Voters Weigh In On LAUSD Reform Plans
Jefferson Senior High School is one of the 30 schools up for auction this week.
Parents, teachers, students and community members will have their say in the future of 30 L.A. Unified schools this week, as the district's Public School Choice Motion moves to the polls.
Voters will rank their charter school or partnership preferences on Tuesday and Saturday. The tallies, counted by the League of Women Voters, will then be consulted by L.A. Unified Superintendent Ramon Cortines when he makes his recommendations to the school board.
"This is our opportunity to hear directly from those who will be most affected by this vote," said LAUSD board member Steven Zimmer during a press conference held at the district's headquarters Monday morning.
Among the "most affected" will be 38,000 students, Zimmer said.
The Public School Choice Motion marks the first time that the public has been able to offer such input in the management of its schools.
Several charter school and partnership organizations have "bid" for 12 low performing schools and 18 new schools, Sharon Delugach, the campaign director for Steven Zimmer, said.
View Public School Choice-Focus Schools in a larger map
Over the past several weeks, these organizations have held community forums and informational meetings about their programs, encouraging public questioning and debate.
This week, the product of those meetings will be placed in the ballot box.
LAUSD is arranging transportation for those who live far from the voting centers.
"There's been a herculean effort to make sure access is available," Zimmer said.
League of Women Voters President David A. Holtzman expects a high voter turnout.
"It might be more than some of our municipal elections, which would be great if not too embarrassing for our elected officials," Holtzman said.
Zimmer said a general interest in public education will lead to a high turnout.
"When the future of the schools is on the line, people feel passionately about it," said Zimmer. "They are going to do two things. One is that they are going to organize in protest, but what's different about this process is that they are actually participating."
Among the passionate participants, however, are dissenters.
United Teachers Los Angeles remains opposed to what it calls "the school giveaway motion," according to its "School Change News" flyer. Yet, Zimmer said UTLA has "worked diligently on school plans at almost every single campus."
UTLA officials could not be reached for comment Monday.
Parents, teachers and community members attended the community forums en masse, and several people voiced their frustrations with the motion.
David Garcia, a teacher at Jefferson Senior High School, said the Public School Choice Motion resembled a "hospital corporate takeover" at the community forum regarding his school last Thursday.
The grandmother of a Carver Middle School student pointed out at the same forum that the school was improving since the hiring of a new principal. "I don't think it's fair for you to come here and take it," she said.
Zimmer said he is not disheartened by these negative reactions to the motion.
"This is a community process, for better or for worse," Zimmer said. "And so I'm very happy about the engagement. I know it gets uncomfortable sometimes, but democracy is uncomfortable."
Yet, democracy is not truly at play.
This week's votes serve simply as a guide for Cortines, as he drafts a report for the school board.
"This is not the last step in the process," said Monica Garcia, the L.A. Unified School Board President. "We want to hear from everyone. But the superintendent will make a recommendation regardless."
The school board will announce its decisions on Feb. 23.
"Whatever the outcome, L.A. Unified will be better because of [this process]," said David Holmquist, the general counsel for L.A. Unified. "And the students will be the winners."