Under fire for his proposal to freeze charter school growth, LAUSD school board member Steve Zimmer on Tuesday released a scaled-back plan to ask charter operators to voluntarily delay applications until the district tightens its oversight of the mushrooming movement.

Critics turned out in force to protest the resolution Zimmer introduced last month that would have imposed a moratorium on new charters while Superintendent John Deasy crafted a strategic plan for governing the public, yet autonomous, campuses.

Charter groups said the ban would be illegal, and parents packed the boardroom and demonstrated outside of Los Angeles Unified headquarters against any effort to limit the options for where their kids can go to school.

The revised resolution modifies most of the provisions in the original plan, but the most critical asks prospective charter operators to voluntarily hold off on submitting applications until the issue is sorted out.

"It does not limit parents' access to choice," Zimmer said in a statement that accompanied the revised plan. "But it does raise difficult questions about how LAUSD should manage further expansion of choice in our district. We need to have these tough conversations. Our children deserve nothing less."

The resolution will be taken up by the board at its Nov. 13 meeting.

Although charters are financed by taxpayer money and are considered public schools, they are often compared with private schools because they are free of some of the regulations and policies governing traditional campuses.


Advertisement

A growing number of parents dissatisfied with their neighborhood school have found charters to be an attractive alternative. An estimated 110,000 students are enrolled in 232 charters in Los Angeles, and thousands of additional kids are on waiting lists.

Corri Ravare, managing regional director of the California Charter Schools Association, said she appreciated that Zimmer had responded to the criticism but she still had concerns that the revised version would impede charter growth.

"I think the steps that he proposes could be made without the resolution and the stress of how he crafted the language," she said.

"Charters are responsive to the needs of kids and families. There's a sense of urgency, and charters are able to react quickly to this."

During Tuesday's meeting, the district released a report showing that students in independent charters outscored their counterparts in traditional schools on the state's standardized math and English tests.

In the elementary grades, 58 percent of charter students scored proficient in English-language arts compared with 54 percent of the kids in traditional schools. In math, 70 percent of charter students and and 63 percent of those in traditional schools were proficient.

At the secondary level, 52 percent of charter students were proficient in English, compared with 43 percent in traditional schools. In math, 36 percent of charter students were proficient compared with 30 percent in traditional schools.

According to the district's breakdown, charters had higher percentages of white and African-American students than at traditional campuses. Latino youngsters, meanwhile, composed 75 percent of LAUSD and 68 percent of charter school enrollment.

Also on Tuesday, the LAUSD board established an arts magnet at Verdugo Hills High and three new magnet programs at Sun Valley Middle School.

Board member Tamar Galatzan, who represents the west San Fernando Valley, voted against the proposals, citing concerns about paying for the operational and transportation costs associated with the programs.

Verdugo Hills High will specialize in visual and performing arts, while Sun Valley will offer programs in environmental science, social justice and civics and leadership.


barbara.jones@dailynews.com, 818-713-3710, twitter.com/LADNSchools