In September, the district reported a decline in charter school companies submitting Proposition 39 requests to co-locate on neighborhood school campuses. In the 2015-16 school year, 101 requests were submitted. Only 51 were submitted for the 2023-24 school year, and for the 2024-25 school year, zero requests for new co-locations were submitted.

Lorena Elementary School Special Education teacher and UTLA East Area Chair Adrian Tamayo shares the history of the fight against charter co-locations’ drain on school resources:

After being passed by California voters in 2000, Proposition 39 went into effect, allowing unregulated charter school companies to start gutting public school resources. LAUSD started giving away “empty classrooms” that were being used for arts education, intervention programs, computer labs, science labs, and STEAM programs, as well as rooms used by itinerant service providers such as psychologists, PSAs, PSWs, occupational therapists, and language and speech providers — all spaces that are vital to the overall well-being, academic growth, and enrichment of a child’s education, especially for our most vulnerable students with the greatest needs.

We were seeing charter school companies specifically target “high achieving” students while enrolling students with special needs only to “recommend” them back to their public school soon after the start of the school year. Charter school companies would then keep the ADA funds while the student was returned back to their neighborhood school. In essence, the unregulated charter schools were being catered to by LAUSD while undermining deadlines, procedures, and the needs of the public neighborhood schools.

In UTLA East Area, which covers all schools in East Los Angeles, Boyle Heights, and El Sereno, there were 15 co-locations at the highest, where going into the 2024-2025 school year, there will only be five co-locating charter schools.

The success of reducing the number of co-locations across LAUSD has been possible for several reasons. First of all, school-site organizing has been critical and, in many ways, the most important.

Back in 2013, Lorena St. School was notified only five days before the end of the school year that their campus would be co-located. I led the Lorena community through grassroots organizing, and 100 people came together in just two days to rally outside Lorena St. School and Local District East. News media and social media spread the story quickly.

That same day a group of 20 teachers, parents, and students spoke late into the evening at the school board meeting demanding answers to the unjust decision. I remember asking the school board (led by Beutner!) “Why are you doing this to our school community during the last five school days of the year, literally no warning? Why are you dismantling our computer lab!?” From this collective day of action and that outcry at the school board meeting, Beutner and LAUSD committed to implementing shared use agreements with the right to meet and discuss how a co-located campus was to be shared, a stipend for the Co-location Coordinator/Liaison, and ensuring communication and enforcement of the agreement, all of which to this day remain codified into our collective bargaining contract. 

Another factor has been the parent community support that has grown over the years and remains an important component in fighting against co-locations and defending our public schools. 

Eastside Padres contra la Privatizacion (Parents Against Privatization) is a grassroots-organized group of parents, students, and educators that has been on the frontlines of every co-location demonstration, whether it be at school sites such as Eastman ES, Garfield HS, Rowan ES, Sunrise ES, and Marianna ES, or at the school board, Charter school offices, and privatizers’ homes. Centro CSO, a community-based social justice organization located in Boyle Heights has also had a long-standing working relationship with UTLA, standing side by side with us fighting against co-locations and defending our public schools in and out of the LAUSD board room. This includes successfully preventing the old Lincoln Hospital site on the corner of 4th and Soto Street in Boyle Heights that was intended to be converted into a KIPP Span school.

Winning contract language has helped to ensure LAUSD cannot give charter school companies unaccountable freedoms on any campus. Through our 2019 strike, we codified this language into our contract. Then, after our solidarity strike with SEIU Local 99 in 2023, we strengthened the existing language and added more.

Our UTLA-LAUSD contract includes enforcement language stating the UTLA Chapter Chair must be invited to periodic district walk-throughs and shared use agreement meetings, a UTLA member-appointed Co-Location Coordinator at each co-located school, and quarterly updates on any future possible co-location impacts. This language ensures schools will never again be blindsided five days before the end of the school year like at Lorena St. School.

It has been a long fight since 2000 when Prop 39 became an unfortunate thorn in the life of California public schools. There is no doubt that Los Angeles became ground zero for the billionaire privatizers to profit from co-locating their charter schools on neighborhood school campuses. Along the way, there have been many incredible wins and heartbreaking losses. The resolve of our members and the school communities, along with parents, community organizations, and UTLA’s organizing vision has led to reduced co-locations and many times complete removals. We and our communities must continue to monitor as charter school companies will continue to figure out a way to profit from undermining our public schools.