L.A. Loosens Reins on School Administration

Published October 27, 2009

The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) has decided to allow outside groups, including for-profit charter school organizations, to run one-third of the district’s schools and possibly open 50 new ones of their own creation.

As a result, more than 60,000 Los Angeles students could be getting more opportunities for a high-quality education within the next three years. Approximately 3,000 parents from organizations such as Families That Can and The Parent Revolution attended a rally at the school board hearing on August 25.

“Many parents didn’t feel they had a choice besides the status quo,” said Gabe Rose, communications director of The Parent Revolution, an organization representing 5,000 parents in the Los Angeles area.

Friends in High Places

The resolution, passed on a 6-1 vote in August, has widespread support. On national poll released August 24 by Gallup, Inc. and the Phi Delta Kappan found 64 percent of U.S. adults support charter schools. Also, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa wrote in a July 29 Los Angeles Times opinion piece, “It’s time to get past the gatekeepers and stop preserving a system defined by low performance, low standards, and low expectations. ΒΌ It’s time to embrace new ideas and reclaim concepts such as accountability and competition, and it’s time to admit the need for more than one educational choice. Put simply, it’s time to put students first.”

The resolution allows flexibility for alternative collective bargaining agreements while requiring a commitment to contract with LAUSD for all support services. The United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA) union is displeased.

“The LAUSD school board decided that they [sic] are incapable of bringing urgent change to the lowest performing schools and further that they are not able to bring change to new schools so they voted six to one to give away 300 schools, this is a very sad day for public schools,” UTLA Vice President Julie Washington wrote in a Facebook posting after the vote.

Allowing Change

On August 28 LAUSD Superintendent Ramon Cortines issued a letter to all the districts regarding the change, in which he emphasized three important themes: educational quality, community involvement, and urgency.

“For too long we have supported the status quo even when it is not serving our children,” said Cortines. “We must take the passion and energy of all sides to make certain all of our students achieve their dreams.”


Evelyn B. Stacey ([email protected]) is the policy analyst in education studies for Pacific Research Institute in Sacramento, California.