By Gary Walker
In an effort to alleviate what he called unintended consequences of a voter approved initiative that has disproportionally hit Westside schools, Los Angeles Unified School District board member Steve Zimmer is asking state lawmakers to consider amending Proposition 39.
Proposition 39 provides charter school operators with the right to use space within public school campuses where classrooms are vacant or underutilized.
That situation — commonly referred to as co-location — has prompted conflicts over facility use and accusations of student recruiting at several schools in the area.
Zimmer’s resolution was approved the LAUSD school board last month, meaning it’s now up to the state Board of Education, the state superintendent of public education and the Legislature to review for possible action.
“It had reached the point where I was very frustrated with folks coming to the school board with real complaints [about collocation] and us throw up our hands and say, “There’s nothing we can do. It’s a state issue,’” Zimmer explained. “That’s kind of a cop-out.”
Charter schools are publicly-funded but do not operate under the same regulations and union agreements as traditional public schools
The resolution asks state law makers to reexamine the impacts of the proliferation of charters and how co-locations have impacted charters as well as traditional schools.
It also calls on LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy to report back to the board this month on policies regarding “the solicitation of transitional school children on LAUSD grounds for the purposes attending charter private or other non-LAUSD schools.”
But Zimmer doesn’t mince words that the resolution stems from the wider battle for resources between public schools and charters. His resolution also calls for study of whether charters use co-location to poach students from public schools, where lower headcounts mean less state funding.
“We really are very much taking this moment to ask the district to use the full resources of this district to not only fight Prop. 39 in court but to basically petition the state for readdress,” Zimmer said.
Representatives from the California Charter Schools Association were present when Zimmer called for his resolution.
“LAUSD has lots of options for parents, and we believe that parents deserve to have as much information about what all of those options are,” said Sierra Jenkins, a spokeswoman for the charter association.
The impacts of Proposition 39 have become, in Zimmer’s words, “almost a LAUSD exclusive issue,” because while there are some co-locations across the state, there are far more in Los Angeles and especially in his district, which includes Mar Vista, Del Rey, Westchester and Venice.
One of the most difficult co-locations in recent years occurred with Ocean Charter at Walgrove Avenue Elementary School. The charter has since moved to Westchester Enriched Science Magnet, formerly known as Westchester High School.
Sandi Wise, a member of the Venice Neighborhood Council’s Education Committee, lives across the street from Walgrove and recalled people “illegally parking, double parking, illegal u-turning, blocking driveways and alleyways, littering, and loitering.”
Complaints about the situation “made no difference,” he said.
Jenkins said the California Charter Schools Association understands that co-locations don’t always work out well for everybody.
“We know that sometimes co-locations can be challenging to manage, but we believe that this can be handled at the district level,” she said.
Jenkins is also hopeful that a working group of LAUSD staffers and charter representatives created by Zimmer’s resolution will help establish best practices.
Zimmer said traditional public schools will only have more issues unless Proposition 39 is revised.
“We are on a collision course with Prop. 39 when it comes to facilities,” he said. “If we do not have a full revisiting of this law, we are going to have turmoil.”