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New coalition pushes for one enrollment system in L.A. Unified

Author Luis Rodriguez signs books for the Mendez High School Reading Club, the kind of activity that the school hopes will attract new students. (Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)
Author Luis Rodriguez signs books for the Mendez High School Reading Club, the kind of activity that the school hopes will attract new students. (Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

Several organizations officially joined forces Thursday to press the Los Angeles Unified School District toward a common enrollment system for all students.

The idea is that students and families would have one place, one form and one process for managing the myriad educational options available in the nation’s second-largest school system.

Relatively sophisticated middle-class families have spent years learning the nuances of the different enrollment timelines and strategies, giving them a huge advantage over, say, immigrant families learning English, parents with limited education or working-class families in which parents juggle multiple low-wage jobs.

“Education access is a civil rights issue” said Ines Kuperschmit, co-executive director of Learning Rights Law Center. “The enrollment and application process must be inclusive and ensure equitable access for low-income students, children with special needs and other vulnerable populations.”

Movement in this direction has been glacial in L.A. Unified, although a team of mid-level managers has taken on the project with gusto in recent months, even as they continue to handle other tasks.

The new coalition's ultimate goal would be for a common enrollment system to include independently operated charter schools, which compete with L.A. Unified for students and the funding that comes with them. Including charters could prove politically tricky within the district. And some charters also are likely to resist signing on to a system that would limit their autonomy.

L.A. Unified programs also compete with each other, but in that situation the state and federal money that follows the student stays within the school system.

Besides the law center, other groups in the new coalition are: Alliance for a Better Community, Los Angeles Urban League, Parents for Quality Education, Parent Revolution and Partnership for Los Angeles Schools.

Members of the group took part in a recent meeting with the district planning team at Mendez High School in Boyle Heights. Mendez Principal Mauro Bautista says he is ready to compete for students in a new system. Already, he sends staff members combing through the neighborhoods to explain to families why they should choose his school over other options.

The group calling for a common enrollment system has added one more entry to the alphabet soup of local education acronyms: PEAPS-LA. That stands for Partnership for Equitable Access to Public Schools in Los Angeles.


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