Good morning, CharterFolk.
I have to admit, this one keeps coming back to me.
Maybe it’s the fact that I saw Hamilton, a couple of weeks ago. Somehow inside my head …
32,000 troops in New York Harbor. 32,000 troops in New York Harbor.
… has morphed into …
27,000 kids in LA Harbor. 27,000 kids in LA Harbor.
As if 27,000 kids have been shipped off to … goodness knows where.
Then there’s the Establishment, doing their best King George.
You’ll be back. Time will tell. You’ll remember that I loved you well.
And while there are some out there who keep trying to remind parents and students that they are still LAUSD’s loyal royal subjects, more sober minds see the reckoning a-coming.
California’s state fiscal experts, FCMAT, are predicting a huge drop in public school enrollment in California through the end of the decade, with Los Angeles County expected to lose the largest percentage of students – 20%.
That’s a drop of nearly 300,000 kids, CharterFolk.
But it’s the immediate impact of Covid era departures that is giving everyone the greatest heartburn.
School districts in California, as I have been writing about recently, were offered a “hold-harmless” provision, a guarantee of funding no matter how many kids the districts actually serve. Meanwhile, charter schools have not been offered such a hold-harmless.
Before the Local Control Funding Formula was approved here in California, we were all focused on achieving funding equity for charter schools – the same funding per pupil that school districts received. We were happy when California’s Legislative Analyst Office came out with a report …
… confirming what we had been saying for years, which is that the very best that any charter school did in per pupil funding relative to traditional public schools was 93 cents on the dollar, not including the cost of facilities, which most charter schools have to pay for out of their operating budgets. And for all sorts of sub-categories of schools, the funding inequity was far worse.
But then the LCFF was approved and for most intents and purposes, per pupil charter school funding, not including facilities, was made equal to traditional public school funding.
This week San Francisco Unified announced that it has experienced a 7% decrease in enrollment over the past two years.
Given that the hold-harmless is in place for school districts but not charter schools, charter schools in San Francisco are receiving somewhere around 93 cents on the dollar per pupil relative to district schools.
So we’ve come full circle, right back to where we were a decade ago.
Daunted, yes, but also …
… young, scrappy and hungry.
Now, of course, the powers-that-be claimed their hold-harmless was just a temporary thing, something to help the school districts bridge a moment of crisis, though the risks of creating such contorted stop-gap arrangements were well-known.
One-year relief turns into multiple, delaying the pain and making the problem even larger, such that when the day of reckoning arrives, the disruption to learning becomes enormous.
By my estimates the amount of cuts that will be necessary in LAUSD next year without some extension of the hold-harmless will be somewhere in the $450M range.
And now, just as the 74’s article predicted, we see Establishment protectors proposing all sorts of further continuations of the stop-gap, which will only push things further off and make the final reckoning even worse.
It’s a tune as familiar as any penned by Lin-Manuel: extending fiscal protection to district schools and not to charter schools, all in hopes of protecting the Establishment, which ends up being the focal point of concern at moments like this, not kids and families.
One can imagine a different world, one where, rather than protection of the Establishment being our top priority, the needs of families and students would reign supreme. That would occur in a world where our needs hierarchy for public education was aligned with accomplishing something greatly public.
It would be a world where values are our foundation … that students’ interests, especially our most vulnerable students’ interests, would come first …
… where, building upon that, we would provide families agency so they can get to the educational opportunity that is best for their kids, and we would provide educators agency so they can offer whatever educational opportunity is within their capacity to offer …
… and where, building upon that, we would have high levels of accountability even through a pandemic, so we keep schools’ financial incentives aligned with doing as much as possible for students and families.
Instead, we see a needs hierarchy where heaping as much funding as possible on the people of the Establishment becomes the overarching priority …
… and where agency and accountability come last.
It leads to a fundamentally unstable circumstance …
… that inevitably collapses …
… leaving students and families out in the cold.
As Lin-Manuel coined it: it’s a world turned upside down.
That bears repeating.
CharterFolk, public education as we know it in the United States is a world turned upside down.
So, while the Establishment clings to their vain hope that: They’ll be back. Time will tell.
Let us redouble our efforts to make sure that parents and students end up where they really belong.
Where we need them most.
In the room where it happens.