Selected readings on US charter schools
After a change in Los Angeles Unified’s funding policy sent their numbers soaring, the 42 affiliated charter schools in the San Fernando Valley have formed an official council that will work as a bloc to communicate with district officials.
The Valley Affiliated Charter Schools organized in early November, electing officers and setting goals for the local charter movement.
“Rather than having 42 schools calling the district on issues like enrollment or assessments, it makes sense to be united and to have a unifying voice so that we’re all in the same loop and on the same page,” said VACS Chairman Joe Martinez, principal of Carpenter Charter Elementary in Studio City.
“We’re representing our school communities and making sure our voices are heard.”
The Valley has Los Angeles Unified’s greatest concentration of affiliated charters, which receive services from the district but have more freedom than traditional schools to design their own programs, schedules and curricula.
More than two dozen Valley schools became affiliated charters over the last two years, after the school board changed the rules and sent federal money earmarked to educate poor students to campuses with higher numbers of low-income students. Charters qualify for state grants, which principals used to make up for the loss of their school’s federal Title I dollars.
That wave of conversions has created frustration and confusion as schools try to follow the complex guidelines for the hybrid charter model.
“No one is holding their hand and saying, ‘Here is what you have to do,’ ” Martinez said. “We’re relying on each other and establishing a relationship, which is great. Our official structure allows us to come together and voice our concerns.”
Jose Cole-Gutierrez, chief of the Charter Schools Division, called the new VACS council a “positive next step” in the evolution of charter schools, which enroll more than 20 percent of LAUSD’s 650,000 students.
“Our job is to provide quality schools and a quality partnership, and this new council helps streamline communications,” Cole-Gutierrez said.
According to Martinez, the goals of the VACS council include getting clear and accurate information about charter-school funding, sharing best practices for operation and advocating for their school communities. Those will be the topics discussed during five meetings scheduled over the rest of the school year, with VACS planning to include parents, teachers and a representative from the district’s charter office.
Colfax Charter Elementary Principal Susana Gomez expects the VACS council to be especially helpful as the state moves forward with its new formula for distributing education money to local districts.
“It’s going to get really tricky for things like purchasing and special education,” said Gomez, whose school became an affiliated charter in 2008. “I think that having a streamlined way of communication is going to be very useful.”
Source: Los Angeles Daily News – by Barbara Jones