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Board Restores 10 Days, Rejects Charter Proposal

Hillel Aron | November 14, 2012

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Deasy’s chart showing the effects of Prop 30’s passage

Inside the meeting room at Tuesday’s LAUSD school board meeting, four television camera crews were present to watch the board vote unanimously to rescind 10 furlough days (five of which are instructional), thanks to the passage of Proposition 30. The board also voted to adopt a “Good Food Purchasing Policy.”

But the healthy food vote and the restoration of days were only a small part of the Board meeting, which went on for several hours and was dominated by matters related to charter schools.

Outside the meeting, there were so many charter activists (over a thousand, according to the California Charter Schools Association’s Sierra Jenkins) that they had to shut down the entire block. As one observer pointed out, the charter demonstration was the kind of stunt that the teachers union used to be the only ones to pull off.

The extra days will be added to the end of the 2012-2013 school year, marking the first time since 2007-2008 that LAUSD will have a full, 180-day class schedule.

The fiscal news wasn’t all good, however.  Superintendent John Deasy warned that other dangers lie ahead — a possible Federal funding cut that would take $65 million from LAUSD next year alone, and a massive structural deficit of between $400 million and $500 million in the 2013-2014 year due to “declining enrollment, inflation and increased health and welfare costs.”

The Board also had to deal with the increasingly tight quarters at Echo Park’s Logan Street Elementary School, which has been sharing space with Gabriella Charter School for the past five years in accordance with Proposition 39 (See: More School Space, More Problems). Now, Gabriella’s charter was up for renewal. Dozens of parents, students and teachers showed up to praise Gabriella; dozens of parents, students and teachers from Logan showed up to talk about how Logan needed its campus back.

“This is like the Republicans and the Democrats,” quipped school board member Dr. Richard Vladovic, who voted with the majority to approve Gabriella’s charter. Deasy said that his staff would begin to look for a new location for Gabriella.

Last but not least was the vote on Board member Zimmer’s motion to put in place more oversight and strategic thinking around the  growth of charters schools (See: Zimmer Unveils Softer Charter Plan). The Zimmer proposal was the reason all the charter school supporters were there, and why charter advocates had been running a radio ad critical of Zimmer’s proposal (see: Charter Ad Blasts Zimmer).

By the time the motion finally came up, it was 5 PM, and most of the charter activists had left. Zimmer defended his resolution. “This is not about closing a single charter school,” he said, or “limiting a single parent’s choice.” He pointed out that the dispute between Logan and Gabriella was the perfect argument for the district controlling the growth of charter schools more deliberately.

Any suspense over whether or not the motion would pass was put to rest quickly by Dr. Vladovic, who expresses skepticism about adding “another layer of bureaucracy.”

Vladovic asked Deasy what he thought about the Zimmer proposal.

Deasy replied bluntly, “I don’t think this resolution is necessary.”

“Necessary or not,” said Zimmer, “is there anything here that you would be opposed to looking at?”

“I don’t think we should be asking for voluntary delays,” said Deasy.

Nury Martinez and Tamar Galatzan pointed out that the problem was Proposition 39, which forces the district to co-locate certain schools. Throughout the meeting, there had been a number of references to problems caused by Prop 39, over which the district and the charter schools are currently in a court battle. (Later in the day, the Board would approve a resolution by Board member Kayser to charge charter schools money for over-allocation of space. The fines will start next year.)

Surprisingly, the discussion over Zimmer’s resolution didn’t last long. “We continue to have this debate – I feel like we’re leading people on,” said Martinez. “Lets just be done with this, Mr. Zimmer.”

“I appreciate the indulgence of my colleagues,” said Zimmer, as the debate wound down. “This was an attempt to look at this in a complex way, and I’ll continue to make those attempts.”

The motion was voted down, 2-4, with Bennett Kayser joining Zimmer.  Marguerite LaMotte was out of the room when the vote was taken.  (For more, see the Daily News). It was a somewhat anticlimactic end to a long saga.

Mainstream coverage: ABC 7, the LA Times, the Daily News, and KPCC, as well as the LAUSD press release.

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