Below are the text of the comments I made during discussion of the BCS final offer. I prefaced this with an acknowledgement that many of the speakers seemed to have adopted a more 'community minded' tone than what I received in email during the weeks prior to the meeting. I'm grateful for the improvement in tone.
Once again we have reached that point in the year where the LASD Board approves a final facilities offer for BCS under Prop 39. What appears to the public as a simple vote is actually the culmination of a year-long process involving countless staff hours, meetings and negotiations. I’d like to first thank Randy Kenyon and the district staff for pulling this together, as well as Katia Kamangar, Peter Evans, and Andrea Eyring of the BCS board for their participation in this process.
I’ve received several emails from the public over the past several weeks asserting that the LASD offer indicates that LASD has shortchanged BCS students in one manner or another. I assure you, the public, nothing could be further from the truth. LASD has consistently complied with and exceeded the requirements set forth by Prop 39. We have allocated space in a manner that is reasonably equivalent to other district schools. "Reasonably equivalent" is the key phrase from the regulations. It doesn’t guarantee exact equivalence- for exact equivalence is literally impossible to achieve.
Two areas come to the front more than most others, so I want to explain briefly, for the benefit of the public, what the true facts are.
Speakers tonight have suggested that LASD has provided an insufficient number of classrooms for the BCS student population. They cite a "growth of 70+ students" over last year, and focus on the addition of a single classroom in the new offer. The implication is that the district proposes to put 70 students in a single classroom, which of course is not true. What is not called out is that the student-to-classroom loading ratio is a significant factor in the process. This year LASD classrooms for 4th to 6th grade averaged 26.88 students per classroom, even though the District used a more favorable ratio in allocating classrooms to BCS. This fall the District expects to load at a higher level, and that increase in the District’s ratio has an impact on the allocation of facilities to BCS
Furthermore, although not required by law, we reached an agreement with BCS last fall that allows for a change the classroom loading for BCS if the District’s own classroom loading changes before June 30. That means if the parcel tax passes, or the Governor’s proposals make it out of Sacramento and are passed by the voters, BCS could stand to benefit from a reduction in the District’s student-to-classroom ratio. Of course that’s a two-edged sword. If BCS parents continue to lobby against the parcel tax, BCS could stand to suffer from an increase in the District’s student-to-classroom ratio.
The other area I hear about is field and asphalt space. Several letter writers this week have mistakenly asserted that LASD is "shortchanging" BCS because BCS is "entitled" to 115,000 square feet of turf. They reach this number based on the average amount of space per student across all of our comparison schools. Proposition 39 does not require that the District allocate field and asphalt space on an absolutely equivalent basis to all schools. The per-student amount of Kindergarten space, Blacktop and Turf space allocated to BCS is well within the range of the amount allocated to other District schools. In point of fact, several schools have less space per student in these categories. Loyola actually has less space per student in ALL THREE categories. We hope that the parents at Loyola won’t decide to sue LASD because their space isn’t exactly equivalent to the BCS space. In his ruling last fall, Judge Kleinberg upheld the District’s allocation of Kindergarten space, Blacktop and Turf space allocated to BCS. The Proposition 39 regulations recognize that school sites don’t come in "one-size-fits-all" allotments and that some variance in allocation is to be expected.
Letter writers this week have directly or indirectly asserted that the Gardner Bullis campus is underutilized, and some boldly suggest we should move them off their campus and provide that space to BCS. Not once do those letters even acknowledge that the parents of today’s 300 Gardner students would be just as outraged as the founders of BCS were just a few years ago. They give no thought to the impact on that school community, or the students who attend it. I am frustrated when I receive letters that seek to advance the goals of one group of students at the expense of another group, while those same letters also urge me to treat all public school students fairly. The irony of this language may be lost on the author, but it is not lost on me.
This year, as we have consistently done in the past, the District is providing more than we are legally required to do. This isn’t about hitting the legal "minimums", squeaking by with the least amount that we can. We have consistently striven to be fair to the BCS program, and will continue to do so in years to come. Hopefully we can soon work on a bond measure together that would help us put to bed the question of facilities for an extended period of time, but that isn’t for today.
I don’t pretend to believe that my comments here will move those who view the situation as BCS vs. the District. As the trustee on our Prop 39 committee, I can safely say that I spend more time than any other Board member on BCS matters. I attend BCS recruiting events, and I have made repeated efforts to reach out to the BCS parent community. We may not ever be the best of friends. I only hope that my comments provide some context for the general public, so that they know we as a Board are meeting our legal responsibilities. We can’t invent more land, and we have limited resources to share across all public school students. We will continue to do what we have always done- uphold the law, and do our very best to share our limited resources across all of the students we serve, regardless of what school they attend. Meanwhile, I’ll continue to reach out, and I thank the general public –and the BCS parents – for their input.