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Fielding a local reporter's questions about Camino Nuevo Charter Corporation's designs on

by Robert D. Skeels Friday, Apr. 29, 2011 at 4:17 AM 90026

Now that Philip Anschutz's LAUSD Board Member from District 5 gave CRES #14 to CNCA Corporation, we see the true intransigence and arrogance of a CMO. For over a month we've asked CNCA to write into their charter the availability of at least a Mainstream English program in addition to their Transitional Bilingual Program. CNCA Corporation, and Yolie Flores - who promised the rest of the board she would insure it was implemented - have ignored the community. As with all corporate charters, CNCA is concerned with their bottom line alone.

By every account: legal, moral, and ethical, CNCA should be required to serve every child in my community. By allowing them to dodge the requirement as a school in our attendance boundary to provide a Mainstream English program, we allow CNCA to continue their discriminatory practices that smack of exclusivity and elitism. — Robert D. Skeels (LAUSD District 2 Board Candidate)

A local reporter had some question about our struggle to get CNCA Corporation to follow through with LAUSD Vice President Yolie Flores' promise to have CNCA offer multiple language tracks in addition to their already existing program. The questions with my answers are reproduced here to provide public transparency into how corporate charters brashly ignore community needs and input. In the interest of providing both the reporter and some Echo Parque parents with a degree of anonymity, I've excluded their names from this reproduction of the interview.

Q: How do you respond to people including [Some Echo Parque Parents] and Anna Ponce who say that the English only track issue has been resolved?

I've responded to this several times, but will reproduce some of it here. My first and somewhat cynical thought is, given Ponce and CNCA Corporation's track record, who would take them at their word? More to the point though, I wrote this recently on the list:

The charter document needs to contain the language, and we didn't see it in the charter document. If someone can email me a pdf of or fax me the page in their charter that says what we want, then I'll back off this issue.

Without the phrases Mainstream English program, Structured English Immersion program, and Dual Language Immersion program appearing in their charter for this school, CNCA Corporation and Yolie Flores have essentially pulled off a deception. Ms. Flores promised the other LAUSD Trustees that she'd address CNCA Corporation's one-dimensional language program offering. To this point, no one has shown evidence that this is the case. Frankly [An Echo Parque Parent] shouldn't be the one scrambling to get this information. In a democracy, where communities had some power over the public commons, then the onus would fall on CNCA Corporation to document what we are asking for. Unfortunately, since they're a private corporation with an unelected board, they can and have chose to ignore us and our community's very real needs.

Since the charter is a legal document, it gives our community a modicum (however slightly) of recourse when CNCA Corporation's business executives don't deliver what they promise.

Q: Also, this follow up: should there be an English-only track? Given the recent reporting and academic literature about the benefits of bilingualism, couldn't this conceivably be an excellent way to set CRES #14 from its competitors?

First question. Yes, absolutely — a publicly financed school must be obligated to educate every child. Given the demographics of CRES #14's attendance boundary, CNCA Corporation's existing program would only serve a portion of students potentially wanting to attend.

For your second question, you're conflating different bilingual programs with each other. ALthough this is addressed above, please familiarize yourself with the difference between Developmental/Transitional Bilingual Model Versus Dual Immersion Models. More to the point, CNCA Corporation's model assumes that all entering students are ELL with Spanish as their mother language. How does this benefit Korean, Mandarin, Tagalog, English, or other speakers?

Addressing your last question. I hope your intention was be facetious when you discuss "competitors." Public schools are tasked with the moral, ethical, and legal responsibility to educate every child, not to be bastions of divisiveness and duplicity brought on by competition. There are no credible peer reviewed studies indicating that contrived "competition" between schools fosters anything except for widespread cheating (Michelle Rhee's DC Schools for example), and demoralization of both students and educators. 

Instead of having a narrowly defined language program that reeks of exclusivity and elitism, let the publicly financed CNCA Corporation choose to serve potentially any student that wants to attend. I know that will cut into their bottom line somewhat, but that should be their obligation given that we're the ones that foot their bills.

