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Charters: Well-Connected Parents Slip Past Lottery

image from www.chicagonow.comAdd something called a "founding parent" loophole to the long list of ways that charter schools are accused of manipulating which children get to enroll and who doesn't.  That's the gist of this LA Weekly story about how some of the most popular of the more than 200 charters in LAUSD have stretched a reasonable-sounding provision meant to ensure that parents who help found a charter get a spot - even when there are no founding parents, or when the school was founded long ago. " I'm checking on whether this happens in other cities.

Before you go crazy, however, remember that district schools also have all sorts of ways of letting students slip in through the back door at popular schools, too:  elastic definitions of when a school is full, falsified or unchecked addresses, unmonitored waiting lists, early notification of mid-year openings, etc.  Wherever there are too few options and too many families looking for spots, a handful of parents and educators are going to bend, stretch, or break the rules.  It's not right, but it's not just a charter thing.  Chicago only recently closed a loophole called "principal's pick" which allowed well-connected parents to clout their kids into coveted buildings.

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i'm told that about half of the 40 state charter laws allow priorities for board member and/or teacher children -- will try and track down the list

But it's not really valid to retort, "Public schools can cherry-pick too." If a public school does what these charters do, that affects the next public school over, which gets more than its share of the less-resourced and/or less-motivated students. The public school principals are colleagues. The school district overall ends up with the same share of less-resourced and/or less-motivated students.

While when a charter school gives preference to selected, favored applicants, it's in a vacuum and only has to care about itself. Then when it inevitably proclaims its superiority to public schools, that's colored by the cherry-picking too.

There's a lot of evidence of corruption and hypocrisy in the L.A. Weekly article, and corrupt people ought not to be running schools, chartered or otherwise. A publicly funded school is a public trust, and I believe that at least some of these people have proved that they are unworthy of the public's trust.

The article also rings true in its portrayal of the chaos and incompetence of LAUSD's charter office. A distinctly politicized operation, its inability to consistently provide fair treatment or to apply laws and regulations in a consistent manner helps to explain why families who want a competitive, high quality education for their children usually have to leave Los Angeles.

Bruce, I certainly agree that LAUSD central office sounds like a mess, but I disagree that families "usually" have to leave LAUSD to get a good education. That's reformy crapola and you should really have better judgment than to parrot it.

Just as with other diverse, high-poverty urban school districts, the schools that serve a critical mass of high-need, low-income, challenged students are overwhelmed and struggle. The schools that serve a more modest number of high-need students -- and especially the schools that serve largely high-income students -- do just fine.

My husband is from West LA. He attended local public schools (lo these many years ago). The trend in the '70s and '80s was for parents in his neighborhood to shun the public schools and go private at all costs. In the mid-'90s, the trend started to change, and parents in his increasingly upscale neighborhood (Beverlywood) and environs started enrolling their kids in public schools again. The schools began to improve, then soar. They're 900+ API schools now (Canfield, Castle Heights and other nearby schools).

The structure of the schools didn't change. The competence of the LAUSD central office didn't change. The demographic makeup of the schools changed. When they were no longer overwhelmed by the needs of disadvantaged students, they did very well. Do you disagree? (If not, then stop putting out BS. If so, please explain why I'm wrong.)

Caroline, I believe your information is incomplete. It is true that there are elementary schools in LAUSD that come up with APIs in the 900s: I was a teacher's aide at one of them, Warner Avenue Elementary School, when I was a UCLA student in the 1980s (although checking the website, I see that it has now converted into a charter). The problem is when those kids have to go to middle school: then they flee LAUSD in droves, and that's when the private schools get busy; there aren't many middle schools in LAUSD with APIs in the 800s, or high schools in the 700s, although the numbers have been increasing steadily. I think you're right about the cause, though: it's largely demographic. LAUSD is now 9% white, in a county whose demographic is roughly 30% white. It fails to retain most of those high-achieving elementary school families.

None of that refutes my point, Bruce. You said that families have to leave LAUSD to get a high-quality education, and I corrected you, because that's just not true.

The question of whether they fear middle schools is a whole different thing.

Here in SF, many families also flee to private for middle school, even though we do have a good selection of middle schools with APIs over 800. Families get nervous about their pre-teens and teens. (With luck they don't find out the hard way what all the kids know, which is that the private schools have much better drugs -- but that's a side issue.)

This is one of the misbehaviors that keeps me angry at charter school advocates -- the fact that they disparage public schools constantly, and do it with untruths as well. Cut that **** out, Bruce. It doesn't benefit anyone and it taints you.

None of that refutes my point, Bruce. You said that families have to leave LAUSD to get a high-quality education, and I corrected you, because that's just not true.

