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Public School Choice: Applying Lessons We Learned Last Year to Demand Real Results for Reform

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Last year, I was a leading partner and advocate in the creation of the Public School Choice motion, because I believed that this program was a critical vehicle for reform and represents one of the most significant efforts that the Los Angeles Unified School District has ever undertaken.

But, as with any new program, over the first year we learned that there is room for improvement, and we can - and must - do better for our students and schools. We need to take the lessons learned from the first round of school choice and adjust the program accordingly so that the best and most well-suited organizations are chosen to reform our schools.

So today standing with leaders and educators from around Los Angeles, I strongly urged the Board to do the right thing and improve the school choice process because we need to make it more rigorous, equitable, and beneficial to the students in these schools.

Let's keep what works, and change what does not.

We need a more robust, reform-oriented program, a program that recognizes if there is no qualified applicant. Reconstitution is the appropriate course of action.

Also, we need to make sure that all applicants are held to the same standards and are judged on their proven track record. This can be achieved through a fair advisory vote process that would not tolerate unethical conduct by declaring the applicant ineligible.

When it comes down to it, this should be simple. The organization with the best plan for educating our kids gets to run the school. School competition works because it offers us a chance not simply to tinker at the edges of our school district, but to turn our public education system on its head.

Here in Los Angeles, we have some of the most innovative charter school operators in the country. They have shown us real results, and they've established proven track records of turning around schools. We should give them - and any other organization with a reform agenda and proven record of success - a chance because we cannot place the same old failing school system into brand new buildings and expect different results.

This year, we have an opportunity to improve the public school choice process and deliver our students the reform we promised. Let's not accept the strides we made as a place to stop. Let's continue to move forward with real change and improve upon our innovative and promising school choice program. This is about creating the future of LAUSD - an autonomous, empowered network of schools. So, let's make it fair to all those participating: fair to the applicants, fair to teachers, fair to parents, and most importantly, fair to our children.

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