Charters, teachers vie to take over L.A. Unified schools

The nation’s second-largest school system is once again inviting bidders to take over poorly performing and new campuses, in a school-control process that is, once again, pitting teachers and their union against independently operated charter schools, most of which are nonunion.

Teachers working for the Los Angeles Unified School District put in bids for every school. And charters are vying for all but one.

At stake is the education of more than 35,000 students who will attend those schools.

“Teacher-led plans offer the best chance to achieve genuine student improvement,” said A.J. Duffy, president of United Teachers Los Angeles.

“We’re here again to fight for our children,” said Corri Tate Ravare, president of ICEF Public Schools, which operates 15 local charter campuses. “Our track record absolutely speaks for itself.”

In the first round in February, groups of teachers, frequently allied with district administrators, won 29 schools; charter schools were given four, and three went to the education nonprofit controlled by L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. Some campuses were split into several schools.

The mayor got most of what he wanted, but charter schools prevailed in only a fraction of their bids. And they were criticized for mostly preferring new campuses over struggling schools.

This time nearly every existing school attracted charter bids. ICEF is going for five: Muir, Mann, Harte and Audubon middle schools and Woodcrest Elementary, all of them south or southwest of downtown. Green Dot Public Schools put in for Clay and Harte middle schools. The Alliance for College-Ready Public Schools submitted for Clay and Huntington Park High School. Only Los Angeles High School lacks a charter bid.

The mayor’s nonprofit, which controls 15 schools, is seeking no additional ones. Instead, Villaraigosa has sided with charters and suggested last week that he would lean on allied school board members to do likewise, something he did not do in the first round. Ravare, of ICEF, made her comments standing at the mayor’s side.

All told, more than 80 groups submitted letters of intent for new schools or low-achieving ones for fall 2011. A few bids came from outside groups that aren’t charters, including Youth Policy Institute, a social service nonprofit, and MLA Partner Schools, which manages two district high schools while honoring district union contracts.

Six new high schools are up for bid. Each probably will be divided into smaller academies that could be managed by different operators.

Central Region High School No. 13 in Glassell Park attracted 16 bidders, including three long-established charters, teams of district administrators and teacher groups from four existing high schools — Marshall, Roosevelt, Franklin and Crenshaw. The new $231-million, 23-acre school will enroll students living in areas served by Marshall, Franklin and Eagle Rock high schools.

Final proposals are due in December. L.A. schools Supt. Ramon C. Cortines will then recommend who should run individual schools to the Board of Education, which is expected to vote in February.

In the earlier round of bidding, applicants had to put together their proposals in weeks. This time, they will have the better part of a year. Officials also are trying to improve the process by which employees, parents, high school students and community members take part in nonbinding votes for their favored proposals.