The question of whether they fear middle schools is a whole different thing.

Here in SF, many families also flee to private for middle school, even though we do have a good selection of middle schools with APIs over 800. Families get nervous about their pre-teens and teens. (With luck they don't find out the hard way what all the kids know, which is that the private schools have much better drugs -- but that's a side issue.)

This is one of the misbehaviors that keeps me angry at charter school advocates -- the fact that they disparage public schools constantly, and do it with untruths as well. Cut that **** out, Bruce. It doesn't benefit anyone and it taints you.

Caroline, I graduated from an LAUSD elementary school, an LAUSD junior high school, and an LAUSD high school, was a teacher's aide at a fourth LAUSD school, a playground assistant at a fifth, and a student teacher at three more. My ninth LAUSD school I got to know in person was Locke, where I taught for seven years (and have visited periodically since). Who are you to question my assessment of LAUSD, much less label it an "untruth" and decorate your commentary with thinly veiled profanity? I am not claiming anything about San Francisco's public schools, which I don't know much about, although I have the impression that they have a better reputation than LA's. If the closest you come to knowing LAUSD is that your husband attended some schools decades ago, you shouldn't be disparaging my assessment, which is based upon life-forming experience.

Veiled profanity? I'm a 57-year-old PTA mom. How can you accuse me of such a thing? Fetch my smelling salts.

In LAUSD, as in the rest of the world, the schools that serve a relatively advantaged demographic are high-functioning. The schools that serve a critical mass of challenged, low-income, high-need students are struggling. Those are the facts, whether you grew up in LA or on Saturn.

Because it's a standard reformy lie to claim that all public schools are broken, I'm calling you out. And don't try that s*** around us middle-aged PTA moms. Fear us.

Veiled profanity? I'm a 57-year-old PTA mom. How can you accuse me of such a thing? Fetch my smelling salts.

In LAUSD, as in the rest of the world, the schools that serve a relatively advantaged demographic are high-functioning. The schools that serve a critical mass of challenged, low-income, high-need students are struggling. Those are the facts, whether you grew up in LA or on Saturn.

Because it's a standard reformy lie to claim that all public schools are broken, I'm calling you out. And don't try that s*** around us middle-aged PTA moms. Fear us.

Sometimes even a virtual conversation with you feels debasing. If you call me a liar, name the lie; otherwise keep such noxious, trashy comments to yourself. What makes you think you can "call me out"? On what? What does that even mean? And why would I fear you? If you were informed, if you knew what you were talking about, I might have reason to fear I had made a mistake; but I have no cause for such fear.

If your theory were true, then why would houses, as "The Economist" notes, with identical square footages and demographics in LAUSD's Woodland Hills (near where I grew up) be worth one-third less than their like ten miles further from downtown in Calabasas, which happens to be outside LAUSD ($650,000 vs $975,000)?

Bruce, I'm joking about "fearing" me. But I am putting you on notice that I'm not letting you get away with dishonesty. That's what "calling you out" means, in case you seriously didn't understand. You lie; I challenge and refute.

Is your real estate question serious? All kinds of factors influence real estate prices. But the pertinent point is that a district with a large percentage of high-poverty students inherently faces enormously more challenges than an entirely wealthy district. Is this a test to see if I'm so ignorant that I don't understand that?

In my part of California, the Palo Alto, Mill Valley and Orinda school districts function on an entirely different level than the San Francisco, Oakland and West Contra Costa (Richmond) school districts. That's entirely because the first three consist entirely of very, very wealthy families; the latter three serve a large percentage of impoverished families.

I did a quickie count on Greatschools.net, assuming their criteria have some validity. I used my husband's elementary alma mater (Canfield Elementary) as the baseline for a high-quality school, NOT because of what it was in his day but because I know that it's now viewed as an excellent school by the extremely wealthy, highly educated young families in the neighborhood he grew up in (Beverlywood, West LA). It's rated an 8 on a scale of 10 on Greatschools.net. So I only counted 8s, 9s and 10s.

There are 83 non-charter, public schools rated 8, 9 and 10 in LAUSD, according to Greatschools.net.

That's not enough. All schools should be at that level. Etc. Etc. But the fact is, Bruce, what you said is not true. Here's what you said; it was false. "Families who want a competitive, high quality education for their children usually have to leave Los Angeles." Not true. You need to refute, recant and not make that false statement again.

Again, the point: Schools that serve a critical mass of impoverished, high-need, at-risk, challenged students become overwhelmed and struggle. Schools that serve a manageable percentage of such students can function. Schools that serve entirely privileged students from high-wealth families with highly educated parents easily soar to excellence. That's true in LAUSD, as it is everywhere in the world.

Give it up. You're refuted and are reduced to blustering.

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