Co-location is when an outside charter operator takes valuable learning space from a neighborhood public school—usually against the wishes of the local teachers and parents.
In the Los Angeles Unified School District, more than 70 of our public schools are co-located by unregulated charter companies, which degrades the educational opportunities for the students and destabilizes the public school. Parents and educators are fighting back against the destructive tactic of co-location.
How can charter corporations take public school space?
Under a flawed state law known as Prop. 39, neighborhood public schools can be forced to give away “unused” space, which is defined as a room that does not have a roll-carrying teacher assigned to it. In reality, that “unused” space is not unused at all—it houses arts and music classrooms, science labs, computer rooms, parent centers, and other resources that contribute to a vibrant, well-rounded educational program.
Co-location hurts students
Co-location can have a range of negative impacts on our students:
- Reduced learning opportunities through the loss of arts and music classrooms, science and computer labs, parent centers, space for afterschool programs, and more.
- Loss of space for students to receive academic intervention, counseling, and other on-on-one support.
- Safety issues with the addition of unknown strangers on campus.
- Loss of learning time in the school library and reduced access to other critical facilities, such as the cafeteria and auditorium.
- Increased noise levels that impact student learning because the charter usually has a different recess/lunch schedule.
- Safety issues due to increased vehicle traffic.
- Additional trash with no additional custodial staff.
- Academic segregation and unhealthy competition among students, families, and educators.
Underhanded tactics and unhealthy competition for students
When charter companies want to co-locate on a campus, they aggressively recruit in the community to get parents to sign “intent to enroll” forms, often employing dubious marketing strategies and misrepresentations of the neighborhood public school.
These “intent to enroll” forms are used by the charter corporation to justify projected attendance numbers and qualify it for the maximum number of classrooms at the public school. Whether those parents who signed the intent forms are truly interested in sending their child to the charter school is a different matter, and because of these overinflated enrollment numbers, the charter often is granted space it doesn’t use.
This practice also begs a larger question: If the charter operator has to aggressively recruit students, is the new school really needed? Is the community truly asking for it?
Who is driving forced co-location?
Co-location is a tactic of the California Charter Schools Association (CCSA) and its billionaire benefactors who embrace a “win at any cost” business model to meet their stated goal of moving 1 million California students into charter schools. They don’t care if a local school is harmed as long as charter corporations get more classroom seats.
CCSA’s funders include people who are notoriously anti-working families, like the Waltons of Wal-Mart, who fight efforts to bring unions and decent pay and benefits to their employees, as well as billionaires like Eli Broad and Reed Hastings, who share the privatizing agenda of Betsy DeVos and Donald Trump.
By undermining the academic program at the neighborhood school, co-location plays into the privatization game plan. The loss of dance rooms, computer labs, and other great programs makes the local school less attractive to parents, who may try to enroll their kids elsewhere. If a school then struggles, the privatizers can label it as failing, shut it down, and turn it over to a private operator.
Co-locations destabilize public education
For too long, questions have gone answered about how CCSA and the billionaire privatizers are threatening the stability of the public school system through co-location and unregulated charter expansion. Currently, charter operators drain more than $600 million from LAUSD schools every year.
We all have a stake in protecting the civic institution of public education and the schools that open their doors to everyone. Charters are supposed to be required by law to accept all students, but in reality they exercise recruitment, admission, and expulsion policies that often screen out the students who are the neediest and most expensive to serve, including English learners and children with disabilities.
Communities rise up
Many communities are not willing to give up their schools without a fight. Across the Southland, parents and teachers are working together to protect their students’ learning from the threat of co-location.
These protests have included collective action like neighborhood walks, petitions, and direct pressure on charter corporations like GANAS and Extera because, in the end, co-locating in a school is a choice that charter corporations make—a choice that hurts students in our local public schools.