The advisory voting by parents, students, teachers and community members held last weekend to help the Los Angeles Unified School District determine who will operate a number of news schools as well as campuses that are struggling academically, yielded surprising results.
The voting was conducted by the non-partisan League of Women Voters, and at most schools on the ballot, either the local district or groups comprised of teachers, staff and parents associated with the school were given the thumbs up.
The results are unofficial and will not be certified by the League until Friday, but A.J. Duffy president of the United Teachers of Los Angeles is claiming victory.
“The votes are in, and the verdict is clear: Parents want teachers to drive change at their schools, not outside organizations,” noted the union leader in a statement released Tuesday.
But Jed Wallace, president of the California Charter Schools Association, said his organization has steadily questioned the fairness of the process.
“There has been inappropriate electioneering activities,” pointed out Wallace, who added that he was not surprised at the outcome because of the way the process was set up. He contends it did not allow charter schools and other interested organizations access to parents to provide them with information.
According to a LAUSD spokesperson, all of the proposals submitted were available on the district web site, and each of the organizations was given an opportunity during community meetings to present their plan.
When he presented his proposal, Gene Fisher of the Watts Learning Foundation, said he had about 10 minutes, and he particularly noticed was that much of what was said by panelists was fairly technical.
“We were directed to have a one page paper (on our plan) with English on one side and Spanish on the other side that was made available about a week or so before the vote.”
On the city’s Eastside around the Esteban Torres school complex, John Rogers, director of UCLA’s Institute for Democracy, Education, and Access said he saw parents and community organizations mount a heavy get-out-the-vote campaign.
“I think it was a positive thing. I think we need to look at school improvement efforts as a combined focus on education programs and building civic capacity in the community and building the skills of community members to participate and take action correctively.
Rogers said LAUSD deserves credit for pulling together the process even though it was imperfect. He also suggested that following a model that has been used in Boston for many years might eliminate questions of fairness. Here an impartial organization provides parents with information on all schools academic programs including the quality.
The next step is to combine those recommendations with ones from Superintendent’s panel and the initial review panel.
Superintendent Ramon C. Cortines is scheduled to release his official recommendations Feb. 23 and school board members are expected to discuss and potentially vote on the issue the same day.