Cheers erupted in the LAUSD School Board meeting on February 13 when a new policy limiting co-location at public schools by charter operators passed on a tight 4-3 vote. The policy would protect Community Schools, Black Student Achievement Plan schools, and the district’s 100 priority schools from co-location, as well as limiting co-locations that would compromise a school’s ability to enroll students from nearby neighborhoods.

Educators and parents lined up early outside the board meeting to speak to the realities from their schools and urge a yes vote on the resolution.

“Our school is already overcrowded and one of the few in the area that has a large number of students with special needs,” Liechty Middle School parent Patricia Santiago said. “Co-locating my school would force already overcrowded classrooms to give up space they need, and this can be detrimental, especially for kids with Special Needs who could potentially lose resources they need. I am here to ask the school board to respect parent voices, to respect educator voices, and more than anything, to respect student needs.”

Cochran Middle School science teacher Armaghan Khan told the board that when charters are co-located in Community Schools, it undermines their ability to fulfill the Community School mission of providing robust services.

“Before we became a Community School and a BSAP school, we had no arts, no sports, no clubs,” Khan said. “The students related our school to a prison — I heard that from many students — and this was reflected in their climate and their outcomes.”

Under the Community School program, Khan said that the school has transformed. 

“We have an arts program,” Khan told the board. “We have after school sports. I myself am leading a music club in addition to a second music program. The students that used to want to leave immediately now want to stay after club hours, and this is only possible because we have the space to host these resources.”

The new policy was passed by four pro-public education members of the board —Jackie Goldberg, Rocío Rivas, George McKenna, and Scott Schmerelson. The narrow passage underscores that the anti-privatization stance of the board majority is at stake in the March 5 school board election.

The victory is a result of years of organizing by UTLA educators, Reclaim Our Schools LA, students, and families to stop the damage of charter company co-location. The fight has included numerous site-based efforts. Just this week, Magnolia Charter rescinded their applications to co-locate at Portola Middle School, Lorne Elementary, Sunny Brae Elementary, and Shirley Avenue Elementary after facing a concerted push-back that included educators and parents showing up at the Magnolia board meeting (photo below). According to LAUSD, there are 53 charters co-located on the district’s more than 1,000 schools. That number is down significantly from a peak of more than 100. 

While the new policy is a step in the right direction, it is not perfect. It does not go into effect until the 2025-26 school year, and it gives individual school board members sole discretion over shared use agreements in their board district instead of those agreements going to the full board. The work goes on to fix Prop. 39 — the original law creating co-location — at the local and state level.