amino Ellen Ochoa Charter Middle School at Stevenson Middle School for 17 rooms and $994,000 for Equitas Academy 3 at Hobart Boulevard Elementary School for 10 rooms. (The repairs amounts, locations and time schedule can be found in the school board materials under Tab 11.)

The smallest jobs include fixing nine rooms at Clemente Charter School on the Fishburn Avene Elementary School site for $19,900 and 10 rooms at Student Empowerment Academy at Jefferson High School for $20,100.

Zimmer told Superintendent Michelle King he wanted to have her provide incentives for the schools where the charters are co-locating. “I remain interested in initiatives that we can undertake as a board to make sure that comparable investments at these host sites will not create disparity,” Zimmer said.

“It does not need to be a precise dollar for dollar match, but I’m interested in exploring what is available for certain enhancements that would help the host schools and see if there’s some benefits for being a host,” Zimmer said. “I recognize that some principals have some stresses and burdens involved and want to make it better.”

King said host schools get a small stipend that is “not enough,” but said it does “help in the oversight and management at co-located sites and we continue to help in the relationship in the agreement and concerns raised in regard to sharing of space. We will look at other possible enhancements and provide it to the board.”

Most of the work has to take place immediately because there’s a narrow window of time to assess the needs for the charter schools to fulfill the legal mandate, according to the district’s report.

The repairs for the charter classrooms was passed unanimously.

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