First published in Echo Park Patch on 2011-08-15.
"Colocation is eviction... It doesn't mean sharing, it means displacement." — NY State Sen. Bill Perkins
Gabriella Charter School Corporation continues to blatantly disregard the rights of the public school community at Echo Park's Logan Street Elementary School. Not content with having exceeded their allotment of space by several rooms, last week the well heeled executives of the corporate charter decided to forcibly annex Logan's entire auditorium. Here's an excerpt from one of the witnesses:
[We] looked into the school auditorium to discover that the Gabriella Charter School had moved its entire front office into the Logan auditorium. That includes desks, sofas, file cabinets, end tables and other various office paraphernalia. It was not there for storage. It was set up for business.
Set up for business indeed. As one can see from the photograph taken by a witness, this isn't furniture placed temporarily as if being rearranged, these desks are set up for use with lamps plugged in, papers and such at the ready. Moreover, none of Logan's administrators had been notified that their school's auditorium was appropriated by the adversarial charter corporation.
This egregious act by the corporate charter currently leaves Logan Street ES with no assembly space for their students or parents, and is part of a pattern of encroachment and disregard for the public school community that Gabriella occupies. Gabriella Corporation already caused Logan ES to cease offering any pre-school program because the charter took the two pre-kindergarden rooms. While LAUSD's legal department did contact the corporate charter and told them they needed to move their "office" out of Logan's auditorium, such notifications haven't done much in the past, as Gabriella has systematically violated its space cap several times in the past.
Shockingly, when Los Angeles Unified School Board President Monica Garcia was contacted regarding Gabriella Corporation's latest violation, she claimed she:
"Had to stay neutral in a case like this."
Community members and social justice activists are curious as to why our LAUSD trustee, whose district encompasses both Gabriella Charter Corporation and the public school it occupies would need to remain neutral when the charter is clearly violating the civil rights of all the public school families at Logan Street Elementary School. Echo Parque community members are encouraged to contact President Garcia at (213) 241-6180 or firstname.lastname@example.org and discuss this incident with her.
Gabriella Charter School Corporation originally was able to gain a foothold on our neighborhood public school's campus under the insidious colocation provisions of Prop 39. Prop 39's colocation provisions were created by the deep pocketed California Charter Schools Association and their plutocrat backers in order to help undermine public schools and saddle taxpayers with the expenses of privately run charter schools over which they have negligible say or oversight.
It shouldn't surprise anyone that Gabriella Corporation's governing board (Gabriella Axelrad Education Foundation) sports several dubious non-educators with some experience with displacing the public commons in favor of private interests. Anyone familiar with the tragic tale of urban farm destruction documented in the Academy Award nominated film The Garden, will recognize the names of those board members responsible.
While Los Angeles communities and social justice activists are just beginning to learn how to fight back against charter school colocations (read occupations), in other cities there are established movements actively doing so. In New York City, groups like the Grassroots Education Movement engage in this struggle, and there have even been lawsuits against charter encroachments. Some of these struggles are documented in the inspiring film The Inconvenient Truth Behind Waiting for Superman, a must see for public school supporters. In our local struggles, we need to place political pressure on Gabriella Charter School Corporation to stop encroaching on our public school, and to pressure LAUSD to enforce the civil rights of all the families enrolled at Logan Street Elementary School.