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  • Scary Budget Cuts at LAUSD + Choices Deadline Approaching

    The Los Angeles Unified School District Board has approved a budget plan that includes cutting 1,400 teacher positions. This is particularly concerning to me, because we’ve committed to an LAUSD school for next fall, deciding not to apply to any private schools because the ones we can afford aren’t significantly better than our local public school. I’m fervently hoping that doesn’t change during the next eight years, which is how long it’ll be before Tyler moves on to middle school.

    For now, I’m cautiously optimistic because we live in a somewhat odd neighborhood, where many people have money, yet many don’t. That’s perhaps the ideal mix for a public school: More than half of the students at the school qualify for financial assistance with lunch, which translates into a hefty amount of government funding for the school. Yet there is an active PTA that’s raised enough money to supplement the government-provided bare minimum with a full-time nurse (most schools only have one that’s part-time) and additional classes like art and PE. Needless to say, I’ll be doing my part in the PTA to ensure the school’s high standards continue.

    In the meantime, if you are planning to apply to a magnet school, for a permit with transportation, or the No Child Left Behind – Public School Choice program, don’t forget that the application deadline is December 18.

    Previously: More about our public vs. private school dilemma

    LAUSD Program Choices: Application Deadline is December 18, 2009

    I’ve previously discussed the various public school options in the Los Angeles Unified School District, which most notably include magnet schools. Since Alex will be entering kindergarten next year, I’ve been monitoring the eChoices web site, which is LAUSD’s informational site.

    Last October, there was an informational session at UCLA, so I kept waiting for the announcement about this year’s session. But October came and went without any announcement, and I had to conclude that the session was a casualty of the district’s massive budget cuts. In fact, the site remained unchanged from last school year.

    Until this week.

    For the first time, there was a new date at the upper right, indicating this year’s application deadline of December 18, 2009. That’s almost a month earlier than last year (when applications were due on January 9 of this year).

    Applications were mailed to the homes of current LAUSD students on Friday, November 6. For those like me who don’t have any students enrolled yet, you can pick up an application at your local LAUSD school, Los Angeles Public Libraries, and at Local District offices in late November, or at the Student Integration Services office at 333 South Beaudry Avenue, 25th Floor, in Los Angeles (90017).

    One thing to keep in mind about the magnet program is that each year that you’re rejected, you accumulate “wait list” points that can help you get accepted the following year. Several of the magnet schools start in the first grade, so my plan is to apply to one of the few kindergarten magnets with the hope of getting rejected. (You don’t accumulate points if you get in and then decline to attend.) Then if we decide that a magnet school is in our best interest come first grade, we’ll be in the best position possible to get into that school.

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    Public vs. Private School: Resolving our dilemma

    One year ago, I was agonizing over whether to send our boys to public or private school. In our area, most parents in our socio-economic class seem to have this debate. I’ve discussed it countless times, and in the last year, I’ve done a ton of research into the topic. I’ve learned about the public school options, researched magnet schools in particular, attended an information fair put on by LAUSD, attended open houses, sought out other parents, and generally became a sponge for any and all information on the topic.

    The bottom line conclusion we’ve reached is that our local public school is as good as any private school that we can currently afford. The very best private schools, at $20,000 per year per child, are simply out of our price range right now.

    We’ll be revisiting this topic as middle school approaches, because our conclusion currently applies only to the local elementary school. But for now, we’re quite at peace with our decision. Of course, the real test will be next fall, when kindergarten actually becomes a part of our lives.

    In the meantime, for parents who are experiencing the same dilemma, I highly recommend being as proactive as possible. Reach out to other parents, read informational booklets and web sites, and attend any events that are open to the public. I was pleasantly surprised and pleased at how well-run the events at the public school were, and it gave me a chance to meet some of the teachers, administrators and parents. I’ve gotten to know a few moms whose kids are kindergarteners at the public school this year, and seeing their satisfaction with the school has been extremely encouraging.

    One final note: I’ve been keeping a close eye on the web site for LAUSD’s Choices program, through which you apply for magnet schools and such. It appears there is not going to be an informational session this year, which I’m guessing is a casualty of this year’s steep budget cuts.

    Image credit: School Crossing Safety Sign at Amazon.com.

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    Revisiting the school issue: We’re still torn between public and private

    Last fall, I wrote extensively about our dilemma of whether to send the boys to public or private school. After doing some research, I concluded that our local public school would be more than adequate. But then came California’s budget crisis and uncertainty about what that means for our local school. (I feel much like this local mom.)

    Marc and I had just decided that we’d apply to one of the private schools I visited a few months ago and if Alex got in, we’d send him there. But his pediatrician has encouraged to go with our public school because there would be more opportunities available to him through LAUSD’s gifted program (which he thinks Alex would get into).

    So now I’m torn again.

    Fortunately, Alex won’t start kindergarten until 2010, so we have a year to see what changes are made at the public school. Hopefully they’ll be minimal!

    California Charter School Locator

    My friend Beverly kindly sent me a link to the California Charter School Association, which has a handy charter schools locator that you can use to find charter schools in your area.

    I haven’t found a national charter schools locator, but the U.S. Charter Schools web site seems to have some interesting basic information about charter schools. I didn’t even really know what a charter school is, so this definition was helpful:

    Charter schools are nonsectarian public schools of choice that operate with freedom from many of the regulations that apply to traditional public schools. The “charter” establishing each such school is a performance contract detailing the school’s mission, program, goals, students served, methods of assessment, and ways to measure success. The length of time for which charters are granted varies, but most are granted for 3-5 years. At the end of the term, the entity granting the charter may renew the school’s contract. Charter schools are accountable to their sponsor — usually a state or local school board — to produce positive academic results and adhere to the charter contract. The basic concept of charter schools is that they exercise increased autonomy in return for this accountability. They are accountable for both academic results and fiscal practices to several groups: the sponsor that grants them, the parents who choose them, and the public that funds them.

    It looks like there are several charter schools within our area, so I’ll be adding them to mix in deciding where to send the boys to school.

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