It's a real shame that an organization like CNCA Corporation, that claims its goal is to create "agents of social justice with sensitivity toward the world around them" is in practice agents of injustice in our community. I'm a little shocked at their intransigence, especially at Philip Lance, who used to have a good reputation before he got into the charter school business.

Q: [B]ilingualism, of course, does not have to assume that [S]panish is the dominant language.

Ordinarily, but not in this narrowly defined case. CNCA Corporation's program assumes precisely just that. It's a transitional program for Spanish speaking ELL to transition to English. While we discuss this as not necessarily a good thing, and inappropriate for serving every child's needs, CNCA Corporation sells it to many mono-lingual Spanish speaking parents as a good thing, since their children will be predominately English speakers by the eighth grade. Meaning of course, that their Spanish skills would not be sufficient for even undergraduate level essay writing. In fact, Cervantes would probably be too difficult for those "bi-lingual" speakers CNCA Corporation produces. If that's fine with some parents, great. What about all the other families? They don't deserve consideration? Optimally we'd like to see CNCA Corporation offer a range of language programs, but at this point it's a struggle enough to get these mendacious businesspeople to just comply with offering a Mainstream English program.

For a review of the different bi-lingual programs, see: Developmental/Transitional Bilingual Model Versus Dual Immersion

Q: [W]hat would be device for rewriting CNCA's definition of bilingualism?

I don't think it's a matter of their definition versus ours at all. In academic and pedagogical circles, these distinctions are clearly defined. CNCA Corporation has many employees that know all of this, any one of them would be able to tell you the same thing. Ana Ponce could tell you the difference, given her educational background. The definition(s) of bilingualism isn't in question here,  and this isn't a matter of semantics. For more on bilingual education see Prof. Jeff Bale of MSU and Prof. Stephen Krashen of USC.

What's in question is why won't CNCA Corporation commit in writing what LAUSD Vice President Flores promised they would when she gave them our school?

Q: that something you've considered?

I'm not sure it would take much for them to write what we want into their charter for CRES #14. I can't speak for them, but I think their resistance stems for economics rather than any other explanation. It will cost them slightly more to do the right thing. Perhaps Ms. Ponce or another CNCA Corporation representative can correct me here, but they seem to be afraid to commit resources when they aren't sure what the composition of their student body will look like yet.

GIven that they've just been handed a multi-million dollar facility for free, and that all their student related costs are borne by the public, they should only be focused on educating every child. Because we're asking CNCA Corporation to accommodate our community instead of our community accommodating them, there has been resistance. They still have to hire staff for CRES #14, all they'd really have to do is make sure that they hire enough teachers qualified to teach what we're asking. After they write what we want into their charter.

Let's be clear. We're not asking CNCA Corporation to replace their transitional bilingual education model. We're asking them to commit, in writing, to offering several different language models — including Mainstream English. I don't think we're asking too much.

Q: [W]hat's the status of your letter and your quest to get a meeting with the Board of Education?

I've been patently ignored by the Board of Education. I suppose this isn't unexpected, but you'd think they'd leave personal issues aside and do what's best for my community. After all, Ms. Flores promised.

The letter to the LAUSD Board that the reporter was asking about is:

Open Letter to LAUSD Board Regarding Grave Issues with CNCA's Charter for CRES #14

There's also a follow up letter:

On LAUSD's urgent need to pressure CNCA to revise the CRES #14 charter

Because we're constituents, community members, and parents, LAUSD ignores us. Rest assured, if our names were Burton, Barr, Ponce, Piscal, or Petruzzi, we would have been granted an immediate hearing. This quote from the Los Angeles Times demonstrates why:

"Luis Sanchez...worked the room at a posh Beverly Hills condo...The nearly 50 guests drank Au Bon Climat chardonnay and Piper Sonoma sparkling wine as Sanchez's backers, including school board President Monica Garcia and charter school leaders, lauded him..." — Los Angeles Times

These privatization minded LAUSD Board Members, like Mayor Villaraigosa, are bought and paid for by the lucrative charter-voucher school industry and its ideologically charged plutocrat backers long before they take office. That's why the have no scruples about serving every whim of the the charter school sector at the expense of the communities they're stealing from.

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