‘We can’t do this alone.’ LAUSD board votes to seek outside help to fund successful schools
Mike Szymanski | May 11, 2016
Almost without comment Tuesday, the LA Unified school board voted unanimously to seek help from outside the district to replicate high-achieving schools.
The resolution was introduced by Monica Garcia and Ref Rodriguez and asks the district staff to “seek outside support for the funding” to replicate successful school programs in areas of high need in the district.
The resolution, Offering Families More—Promoting, Celebrating and Replicating Success Across LAUSD, asks the superintendent to report back to the board within 60 days on the progress of identifying the successful programs and potential funding sources.
“I am glad to see the board supporting our multiple levels of seeing what works,” Garcia told LA School Report. “I was pleased and encouraged by behavior that is focused on moving to high-quality education.”
The resolution points to specific kinds of schools, and their successes, that could head off the decline in enrollment — and losing students to charter schools — by beefing up magnet, pilot and dual language schools.
The resolution was proposed by the two board members most vocally supportive of charter schools (Rodriguez co-founded one), and they can see collaboration with philanthropic groups that others view as threatening to the district.
Rodriguez said he envisions collaboration with all sorts of philanthropical organizations, including colleges and even NASA. “I believe there is a lot of philanthropy for this and there is still a way to engage philanthropy to this district rather than just give to charters,” Rodriguez said.
By identifying the best programs, he said, “We can work with foundations and support these programs.”
Great Public Schools Now, which receives funding from philanthropic groups Rodriguez cited, issued a statement about the passing of the resolution and said, “We are encouraged by the LAUSD resolution seeking to replicate high-performing district schools. One of the best ways to bring additional educational opportunities to Los Angeles students is to expand the schools — charter, district or magnet — that are already succeeding. We look forward to working in partnership with LAUSD on this effort.”
GPSN is an independent, non-profit organization working to accelerate the growth of high-quality public schools and significantly reduce the number of students attending chronically low-performing schools in Los Angeles.
“We are trying to walk a tightrope and are concerned with the polarized conversation outside of the board or in the media,” Rodriguez said. The discussion didn’t happen, at least this time, at the school board level, since the resolution was passed under the consent calendar.
Garcia added, “If we don’t work with GPSN, then they will only support charters. We have different levels of philanthropic parent engagement and a lot of partners, we just want to see that accelerate. With groups like GPSN there’s an opportunity to help children and staff and leaders, and I’d like to have multiple ways of moving what works.”
The resolution pointed to successes in the district, such as Francisco Bravo Medical Magnet High School which ranked in the top 50 high schools in the state while 90 percent of its student population qualify for free and reduced-price meals; King Drew Magnet High School of Medicine and Science which saw 72 percent of its students meet or exceed standards in English Language Arts on last year’s Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, with 82 percent qualifying for free and reduced meals; and Downtown Business High School that has a graduation rate of 94 percent, with 84 percent qualifying for free and reduced meals.
The resolution is a way the board is showcasing high-performing schools, and Garcia noted in a news release, “The movement toward 100 percent graduation in Los Angeles is a model for the nation on collaboration and partnership with students, families, educators, employees, schools and community partners. As trustees for our children’s education, we are responsible for strengthening the bridges into our district and beyond our district for our college- and career-ready graduates and accelerating success for all. Today, we reaffirm our commitment to every child in Los Angeles in our search for partnership and investment for the schools our students deserve.”
For the past year, the board passed several resolutions all heading in the same direction, some creating long philosophical debates. The resolutions such as “Believing in Our Schools Again,” “Equity on A-G: Reaffirming Our Commitment to A-G Life Preparation for All,” “Zero Dropouts in LAUSD” and “Excellent Public Education for Every Student,” all passed after long discussions.
“Due to this district’s limited resources, we cannot do this work alone,” Rodriguez said in the district news release. “We call on our external partners, community organizations and businesses to invest in the replication of our successful district programs.”
He referred to school models that have found success in science, math, technology, arts and engineering academies and magnets.
Garcia added, “We can’t do this alone, we have to repurpose money and replicate best practices. This is going to lead to good conversations.”