Baldwin Hills Elementary School Parents Won a Resolution from West Adams Neighborhood Council Declaring their School a “Charter Free Zone
https://michaelkohlhaas.org/wp/2019/03/24/baldwin-hills-elementary-school-parents-present-resolution-to-west-adams-neighborhood-council-declaring-school-a-charter-free-zone-co-locating-privatizers-from-new-los-angeles-charter-scho/B [Edited excerpts]
Since January 2019, I’ve been following the story of New Los Angeles Charter Elementary School and its forcible colonization of Baldwin Hills Elementary Pilot and Gifted Magnet School. I was inspired by the UTLA strike and a fine article by Daniel Hernandez of LA Taco. After a relatively minimal amount of fuss, I managed to obtain a small cache of emails that revealed a great deal of tension between the privatizers and the public school, which inspired the privatizers to seek another school site. However and sadly they were unable to do so and [they are still lodged in and] universally scorned on the BHES campus. [Ed. note: Baldwin Hills Elementary, with a 70% African American student body, is the only LAUSD magnet school forced to accept a charter school “co-located” on its premises. Since the developments recounted here, parents and teachers, as well as community supporters from nearby Village Green on Obama Blvd. between La Brea and La Cienega, have all spoken out forcefully to LAUSD Board member McKenna and others about this racist disparity. You can sign a petition to support the community, families and teachers’ demands here: https://iam.colorofchange.org/petitions/protect-baldwin-hills-elementary-pilot-school-from-charter-growth%5D
On March 18, 2019, a brave and determined group of BHES parents brought a resolution to the West Adams Neighborhood Council asking them to declare the BHES campus a “charter-free zone.”
I attended the meeting and made video of the BHES segment. You can watch the whole thing here on YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ub6LiPPD8bc&feature=youtu.be. The NC Board gave each side seven minutes to speak on their positions. Also, Vernail Skaggs of LAUSD spoke to explain how the co-location process works. There was vigorous public comment as well, and in the end the Board voted 8 to 3 in favor of supporting the resolution and declaring Baldwin Hills Elementary School a “charter free zone.”
NC resolutions are advisory even on the City of Los Angeles, and since LAUSD is completely independent of the City government, they’re even less than advisory in that context. Nevertheless, this was an important victory. The more NCs and other community groups in LA speak out against charter schools, the more incentive City politicians will have to oppose them. The school board and the legislature take the opinions of our City pols seriously, so even though this resolution is symbolic in itself, it’s an important piece of a large-scale anti-charter movement.
Here are some quotes from the proceedings:
✯ Delmar Thomas — Parent representative at Baldwin Hills Elementary School and a leader of the pro-resolution movement:
“We’ve watched our school slowly, slowly die. We’ve lost computer rooms, art rooms, after-school programs that help with tutoring, and the list can go on and on, as a result of the charter co-location by New LA Charter School.”
✯ Leticia Johnson-Davis — Baldwin Hills Elementary School principal:
“Our school has been in the community for 75 years. One that’s been a gem in serving the needs of our community.”
✯ Marie Germaine — Teacher at BHES, [UTLA chapter chair and union leader, as well as a neighborhood resident]:
“I am here to tell our story. No representatives from the district, no Prop 39 papers circulating around this room, tell the story of my work conditions and my students’ learning conditions. I tell that story. That is my story.”
✯ Kate O’Brien — Principal of New Los Angeles Charter Elementary School.
“I do wanna stress again that we are the community. And so when we think about what are the assets and what are the gems in this community I would advocate that New LA is one of them. I harbor no ill will towards Baldwin Hills and the school. I am impressed at what they are doing. I think they’re doing fantastic work. And the bottom line is that we are not looking for this to be a permanent situation.”
Which is some kind of weird lie, of course. Who knows what narrative she’s got running in her head when she says that New LA is part of the West Adams community, but it’s the mental equivalent of behind-the-back finger crossing. New LA is not part of the community in any non-manipulative sense.
And the fact that O’Brien concedes that New LA wants to leave shows…well, it shows that organizing, that speaking out, that the politics of shame have a real effect. What if every public school with an unwelcome co-location made them feel unwelcome, unhappy, and so on. What would happen then? I’m not sure, but I’d sure like to have this City give it a try.
✯ Brooke Rios — Executive Director of NLA Charter Schools:
“New LA is prepared to listen, to empathize, and to work together as fellow educators to continue to look for solutions. As a result of tonight’s discussion I hope it will become clear that we have not, nor do we intend, to take anything away from the Baldwin Hills community. However, our intentions do not compensate for the impact of our co-location and we are sympathetic to those concerns. …The plan for our school is to find and occupy our own independent site, which we are actively pursuing. … Clearly both schools are powerless in this situation and I wonder how we can move beyond these challenges together.”
I feel like this was written by a professional PR person, as it swerves around every pothole. They’re here to listen and to empathize. They don’t want to take anything. They have good intentions but of course their intentions aren’t enough. Their kids are poor, their kids are not white, their kids also come from the neighborhood, and it’s no one’s fault and we’re all in it together. But what else would anyone expect but PR?
Brooke Rios is earning her living hauling a trojan horse filled by zillionaires and zillionaire minions behind the not-so-well-guarded walls that protect the beating heart of our democracy. Whether she understands that or not it’s not possible that she believes deep down that what she’s doing is an unmediated good. Hence she can’t possibly speak truth from her heart. Which is when professional PR is needed badly.
✯ Shonte — BHES after-school program:
“The information that Kate gave was false information. When she first came on campus she sent an email to me and the other directors at the after-school program and wanted to meet with us to see how we could separate our time on the yard where her children had the yard first and we had it second. I did not respond to the email. I told her I found it very inappropriate. Baldwin Hills has run the after-school program. My kids go out when they chose to. We don’t need to separate the yard. If it’s about community, separating the yard is not community.”
New LA Charter school parents spoke in favor of the school and what their children are getting. It’s part of the evil genius of the pro-charter zillionaires that they have found a way, yet again, to pit one group of relatively poor people of color against another group of relatively poor people of color, in order to advance their zillionaire interests.
Obviously zillionaires don’t care at all about anyone whose kids go to their charter schools. They don’t care about the kids. That doesn’t mean that the charter school isn’t offering the kids something that’s valuable to their parents. But this hard fact can’t possibly be enough of a reason not to oppose the co-location, not to oppose the very existence of charter schools. If it were a reason, the zillionaires have already won, because they can always, will always be able to find people who need something badly, an education, whatever, and will take what’s offered for the completely incontrovertible reason that they find it best for their child.