To my great surprise, LAUSD has pushed back on a judge’s ruling that the district give facilities to charter schools seeking more space in existing public schools. Of the judge’s order, which would affect up to 45 charter schools, Superintendent of Los Angeles public schools John Deasy and the LAUSD school board say
… that it would require L.A. Unified to displace students from their neighborhood schools, forcing them to be bused elsewhere, and would dramatically skew class-size ratios in favor of charter students.
Under the order, the ratio of elementary school students to class size would be 24 to 1 on the district side of the school but 15 to 1 on the charter school side, said LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy. Facilities such as computer labs, parent centers and specially designated classrooms would have to be removed to create space for charter students, Deasy said.
“I want to be very, very clear, this is not possible to carry out,” Deasy told the L.A. Unified school board at its meeting last Thursday.
Deasy said the district would have to start moving students “tomorrow” to comply with the order because the school year starts early, in mid-August.
“And I for one believe it is completely inappropriate and against everything this board and district has done to relieve overcrowding, to take a student from a neighborhood school and move that student to a non-neighborhood school,” Deasy said.
One effect of the charter school encroachment on existing school spaces (through co-location or surrender of existing school space to charters) is to impose a big difference in the class sizes of each kind of school. Because LAUSD uses a “norming ratio” to balance public school with charter school class sizes, California’s Charter School Association lobbying group claims that it must abide by ratios it did not determine and therefore it’s unequal. LAUSD, however, has arrived at a ratio that is
no less than 24 students per classroom for grades K-3, 30.5 to 1 for grades 4-6, 28 to 1 for grades 7-8, and 30 to 1 for grades 9-12. The district argues that following this ratio when it allocates space to charters is in keeping with the “spirit and intent” of Proposition 39; all public school students receive the same space.
The charter schools, as cited above, would enjoy class sizes of 15 students to 1 teacher if the judge’s orders were to prevail, while existing public schools would be at minimum 24:1 in the youngest grades.
LAUSD is therefore saying that in accommodating charters, it will not create a situation where one type of school has vastly smaller class sizes than the other (as charters are demanding), nor will it remove special facilities such as computer labs (decreasing the educational resources) of existing schools in order to accommodate charter schools.
As I understand it, charter schools demand parity by square foot, but want to maintain advantage in smaller class size; whereas LAUSD’s position is to say that ALL publicly funded schools must adhere to considerations of equity in class size and equality of access to facilities by the type, use, and nature of the facilities.
Keep an eye on this story, as there are co-location issues involving Proposition 39 all over the state. With over 25,000 seats requested in LAUSD alone for one academic year, this story focusing on a charter school co-location shoehorning itself into Micheltorena Elementary in the city of Los Angeles is archetypal. The judge’s decision originally specified that the situation be resolved by July 11, 2012, but since LAUSD schools start as early as mid-August in some cases, there’s no logistical way LAUSD can comply even if it wanted to.
What remains to be seen is if LAUSD’s position holds on principle or if its resistance can be overcome if the shortened time frame is no longer a consideration.