On Friday morning, more than 100 parents were lined up outside Walter Reed Middle School in Studio City waiting for a permit to get their child into one of the district’s Schools for Advanced Studies. One dad spent the night on the school steps.
No, it’s no April Fool’s joke. Getting into one of LA Unified’s popular magnet or dual-language programs, or one of the many other choices, is a complicated process of deadlines and forms, and a lot of waiting.
At a special school board meeting earlier this week, Superintendent Michelle King said her staff was proceeding with a unified enrollment process that would make the application process easier and prevent parents from having to camp out in front of their child’s school just to get them in a better program.
However, the simplified process will not include any of the charter schools that are overseen by the district, which seems to fly in the face of King’s public declaration to avoid the “us vs. them” mentality between traditional schools and independent charter schools within LA Unified.
School board member Ref Rodriguez, who helped start charter schools in the northeast Los Angeles area, told LA School Report that parents should be informed about the charter school options in their area at the same time.
“I’m really enthused about this step forward, but we didn’t bring all the gear, there’s still a missing piece of this equation, the charter school,” Rodriguez said.
He doesn’t think that all parents will want to flock to charter schools.
“I have a hunch that it would be the opposite,” Rodriguez said. “I come from the charter world, and I know that most families want their neighborhood schools to work, but they don’t always know what’s available. I think this works in the district’s favor to do this.”
A unified enrollment system with one deadline and application period for all area schools has been established in Denver, New Orleans, Newark and Washington, D.C., but has caused controversy in other school districts considering such a plan, such as Boston and Oakland, and raised concerns among some charter organizations about a loss of autonomy. Rodriguez said he was familiar with the Washington plan and that it helps with diversity and ensures that charters are not “cherry-picking” the best students.
Jesus Angulo, LA Unified’s director of Counseling and Student Services, is in charge of putting together the unified enrollment plan. At the moment, there’s no specific deadline, no specific funding and they’re not sure if it is going to be developed in house or by a firm outside the district.
“We are in the exploratory stage,” said Angulo, who said the biggest changes will be to shorten the sometimes eight-month-long process to no more than six weeks and put it entirely online. The hope is to offer a search engine with the available choices, career pathways and other comparable data.