Eastman Elementary in East LA has been co-located for the past three years, and the resources that have been taken away are hurting the kids and the local community. When the EXTERA charter company came on campus, the students’ art room, STEAM lab, parent center, garden programs, and food bank were all impacted.
The charter co-location forced the school to move the STEAM lab to a second-floor classroom, making it difficult for one of the students who uses a wheelchair to access those lessons. In another case, the parent center, which plays a critical role in parent engagement, was relocated to a remote area of the school that is less accessible to parents, thus lowering involvement.
Another negative impact of co-location is that the two schools are held to different standards. Just this year, Eastman had to close one of its classrooms because of too few students — it had 23 students in that class. Those students had to be crammed into other classrooms on the campus. At the same time, EXTERA charter company was allowed to keep classrooms with as few as 14 students. This inequality in students’ learning conditions is at the heart of the impact of co-location on public schools.
The charter company co-location is also stifling potential growth at Eastman. Many innovative projects at public schools are funded through grants, but to qualify for the money, the school has to have the space to implement the program. Because of the EXTERA occupation, space that would have once been used for new arts, math, and science programs are not available because the charter company has taken over those spaces.
EXTERA charter company is not needed in the community. Eastman Elementary school is a great school with more than 15 clubs and organizations on campus. The Eastman educators have deep connections to the community, and together have decades of experience. They are the recipients of the Civic Learning Award for promoting participation in extracurricular activities that create a thriving school climate with active participants and future leaders.
Together, Eastman teachers and parents and students are calling for an end to charter industry co-locations that strip valuable resources from public school students.
What is colocation?
Under a flawed state law known as Prop. 39, neighborhood public schools can be forced to give away “unused” space to charter operators. In reality, that “unused” space is not unused at all—it houses arts and music classrooms, science centers, parent centers, and other resources that contribute to a rich, vibrant educational program. And just because a charter operator can co-locate does not mean that they have to. This invasion is a choice that charter operators make—a choice that hurts students in neighborhood public schools.
This divide-and-conquer strategy is pushed by the corporate lobby group California Charter Schools Association (CCSA). CCSA and local charter companies are funded by billionaire privatizers like the Walmart family, Eli Broad, and Reed Hastings and politically supported by Betsy DeVos and Donald Trump. Their agenda is to drain our schools of resources, say they are failing, and then privatize them. Privatization creates a two-tiered education system that does not benefit all students. Co-location is a threat to our children’s right to free and quality public education.
Co-locations like Catskill’s are happening all over California. In Los Angeles, there are more than 70 public schools that are co-located by unregulated charter companies, which destabilizes the public school and the surrounding communities. Parents and educators are fighting back against billionaire privatizers and the destructive tactic of co-location.