NIA condemns LAUSD’s decision to renew discriminatory charter takeover at BHES
Families from Baldwin Hills Elementary and a coalition of supporters denounce the decision by the L.A. Unified School District to continue the harmful charter “co-location” on campus, which strips much-needed resources from Baldwin’s predominantly Black student body. The decision was reported by KCRW.
Taking these 6 classrooms from the children of Baldwin means a continued lack of space for science and technology learning, arts and music classes, social and emotional learning, special needs education, as well as basic health and safety. It fails to address reports of bullying of younger Baldwin students by older charter students. And it continues the discriminatory cycle of oppression: Baldwin Hills Elementary has the highest population of Black students in any gifted magnet elementary school and is the only gifted magnet elementary forced to give up critical learning spaces to a charter school.
“As the parent of a current kindergartener, I feel like my voice has not been heard,” says Ivan Gamble, who attended the school himself and who sent his older child to Baldwin in 2009-2015, before the charter co-location.
“We’ve made a well-supported case that the district should return the whole campus to Baldwin Hills students, but that request was not met and no explanation was given. There appears to be no accountability from LAUSD for this charter's continued co-location, which comes at the expense of all students on Baldwin Hills' campus due to lost space for enrichment programs that once thrived here.”
Neighbors in Action has held rallies, passed out informational flyers, spoken at half-a-dozen board meetings, and organized a town hall to demonstrate how charter co-location hurts students from both Baldwin Hills Elementary and the charter school. This campaign has shown more broadly how charter co-location in LAUSD disproportionately harms schools that serve a majority Black student population. An LA Times Op-Ed declared that “if Black lives truly matter, Baldwin Hills deserves — is, in fact, entitled to — as much space as possible. LAUSD has an organic model of Black success that the district should be nurturing, not stunting.” And yet despite these calls, the LAUSD continues to stunt the school’s success.
The community’s advocacy is starting to make a difference however: Next year LAUSD will return 2 of the 8 classrooms that New LA has occupied. These 2 rooms will now be available for Baldwin’s Pilot School and Community School programs, as well as vital health and wellness services that had been squeezed.
"We are elated about the return of 2 classrooms,” said Jacqueline Walker, Baldwin’s Community School Coordinator. “However, we know there is still much more work to be done for our scholars to fully experience the use of ALL of our classrooms. We will continue our fight until all of our classes are returned to Baldwin and our students have the opportunities for enrichment activities, social emotional and counseling services and community meetings as they are required, needed and more importantly, deserved.”
NIA calls on New Los Angeles to withdraw their application seeking to take 12 classrooms. New LA, a social justice-themed school, should not participate in the oppressive Prop. 39 system that hurts and takes away resources from all kids in our community. New LA is a well-funded privately-run charter school that says it is trying to merge with another charter and move off Baldwin’s campus. New LA Executive Director Brooke Rios told KCRW “This co-location has resulted in a negative community impact. It’s not something we want, it’s not aligned with the vision of our program.” But New LA continues to request classrooms specifically at Baldwin as they did for 2023-2024.
NIA calls on LAUSD Board Members, Region West leadership and officials with the Charter School Division to guarantee that if New LA moves off campus, the 6 classrooms at issue will be returned to Baldwin’s students and that no future co-location will occupy the campus. The district has previously agreed that designated Community Schools–which Baldwin is–should not be subject to co-location.
NIA demands that LAUSD explain how it came to this decision and how it justifies the taking of 6 classrooms. LAUSD officials have repeatedly declined to explain how the district determines what spaces are considered “available”, and therefore fair game to give over to privately managed charter schools. Baldwin Hills parents have still not been notified about the 2023-2024 decision by the district.
Despite this discriminatory charter takeover, Baldwin Hills Elementary is determined to thrive. The school is celebrating its 80th anniversary this summer.
Why is this happening? In 2000, voters approved Prop 39, which LAUSD interprets as requiring school districts to make some school facilities available to charters. Each school district has leeway to determine how to accommodate eligible charters. Seven years ago, LAUSD decided to force Baldwin Hills Elementary to host the New LA charter. That decision hinged in large part on how LAUSD defines “available space” on a school campus, wrongly interpreting Prop. 39 and incorrectly applying it to include rooms and learning spaces that are essential to operating Baldwin’s curriculum. Almost 10,000 people have signed the petition to end this harmful co-location. Baldwin Hills Elementary is unique but hardly alone. Other elementary schools in the LAUSD Region West have been forced to share a campus based on an incorrect and unfair interpretation of Prop 39.