Charter School Revolution

In South LA, charter school operator Steve Barr continues his crusade to take over one of LA’s lowest-performing high schools. Armed with about 10,000 signatures from South Los Angeles parents, students and other residents, hundreds of marchers converged on school district headquarters Tuesday, calling for the district to relinquish control of struggling Jefferson High School and transform it into six independent charter schools. The school district offers its counter plan: Los Angeles school district Supt. Roy Romer countered with his own plan to reform the troubled, overcrowded campus, proposing to remove 800 students next fall in order to return the school to a traditional, two-semester calendar and divide it into six “small learning communities.” The school would still have more than 3,000 students after the district plan. If the school district turns down Barr’s charter proposals, he can apply directly to the state board of education. The Sacramento Bee’s Daniel Weintraub has an interesting take on this struggle: Pretty soon a smart politician, could be from either party, is going to see that there is a massive groundswell building against ineffective, bureuacratic control of our public schools. The groundswell is strongest in the poorest communities where the schools, for whatever reason, are doing little more than warehousing the students on their way to a dysfunctional adulthood. When are the Democrats who claim to represent these people going to see that running the schools from Sacramento or downtown Los Angeles is not working, and that they need to do everything they can to tap into the energy of these parents who are desperate to create a better life for their kids? Republicans get this, but, unfortunately, won’t act on their good instincts because they fear that decentralizing the schools will only further empower the teachers unions that have fought against reforms and accountability. As these Los Angeles parents realize, charter schools remain the best option for cutting through this knot and returning control of the schools to parents and the communities where it belongs while retaining oversight and accountability at the regional and state levels.