No test case for charters in LA

In picking new management teams for failing schools, Los Angeles could have tested charter schools’ effectiveness with disabled students and those who aren’t fluent in English, writes Howard Blume in the LA Times. But the school board “turned down all but four charter bids, opting instead primarily for internal, teacher-led proposals.”

The teachers union fought hard to limit the charters. Every new charter would have effectively reduced the union’s membership — potentially corresponding to more L.A. Unified layoffs during the current district budget crisis. And a growing nonunion charter workforce gradually reduces union clout not only on pay and benefits issues, but also on matters such as class size and the direction of future reforms.

The board rejected Superintendent Ramon Cortines’ recommendation to give schools to  three successful charter networks, Green Dot Public Schools, the Alliance for College-Ready Public Schools and ICEF Public Schools.

Charter critics complain that charters serve fewer disabled and English Learner students than district-run schools.

Charter advocates . . . argued that the district’s higher special education population stems from the neglect of many students’ academic and social needs. The result, they said, is behavioral issues that are later misidentified as disabilities. They also fault the quality of the district’s services to special education students.

The percentage of English Learners also varies with school effectiveness: Teach poorly and kids who start kindergarten with poor English skills will remain ELs in fifth grade and often remain English (non)Learners till they drop out of high school.

The takeover schools enroll more than their share of low-income Hispanic and black students with many in special education and English Learner programs. Experienced charter managers were willing to try. Nearly all were turned away.

LA has set up a test case for teacher-led turnaround schools.

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  1. At least it’s clear now what the LA school board believes the purpose of the public education system to be.