The LAUSD Board voted late on Tuesday to direct the Superintendent to either more transparently assist privately operated charters in the takeover of district-owned, public facilities, or to create a fairer process, depending on what is to be believed.

George McKenna and Scott Schmerelson, both retired principals, voted against the motion, which was brought by PUC charter founder Ref Rodriguez and fellow charter champion Monica Garcia. 

Garcia’s opponent in the upcoming school board election, parent Carl Petersen of Change the LAUSD, spoke up on behalf of neighborhood schools, calling Rodriguez’s bluff in the motion’s claim that Prop 39 presents an opportunity for district and charter schools to collaborate.

“I’ve never heard a parent say, ‘Gee, I really hope a charter co-locates on our campus next year.”

He said the situation reminded him of a song lyric from his youth: “You say it’s raining, but you’re pissing down my back.”

Petersen represented parents throughout the district whose children attend co-located schools when he called on LAUSD’s charter division to look for alternatives that put protecting neighborhood public schools ahead of accommodating charters.

But with the exception of McKenna, none of the board members seemed to view the measure in the context of the threat by the charter groups to privatize the school district. Although they reassured each other that the polcy would remain in their hands, not the superintendent's. In discussion, Monica Ratliff acted like a mediator, trying to find a way to get unanimous approval for a measure she said lays out a transparent process. McKenna was not budging. He seemed to think the measure was a surrender. He gave an impassioned speech in support of our schools, saying it was the district's responsibility to try to make our schools the best, not make it comfortable for charters. 

"I don't know how we keep our schools stabilized if we continue to make it easier for us to share our resources." 

McKenna wondered if the real purpose of the motion was to force the board members to make their positions on the issue public. This is no small thing considering board President Steve Zimmer will be up for re-election next year. The California Charter Schools Association is a big player in school board (and beyond) elections. It helped Rodriguez knock veteran educator Bennett Kayser off the board last year.

McKenna directly appealed to his frequent ally: “Mr. Zimmer, I hope you heard what I said.”

But Zimmer voted for the measure, and said the charter schools association has all the power because they sue. Was he acknowledging that the real decision will be made not by the school board, but by a judge? Or was he backing down to the powerful lobby that defeated Kayser? Both fates potentially await.

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