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The End of Public Education

In the midst of a crumbling state budget, Superintendent Ramon C. Cortines and the Board of Education accepted that they could not realistically save failing schools. Early last summer, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) proposed the Public School Choice plan which will relinquish LAUSD administrative and financial control of over 200 schools. In addition, new multimillion-dollar school sites will also be available for bidding.

Schools which have consistently underperformed in state tests and demonstrated drastically low Academic Progress Index scores have been identified by the LAUSD as focus schools and will be privatized by an outside group.

The task of saving our schools will fall upon small charter school programs and other non-profit groups such as GreenDot, Alliance for College-Ready Public Schools, and Synergy Academies among others. Over 617,000 students are relying on the LAUSD for an education this 2009-2010 academic year.

Charter schools and non-profits will need to bridge a large demographic and educational divide in the affected areas of South and East Los Angeles as well as the San Fernando Valley. Overcrowding, coupled with a high numbers of English as a second language learners makes overhauling schools in these areas an incredibly urgent and complex task. The new administration for these schools will need to find a way to address the educational needs and deficiencies of the existing student population while integrating their own students, faculty and new curriculum.

Despite the possibilities that this offers, there are lingering uncertainties. Can outside groups save our schools? More importantly, how long will it take?

The application process started in late October and final decisions will be made by the Board of Education in February. Cortines released a statement on Jan. 15 in which he stressed that LAUSD is “encouraging input from all community members who support [their] public schools including parents, guardians, students, teachers and other LAUSD employees.” The application process is detailed, but the final word will rest upon the Board of Education.

Much will remain uncertain within the coming months, however what will be certain is that the takeover among schools will likely be messy, leaving hundreds of teachers unemployed. Whether or not charter schools can effectively pick up the pieces LAUSD leaves behind, students will be the first to feel the resounding effects of this change.

Plans will be available Tuesday, Jan. 19 at the LAUSD website www.lausd.net

Previously printed Fall 2009