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Charter supporters to ‘Rally in the Valley’ Saturday

Craig Clough | September 13, 2016

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Charter school supporters outside LA Unified headquarters in 2012. (Courtesy: CCSA)

Over 2,000 parents, students and supporters of charter schools are expected to attend a “Rally in the Valley” on Saturday to advocate for pro-charter policies, as well as to celebrate the 25th anniversary of charter schools coming to LA Unified. The first several charter schools to open in the district were in the San Fernando Valley, including Vaughn Next Century Learning Center in Pacoima, where the rally will begin.

The rally, which is being hosted by California Charter Schools Association Families, will include a march from Vaughn Next Century Learning Center at 9:30 a.m. to nearby Vaughn G3 (Green Global Generation) before a public program that will feature speeches from LA Unified school board member Monica Ratliff and Congressman Tony Cardenas. Board members Monica Garcia and Ref Rodriguez are also scheduled to be in attendance, as well as Assemblymember Raul Bocanegra and the four candidates running to replace Ratliff on the LA Unified board. Ratliff, who represents the East San Fernando Valley where the Vaughn schools are located, announced in June that she will be running for a seat on the Los Angeles City Council.

“Ratliff has proven herself to be a thoughtful, independent voice on the board and so results focused. She has been a model for what her community is looking for from a school board member,” said Jason Mandell, spokesperson for the California Charter Schools Association.

The rally comes after a year of increased tension between LA Unified’s charter supporters and traditional school supporters, as well as some more peaceful moves recently. In February, 23 charter operators sent a letter to the school board complaining about what they said was increased scrutiny of charter schools during the application and renewal process. Another point of conflict was an early draft of what became the Great Public Schools Now plan to fund successful school models at LA Unified. The early draft called for expanding charter schools to enroll half of all the district’s students in eight years and was met with strong opposition, including from board President Steve Zimmer, but has since been amended to include magnets, district schools and other successful models.

Since taking office in January, Superintendent Michelle King has sought to ease tensions between charters and traditional supporters. Her efforts culminated in a “Promising Practices” forum in July that brought together charter leaders and traditional school leaders to share ideas and practices. At the forum, Zimmer gave a speech that was seen by many charter leaders as a call for détente when he said both sides should “work together” to make students’ dreams come true.

Despite the forum, conflict still exists. The LA teachers union, UTLA, recently launched a media campaign that includes an anti-charter agenda and also announced a 10-point plan that includes a push to change state law to increase oversight of charters.

Aside from celebrating charter schools, the rally “will also call upon elected representatives in local and state government to support pro-charter policies, including the expansion of high-quality charters, better facilities for charter students, and an end to the politics and rhetoric challenging parents’ right to choose the best public school for their children,” according to a press release from California Charter Schools Association Families.

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