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Controversial Charter Expansion Plan in Los Angeles Is Revamped

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This post was written by Sarah Tully and originally published on K-12 Parents and the Public

A controversial Los Angeles-area plan to double the number of charter schools was drastically changed to offer new opportunities for students in low-income neighborhoods in all types of public schools, according to media reports.

The Great Public Schools Now group, a non-profit organization largely funded by charter advocates and foundations that support them, announced June 15 that it would expand public-school access to 160,000 students in 10 low-income areas, according to LA School Report.

The group looked at data, including test scores, to find that "more than 160,000 low-income students and English-language learners ... are enrolled in schools whose performance is so dismal that 80 percent of students are learning below grade level."

The new funding could be used to create and expand charter schools, as well as add seats or projects in district schools. That could include magnets in Los Angeles Unified School District, the nation's second-largest district. The specifics about funding for the full project have yet to be released, but the group announced $4.5 million in initial grants on June 16, according to LA School Report.

The plan is far different than one leaked to the Los Angeles Times in fall 2015: That proposal called for $490 million to double the number of charter schools and students—up to 260 new charters enrolling 130,000 over eight years. The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation and other charter school advocates were pushing for the plan.  See an Education Week story about the LAUSD plan.

But the proposal faced backlash from LAUSD officials and others, saying the charters would further drain financial resources and support from the district and its students. Already, about 16 percent of LAUSD's 650,000 students attend charter schools. See a Los Angeles Daily News story about the financial impact of charters.

The seven-member board for Great Public Schools Now includes representatives from the Broad Foundation and the Walton Family Foundation. See the full list and biographies. (The Broad Foundation has provided support for news coverage in Education Week, as does the Walton Foundation, whose support includes the work of this blog. Education Week retains editorial control over content.)

Find the full Great Public Schools Now proposal here.

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