SES Professor Emeritus Charles Kerchner Weighs In on L.A.’s ‘Charter School War’
With charter school advocates now the majority on the Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education, what does the future hold for the nation’s second-largest school district? Will it become easier to approve new charter schools? Will L.A.’s school system end up dismantled?
Is this the end—or the continuation—of the Charter School War?
“If the charter school advocates’ expectations are to simply increase market share and create a deregulated environment for themselves, they will be disappointed, and they should be,” he said. “The big issue is whether the new ‘reform’ board continues what I’ve called the Charter School War or ends the war and claims the very large peace dividend.”
Charter schools are a special class of public schools that are privately run and operated like a nonprofit within a school district. Proponents say charters provide families with alternatives and allow them to choose a school that fits their children’s needs, among other benefits. Opponents cite accountability issues and argue that public funds that support charters could be put to better use in public schools.
Los Angeles has more charter schools and students than any other school system in the country.
The debate continues in the wake of the election of Nick Melvoin and Kelly Gonez, both backed by charter school supporters and school district critics, to the board. Backers and opponents of Melvoin and Gonez—who, together with two charter-friendly incumbents on the board, form a majority—spent a total of $15 million during their campaigns in what is now considered the most expensive school board election in United States history.
And with the L.A. district in a position to bring about change, Kerchner suggested a new goal: “How to design a twenty-first century school system rather than whether the old system should be charter-friendly or not.”