“I don’t know of a single school that was not told that they by law could not hold onto some of their classrooms…because there was no registered carrying teacher…Wow, unbelievable.”
– LAUSD Board President Jackie Goldberg
For the first time in decades, the LAUSD is operating with a School Board that is not controlled by members financed by the charter school industry. This finally allows supporters of public schools an opportunity to review policies designed by the charter school industry to give its schools a competitive advantage, including the ability to demand space on public school campuses using PROP-39, even if that will leave less room for public school students to receive services in the school their parents have chosen.
Prior to the Board’s consideration of the “Creating a Charter Schools Co-Location Policy to Mitigate Impacts Caused by Proposition 39” resolution at its September 26, 2023, afternoon meeting, I presented the following as part of my comments at the morning session:
With my remaining time, I would like to speak in support of the resolution that you will vote on later today to finally provide protections to LAUSD students whose neighborhood schools have been forced to give up space to publicly funded but privately operated charter schools. I would like to note that the astroturf organizations that have called this proposal "divisive" said nothing when charters were allowed to displace students with Special Education needs, forcing them into closets and stairwells. They were silent as NVMI students bullied a VOCES public school student as he participated in adaptive PE. I have not heard anything from these organizations as charter schools refuse to pay the millions of dollars they owe in penalties for taking more space than they were entitled to.
I am proud to stand with the many school-based organizations representing LAUSD students who have signed a letter supporting this resolution. These parents, students, and teachers have personally seen the damage that PROP-39 co-locations cause and seek solutions instead of rhetoric.
As the Board began deliberating the proposal, the Director of the Charter School Division, José Cole-Gutiérrez, was called on to answer questions about the policy of giving away rooms that did not have a certificated teacher assigned to them full-time. This was essential to the discussion as a long-term complaint of co-located public schools has been that rooms used to provide art and music classes, special education services and the space for parent centers have been taken away from them during the co-location process as they were considered to be “empty” under the standards used by the Charter School Division.
Shockingly, Cole-Gutiérrez contradicted what the bureaucrats under his leadership have been telling school communities for years and said that this classification was not a result of state law but was simply an LAUSD policy. This was a surprise to the Board members who were not elected with the financial support of the Charter School Industry, including Scott Schmerelson, who said that, as a principal, he was told by district personnel that “if there is no roster carrying teacher in that room, that room is up for grabs.”
On the other end of the aisle, Board Members Nick Melvoin, Tanya Franklin, and Kelly Gonez did not seem surprised by the revelation. Melvoin even went as far as to say that he has known that this was district policy for years. If this is the case, the bureaucrats need to explain why they were giving differing information to the members of the school board.
To those of us who have been carefully watching the LAUSD, Cole-Gutiérrez’s duplicity is not a surprise as he has provided examples in the past about his loyalty to the charter school industry:
- While the Director, who once worked for the California Charter School Association (CCSA), is supposed to be the regulator of charter schools for Los Angeles, ensuring that they follow the rules, he instead views his former employer as a “stakeholder in our district.”
- He wiped off $7,678,022 of charter school debt without any explanation to the public.
- Bypassing the review required under AB1505, he allowed the Citizens of the World charter school to move from the area where it had been authorized to be located to a different neighborhood without a material revision.
By not being truthful with the Board members who are not aligned with the Charter School industry, Cole-Gutiérrez committed an act of insubordination. He has proven that he cannot be trusted to provide the necessary oversight of the charter schools. If the Board does not take the steps needed to remove him from his position, they are ignoring their responsibility to the students and parents of the LAUSD.
Carl Petersen is a parent advocate for public education, particularly for students with special education needs, who serves as the Education Chair for the Northridge East Neighborhood Council. As a Green Party candidate in LAUSD’s District 2 School Board race, he was endorsed by Network for Public Education (NPE) Action. Dr. Diane Ravitch has called him “a valiant fighter for public schools in Los Angeles.” For links to his blogs, please visit www.ChangeTheLAUSD.com. Opinions are his own.
About the Creator
Carl Petersen is a parent advocate for students with SpEd needs and public education. As a Green Party candidate in LAUSD’s District 2 School Board race, he was endorsed by Network for Public Education (NPE) Action. Opinions are his own.