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In an effort to gain more control over education, the City of West Hollywood is considering forming a charter school district.
Citing concerns about the quality of education provided in Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) schools, and the limited options available to local residents seeking quality education for their children, the West Hollywood City Council unanimously passed a motion on Monday to begin looking into creating a charter school district.
Currently, public school students from West Hollywood attend Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) schools. West Hollywood students make up only about 1,000 of the 700,000 students in the LAUSD. There are two elementary schools within West Hollywood, but students must travel outside the city limits to attend a public middle school and high school.
“A growing number of families with children in West Hollywood want higher quality public school, but we are a very small presence within the district,” said City Councilmember Jeffrey Prang, who sponsored the motion to look into creating a charter school district. “We had a strong interest in a greater partnership with public schools, and we invested money in the elementary schools, but there’s only so much we can do.” “Fairfax High is our public school, but there are concerns about the quality of education and about safety, and the vast majority of West Hollywood high school age kids probably go to other schools. I think people in West Hollywood would be willing to play a much greater role in public school if it was something they could impact more.”
Prang said the city made informal overtures to Beverly Hills several years ago, in hopes of creating an affiliated school district, but nothing ever came of it. He also noted the sheer logistical and legal difficulty of seceding from LAUSD and trying to form an independent school district in West Hollywood.
With a charter district, by contrast, West Hollywood schools would remain part of the LAUSD, but it would allow the city to help fund and oversee its local schools.
“What we’re talking about is a model that still operates within LAUSD,” Prang said. “It would provide many of the same opportunities and services as local school districts, but more affordably, and with less complication.”
Daphne Dennis, the Social Services director in the West Hollywood City Manager’s office, said this would be only the second charter school district in California. However, the project remains a long way from fruition — so far, the city council has only directed staff to investigate the potential costs of a feasibility study.
“This is a long term project,” Dennis said. “We’re certainly not going to have a charter district by next fall.”
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