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Schmerelson revises anti-Broad measure — but unanimity uncertain

Michael Janofsky | December 3, 2015

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ScottSchmerelson1Scott Schmerelson has revised his LA Unified board resolution that attacks an outside group’s plan to expand the number of charter schools in the district. A majority of the seven board members has expressed opposition to the plan.

But a shift in mission from the group — Great Public Schools Now, supported by the Broad Foundation and others — combined with the changed language in the resolution, suggests it might be more difficult for him to achieve a 7-0 vote from a board that includes several members supportive of charter schools.

The resolution will be voted on at the Dec. 8 board meeting. It is largely symbolic because state law provides school boards only a limited ability to deny legitimate charter applications.

In the resolution he introduced last month, Schmerelson called for a declaration that the school board “opposes the Broad Foundation plan.” It now says the board “stands opposed to external initiatives that seek to reduce public education to an educational marketplace and our children to market shares while not investing in District-wide programs and strategies that benefit every student.”

But officials of Great Public Schools Now say they have revised their plan to include investing in some traditional district schools, including pilots, magnets and other high-performing schools with large numbers of children receiving free and reduced-price lunch.

While those schools do not represent the entirety of LA Unified, the inclusion of them suggests that Great Public Schools Now is seeking to reduce opposition to the plan by addressing at least one major concern of the board, that the initiative would ignore children in regular district schools. 

Further, leaders of the group say they have dropped any language or reference that frames its mission in terms of “market share.”

Schmerelson says he hasn’t had a change of heart, that the revised resolution still reflects his staunch opposition to the plan. In an email to LA School Report, he said he does not consider his revision “a major shift to the original intent of my resolution,” asserting that he is “unaware of any other initiative at this time that identifies LAUSD students in terms of ‘market share.’”

He pointed to another part of the his revision, a commitment to a long list of strategies aimed at attracting and retaining students by developing “a framework for excellent public schools and improved outcomes for every student.”

The list includes such familiar issues as improving student achievement, helping young children overcome the impact of poverty, funding for the arts, assuring student safety and improving student attendance.

“As a new Board Member, I am trying to better define our responsibility to the future of LAUSD and to all our children who deserve an excellent public education despite per pupil resources that rank among the lowest in the nation,” Schmerelson said in the email, adding, “I remain opposed and incensed by all strategies that are clearly designed to privatize public education at the expense of our neediest children who rely on our neighborhood schools.”

At the very least, passage of the revised resolution would put down a marker down to Greater Public Schools Now, forcing the group to make good on its word to do more for traditional schools if the effort proceeds.

At the same time, the new language, nuanced as it may be, could make it easier for the three board members sympathetic to charters — Ref Rodriguez, Mónica García and Richard Vladovic — to vote against it without drawing condemnation from the teachers union, UTLA, which is perhaps the charter expansion group’s staunchest adversary.

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