Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Bourgeois Charter Schools Sucking LAUSD Dry

Image by violentz
El Camino Real High School, in Woodland hills, will become one of the latest schools to defect from LAUSD and become a private charter school. El Camino is in a middle class neighborhood and is the highest performing school in the district. Everything seemed to be working, so why change now?

The answer is that the school would receive $415,000 more annually in state money and greater flexibility in how to spend it. Charter school funding is allocated differently than it is for traditional schools. In 2009-2010, California charter high schools received an average of $7,369 per student, while traditional schools only received $6,417. For LAUSD, however, it will be major loss of revenues, as funds that would have been allocated to LAUSD to fund El Camino will now go directly to the schools’ new board of directors.

The El Camino case highlights a disturbing trend. In this climate of budget cuts and economic uncertainty, going charter seems like a way to increase funding, when everyone else is losing it. However, by going charter, a school skims off resources from all the remaining public schools, thus further impoverishing them and decreasing their ability to provide safe and effective learning environments. For middle class schools like El Camino, it allows privileged parents to insulate their children from poor and working class kids, both physically and fiscally. But unlike private schools, their privileged education is subsidized by everyone, rather than coming out of their own pockets. This tendency will likely accelerate as education budgets continue to be slashed to pay for tax breaks and subsidies for the wealthy and their businesses. It will also exacerbate problems for the remaining low income schools, which will not only lose funding, but also top students who will defect to the better funded and higher performing schools, resulting in lower test scores and higher failure rates under NCLB. This in turn will force more low income schools to convert to charter schools under NCLB’s regime of punishments for low performing schools.

In California, charter school conversions are on the rise. This is particularly true in LAUSD, Campbell Union, in Santa Clara County, and San Diego Unified. Campbell is a wealthy enclave of San Jose. In San Diego, much of the charter chatter is occurring in upscale Point Loma, where wealthy and middle class parents are trying to insulate their kids and resources from the working class and poor of neighboring communities, like Ocean Beach. In both San Diego and Campbell, the trend seems to be about social privilege, as it is at El Camino, in Woodland Hills.

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