Garcia welcomes foundations promoting charter school expansion
Mike Szymanski | August 12, 2015
LA Unified board member Mónica García, a leading voice for education reform efforts, said she is open to plans by a group of foundations that wants to expand the number of charter schools in the district well beyond the 285 that are now serving district students.
“I’m open to any strategy that helps children and families. We know there is no one strategy for everybody,” García said in an interview with LA School Report.
She was specifically referring to recent reports that the Keck, Walton Family and Broad foundations plan to help children in low-performing schools who desire more educational choices by adding charters that could serve as many as half of LA Unified’s 650,000 students. Currently, about 100,000 students are served by charters in the district.
“I would go to any philanthropic arm and say ‘Please invest in our kids,’” García said. “We have many, many good strategies that need support.”
Her sentiments come in sharp contrast to other board members who view the proposed expansion with skepticism or even as a threat for the possibility that it would drain public dollars from the district’s traditional schools. Board president Steve Zimmer told the LA Times last week that an aggressive expansion of charters could undermine the district’s own improvement efforts, saying, “The most critical concern would be the collateral damage to the children left behind.”
García said many schools in her District 2, which includes South Central, Boyle Heights and other low-income areas, will be overcrowded and could thus benefit from additional charter schools.
“Charters have been an important partner for LA Unified,” she said. “They’re part of the reason why there’s space. They’re part of the reason why we have teacher-led academies. Our pilot schools and other district reform models took what we learned from charters and we brought it inside the district.”
She pointed out that she had to close some charter schools and that she has opposed the closing of some charter schools in the past. She also doesn’t believe more charter schools will spell the end of LAUSD.
“A successful LA Unified cannot be over, we will only get stronger,” García said. “We’ve had people talk about one system dying and one system emerging. That one system emerging is a learning organization that meets the needs of kids. The system that didn’t serve as well, I, too, hope it ends.”
She said she doesn’t see it as a threat to the district. “It’s not about one way or another way,” García said. “I don‘t see us in competition with which system most attracts kids. I see us in a competition that gets us to 100 percent graduation and we have to learn from each other.”
She added, “We have to build a strategy that talks about flexible classrooms, that talks about the schools of not yet. The world is changing on a regular basis.”