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LAUSD hands 30 schools to private ownership

The LAUSD board is expected to make a big decision on who should gain control over dozens of new and struggling schools.

February 23, 2010 12:46:16 AM PST
The Los Angeles Unified School District has voted to give control of more than 30 schools to a variety of groups, including charter school operators. Charter are not required to use union teachers, and can fire those teachers who underperform. Charters have shown dramatic results, but primarily in schools that have involved parents -- not in failing schools.

The vote was met with controversy as hundreds of parents and teachers demonstrated in front of LAUSD headquarters Tuesday in opposition to a transfer.

The school board considered recommendations from LAUSD Superintendent Ramon Cortines for the operation of 36 campuses under the public school choice program.

In a school choice initiative adopted last year, the board decided to let independent groups compete to operate the schools to see if they can operate it better.

"I applaud the superintendent, I applaud this reform board that on August 25th said, 'You know what, enough already, we're going to let whoever has proven they can educate our kids at the highest levels operate the schools,'" said Michael Piscal, founder and chief executive officer of ICEF Charter Schools.

Independent groups, teachers, parents and charter-school operators applied to run some or all of the underperforming schools. Each group claimed it would do a better job than the other and has the support of the community.

"We actually won the advisory vote with almost 1,000 votes, we had about a 3-to-1 margin on that vote, and we weren't spending any money on radio ads, and we weren't spending money turning out votes and buses like the union did," Piscal said. "The community wanted ICEF to have that."

ICEF won approval from Cortines to run the Barack Obama Leadership School.

The plan has angered some education advocates, including the teachers union. Dozens of people camped out all night at LAUSD headquarters in downtown L.A. to make sure they get into the board meeting.

"No one is satisfied with the status quo," said Julie Washington, United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) elementary vice president. "We have invested in teaching teams and with administrators in writing these plans."

UTLA battled the other groups in a bid to run all 36 campuses.

"We believe we're going to bring change," Washington said.

Union teachers are worried about losing jobs because charter schools do not have to hire union teachers. Underperformers can be fired.