Two L.A. Charter Schools Allowed Some Families to Bypass Lotteries

Courtney Williams's picture
Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Los Angeles Unified will weigh a ban on preferences like those at Larchmont and Los Feliz, which admitted some students in return for special services or volunteering by parents.

Two popular Los Angeles charter schools have allowed some families to bypass a lottery for admission in exchange for providing special services or a substantial volunteer commitment.

The practices of Larchmont Charter School and Los Feliz Charter School for the Arts have raised concerns that such preference policies, if allowed, could open the door to well-connected friends or wealthier families who promise to contribute. In effect, critics say, charters could end up functioning more like private schools than campuses almost entirely supported with tax dollars.

Neither school concealed its enrollment procedures and they were tolerated by the charter school office of the L.A. Unified School District, but exposure of the practices is prompting the Board of Education on Tuesday to consider a ban on such preferences.

Under state law, independently run charter schools are open equally to students without regard to family resources. Lotteries are held when applications exceed classroom space.

"It's pretty obvious if you're going to have a lottery, you have to make it equal for all the families that are applying," said Bennett Kayser, a frequent charter critic who joined the school board this year. "There shouldn't be end runs around the process."

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