May 16, 2023

Carl J. Petersen: A Charter School Board Member Says The Quiet Part Out Loud

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Carl Petersen keeps an eye on LA schools, and he finds some charters being less than sneaky about carefully curating their student body.

Lax oversight by the LAUSD Charter School Division allows charter schools to manipulate their enrollment in other ways. For years, the LAUSD ignored Granada Hills Charter School’s violation of the rule prohibiting schools from requiring that IEPs or 504 plans be submitted prior to enrollment. Despite the fact that charter schools are supposed to enroll every interested student, the Citizens of the World charter school chain is one of many that invite parents to “apply” to its schools. The regulators at the LAUSD insist that despite this wording, there is no “information showing that CWC [East Valley] is not admitting all pupils who wish to attend, denying admission for any student, or has any discriminatory admissions policy.” The data comparing the charter to a public school that is a half mile away from it shows something different:

As the North Valley Military Institute (NVMI) gets closer to failing, the charter school has embraced exclusionary policies. While announcing an ill-fated attempt to turn the school into a “Middle College” program, “Superintendent” Mark Ryan threatened to eliminate special day classes for children with moderate to severe disabilities if enough students did not enroll to make them financially “viable.” He also told parents that IEPs, which are supposed to be legally binding, would not cover college classes, even though these classes were being offered as part of the high school program.

At a meeting of NVMI’s Executive Committee last weekend, one of the school’s trustees went even further in her comments. Julie Ward, who is also a parent at the school, stated that NVMI should be selective in the students who are allowed to remain at the school, particularly with the classes that are held on the Los Angeles Mission College campus. She went as far as to suggest that “if you can’t perform right now in the college program that you’re in, you don’t need to be in our program. At all.”

That suggestion led to this remarkable comment.

Knowing that there were “members of the press” and representatives from the authorizers at the Los Angeles County Office of Education (LACOE) attending, Mark Ryan was quick to say that, despite what he had stated about students with special education needs at the previous meeting, Ward’s comments were not the official policy of NVMI. In doing so he threw other charter schools under the bus by declaring that “we are not one of those charter schools that cherry-picks, that says…’if this kid doesn’t want to do it or can’t do it…then they shouldn’t be at our school.’” He went on to acknowledge Ward’s viewpoint as a parent’s “opinion,” ignoring the fact that Ward is a Trustee and helps to set policy at the school.

Do you suppose he’d be willing to name those other schools?

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