Tension Grows Between L.A Schools and Charter Schools
This year’s lower enrollment has tremendously caused friction and tension among Los Angeles Unified Schools (LA) and Charter Schools.
The Great Public Schools Initiative, a philanthropic group has called upon its initiative of funding more charter schools compared to L.A unified schools, as the district now faces bad financial straits.
Today, more students in the LA unified schools choose to enroll in charter schools—but that is only one of the many problems that the two are bound to face.
Another issue that has risen is the proposal by the school board on June 21 of this year is the sharing of campuses that will occur both in the charter and unified schools.
Many feel that the action is unnecessary but a good look at the law under the provision of Proposition 39, submitted 16 years ago, states that school districts are to offer unused and surplus spaces to charters at no cost.
The provision, however, has not been very clear among the people concerned. There is no exact definition of what an empty classroom is. In fact, it might look empty but an empty classroom may be utilized by others, or that an empty classroom may be actually empty but the schools may claim it is being used.
Aside from the issue of an empty classroom, there also other aspects that need to be looked into—two are the division of space, or the shortening of classes to pave way for other charter schools that will utilize the space. As such, more and more arrangements are being worked on to assure that the sharing goes smoothly—but so far, unfortunately, it has not went into that direction.
It is unfortunate to imagine that both charter schools and unified public schools are competing for scarcity of their resources. Despite that they have clear differences in terms of background and culture, both are understood to just simply gear towards the goal of education.
Hence, Ref Rodriguez, the co-founder of a group that is made up of charter schools and who is at the same time a board member of Los Angeles Unified School, believes that the board must act upon a creation of a task force, with members both from the district and charter leaders, who will altogether create a clear and transparent definition of space and ‘co-location’— especially given the confusion of Proposition 39.
The board also elaborates that they must be able to set working rules for both to avoid conflict and tension. It has been agreed that the LA unified schools are not obliged to give up their rooms especially when it is being occupied or being used for certain classes.
They also need not change or adjust their schedules for snack time, gym or cafeteria just to suit the needs of a charter school. To assure equity, charter schools, moreover, should not be honored with a classroom with a space that can be occupied by 25 to 30 students, when in fact, charter schools have lesser students of around 15 only.
At the same time, when not being used, unified schools must openly share their resources and facilities and not only use them to their advantage.
Many initiatives must be taken as well as understanding between the two parties; but it is clearly better to go on a tension and have it solved afterwards, than left an unused classroom go to waste—while not being used by children who should have been already learning at the moment.