Some think it is a threat to the public education system. Some welcome it. Members of the LA Unified school board have reacted quite differently to the announcement that the Broad, Keck and Walton Family Foundations are planning to expand the number of charter schools in the district to serve well beyond the 101,000 students (nearly 16 percent) now enrolled in the district’s 211 charters.
The role of charters has been a long-running battle among board members, and now it’s sure to intensify with so many more in the planning stage. Issues involving charters, such as applications for new ones, renewals for existing ones and operational transparency, are part of almost every monthly board meeting, and even before the first meeting of the new year, opinions remain divided, based on interviews with LA School Report and other media outlets.
The foundations revealed their expansion plans several weeks ago but provided few details. One unnamed source told the LA Times that the goal was to enroll as many as half of LA Unified’s students in charter schools within eight years.
One of the two new members, Ref Rodriguez, a charter school founder, said, “I believe we need to offer every family a high quality option in public education, and that can be a LAUSD school or a charter school. I also believe that we need leaders in this district to advocate for transformation. I always welcome ideas around innovative and life changing approaches to creating quality and excellence in every single school across this district.”
Rodriguez added, “Is this plan a bold idea? Maybe. I don’t know the particulars. But, I want to stay open to hearing about bold options and ideas to get to excellence in all of our schools. And, I want those bold ideas to come from the grassroots – communities, students, and parents. I want to hear directly from our communities about what they need, what they want, and what they deserve.”