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New L.A. Program Aims to Help Parents Navigate School Choice

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A Los Angeles-based parent-advocacy group has launched a new program to help low-income parents with the complicated process of finding and applying for district and charter schools, assisting 734 families in the first six months.

Parent Revolution announced Tuesday the initial results of its Choice4LA program, which began in January with a pilot program in an eight-square-mile area.

The group is working with more than 40 community organizations—food banks, churches, social-service agencies—to find families who needed help finding schools. Of the 734 families that it has reached, parents have submitted applications for 321 students.

Los Angeles already has many school-choice options. The Los Angeles Unified School District alone runs eight specialized schools, along with its traditional neighborhood schools. In addition, about one in five students attend charter schools in the Los Angeles area.

Yet, high-needs families often don't know how to choose them, said Seth Litt, executive director of Parent Revolution.

"You really can't comparison-shop for a school in Los Angeles easily," Litt told Education Week. "To go along with supply, you have to go along with access."

Parents who were assisted by Parent Revolution applied to an average of 4.3 schools each. Also, 63 percent of them applied to both district and charter schools, according to the group.   

Parent Revolution, which was founded in 2009, is more well-known for its parent-trigger campaigns. Under the state's Parent Empowerment Act, parents can collect signatures to take over low-performing schools, such as by turning them into charter schools. The parent-trigger movement, however, has hit stumbling blocks in recent years, as I wrote about in April.

Litt said his organization is still committed to the parent-trigger concept, but it is expanding to help parents in this way, as well.

"It's not the right tool for every family and every school for every situation," Litt said.

The Choice4LA program is beginning as new school-choice efforts are underway in Los Angeles Unified.

Superintendent Michelle King, who was hired in January, is spearheading the possibility of creating a unified application system for district schools only. Earlier this month, the non-profit group Great Public Schools Now committed to assist 160,000 students in 10 low-income areas in Los Angeles.

Services to help families navigate school-choice systems have been growing, including the EdNavigator program in New Orleans. Also, there's a growing private business of consultants assisting parents with school choice.

See more blog posts about the parent-trigger movement.

Contact Sarah Tully at [email protected].

Follow @ParentAndPublic for the latest news on schools and parental involvement.

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