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Charter SchoolsK-12LAUSD

L.A. school board narrowly rejects taking stand against new state science and math school

George McKenna opposes a proposed state school in Los Angeles. (Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times)
George McKenna opposes a proposed state school in Los Angeles. (Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times)

A proxy struggle between backers and critics of charter schools came before the Los Angeles Board of Education on Tuesday, and charter supporters prevailed. 

The odd element was that the issue at hand was a proposal for a new school that was not defined as a charter school. 

The topic of debate was a resolution to go on record as opposing a bill before the state Legislature that would establish a new state-sponsored campus in Los Angeles focused on science, technology, engineering and math.

Local philanthropist Eli Broad is a strong backer of the idea and willing to contribute funding toward the project, according to the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation.

Three board members — George McKenna, Scott
Schmerelson and Richard Vladovic — voted for the resolution. They oppose such a school on the grounds that it would operate very much like a charter without being subject to the L.A. Unified School District's approval or oversight. 

Charters are independently managed and have greater freedoms than most traditional public schools. In L.A., most are nonprofit and non-union. Their explosive growth — at the expense of L.A. Unified — is hotly debated.

A recent election brought the school board its first majority supported by charter backers. They voted against the resolution opposing the school. Monica Garcia and Nick Melvoin said L.A. students need more high-quality educational options. Kelly Gonez said she thought the proposal to create the school was flawed, but she voted against the resolution to oppose it, saying she did not like its language.  Board President Ref Rodriguez said he objected to the wording of the resolution,  but he did not express a view about its intent.

In a rare stand on a politically divisive issue, Supt. Michelle King said she opposed the bill to create the school as currently written, including its suggestion that L.A. Unified was incapable of providing adequate math and science programs.

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