Out of Control Policy Blog

School Choice Revolution in Watts--Competition helps students and teachers

Via the Los Angeles Times, more news on why Steve Barr and Green Dot public schools has single-handedly brought more choices to Los Angeles children:

Challenging the balance of power in the city's public school system, a leading charter school organization is poised to wrest control of a failing high school from the elected Los Angeles Board of Education. ...

Under Green Dot's proposal, which because of state law the Los Angeles school board would appear to have little choice but to approve, the 2,800-student Watts campus would be divided into 10 small Green Dot schools beginning in fall 2008.

"It's a leap of faith, but if you believe in this partnership between Green Dot and Locke teachers, then you believe that we are trying to change education in Los Angeles by turning more attention to students' needs and empowering teachers," said Bruce Smith, an English teacher at the school.

Amid dozens of poor-performing middle and high schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District, Locke has long languished as one of the worst. At least one of every two students drops out, while the majority who remain score at or near the bottom on standardized tests.

More than half of the school's 73 tenured teachers signed petitions this week expressing interest in converting Locke into Green Dot charters. Once verified, the petitions – copies of which were obtained by The Times and checked against a roster of the Locke faculty – would legally allow Green Dot to petition the board for control of the school. Many un-tenured teachers also signed the petitions.

This is my favorite part:

And Green Dot is proposing a clean break.

The group's charter petition – a copy of which was provided to The Times and which must be voted on by the seven-member school board – calls for Green Dot to receive its funding directly from the state, instead of allowing it to first pass through district coffers. Teachers who wish to remain at the deeply troubled school would have to re-apply for their jobs to principals hired by Green Dot. The extensive labor agreement negotiated by the district's teachers union would also be thrown out, as Locke teachers would work under the shorter, simpler pact signed by Green Dot's union.

Indeed, the plan promises to escalate the long-running power struggle that has pitted the fast growing Green Dot against the school board and the union, United Teachers Los Angeles – both of which have much to lose.

Green Dot illustrates how school choice and competition offer relief and better conditions for both teachers and students. Green Dot is exhibit A in the case against the idea that competition will somehow have a negative impact on teachers.

Lisa Snell is Director of Education


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