07 Apr Charters in Los Angeles/San Fernando Valley Seek Affiliate Status (CA)

April 7, 2011

By: Education News
Source: Education News

More schools in Los Angeles are taking advantage of a unique program to partially separate themselves from the Los Angeles Unified School district, the Contra Costa Times reports. Six schools in California’s San Fernando Valley are seeking “affiliate charter school” status which will give them flexibility in structuring their program like a charter school, yet retain their connection the LAUSD.

Many schools in the county, chiefly in suburban areas, are considering similar moves. Becoming an affiliated charter frees school officials from certain district mandates while giving them an opportunity to design their own curriculum and schedule. However, nominally, they remain part of the LAUSD, with the district providing services and most of the schools’ funds still going to capital expenses and salaries. Teachers continue to work under existing labor contracts. The schools do get complete discretion over how they spend state grant funds and, as charters, they also get the state charter school block grant of about $400 per student per year.

    Schools that go to charter status have to give up eligibility for several state and federal grants, which are largely targeted toward minority and low-income students.

Since many suburban schools don’t qualify for such grants, the additional funding can be a real boon in the time when economic uncertainties mean the education budgets are being aggressively slashed. Colfax Elementary School, which became an affiliated charter in 2008, used the extra money to save and even expand performance arts, technology and science programs. The new status also gave the administrators an opportunity to experiment with different educational approaches like running a campus farm as part of the science curriculum.

Jed Wallace, president of the California Charter School Association says that the increasing number of schools seeking the new status proves that the charter school model is gaining wider acceptance.

    “We’re happy educators across the state are recognizing the charter model is an effective, common sense reform to be pursued in many forms,” Wallace said.

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