UTLA Protests New Push to Expand Charter Schools in LAUSD

By The San Fernando Valley Sun and City News Service

Members of the Los Angeles teachers union were joined by students and parents to protest new efforts to expand charter schools that, they say, would take more Southland students away from public schools.

Officials of the United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA) accuse billionaire philanthropist Eli Broad of trying “to dismantle” public education in Los Angeles. In a prepared release, the UTLA said “Broad is working with the Waltons of Walmart and other billionaires on a plan to take 50 percent of our students out of LAUSD schools and put them in unregulated, non-union charters that don’t play by the same rules as other schools.”

“Losing 50 percent of LAUSD enrollment would trigger a severe loss in funding for crucial resources and programs for our students and create a race to the bottom that will hurt all schools and all students,” the release said.

UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl was even more critical of the plan. “If Eli Broad really cares about all of L.A.’s children, he should invest in programs that would help all students instead of this destructive plan that would drain resources from neighborhood schools,” Caputo-Pearl said. “His millions could go a long way toward lowering class sizes, stocking libraries with books, offering wraparound social services, hiring counselors, and bringing in all the other supports our students deserve.”

Supporters of the charter school expansion have released poll results they claim show overwhelming public support for such an expansion.

The poll of 1,150 Los Angeles voters — commissioned by The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation and California Charter School Association — found that 74 percent of voters within the Los Angeles Unified School District support the expansion of charter schools in neighborhoods where existing schools are struggling.

It also found that 69 percent of pool respondents want more charter schools in their own neighborhoods, while 88 percent support giving students in an area with an under-performing school the choice of attending a “higher-performing” school.

“These results make it clear that residents throughout Los Angeles are eager to expand opportunity for students, regardless of whether it comes from charter, magnet or traditional public schools,” said Gregory McGinty, co-executive director of The Broad Foundation. “The Broad Foundation is committed to working with Los Angeles families to improve public educational opportunities for all students.”

The Broad Foundation has been making a major push for charter school expansion in the LAUSD. It is backing a tentative proposal that calls for the establishment of 260 new charter schools over the next eight years. The idea is politically charged, since many charter schools are not unionized.

Steve Zimmer, president of the LAUSD board, told the Los Angeles Times there is no dispute that people support charter schools, but he fears the expansion proposal would come at the expense of traditional LAUSD schools.

“I am someone who will work with everyone, who is interested in transforming public education outcomes for all children,” Zimmer told The Times. “I don’t think that window for substantive conversation, if it’s about all and not just some kids, has closed.”