Get Savvy on College Funding with SmartTrack!

Are you freaking out about college tuition? 

Wondering how to pay for college without losing your home or your retirement?

For many of us just thinking about it brings up feelings of dread and inadequacy. Perhaps downright denial as the cost of college tuition keeps spiraling upward at an ever increasing rate.

Folks, rather than bury your head in the sand, it’s time to get pro-active and take a look at where you stand and how to optimize your financial situation – whatever it is – to get the most out of the college financial application process.

And while I’m an expert on navigating K-12 public school options, I’m still learning when it comes to financial planning towards college. That’s why I went to SmartTrack to work with the experts, who reviewed my financial picture and set me straight.

For instance, here’s a little shocker I learned.

Did you know that the generous savings account your grandparents set up for your kids and fund every year will actually be factored into your Expected Family Contribution (EFC – the amount you will be asked to pay for tuition based on your entire financial picture) at 20%, but if it was held in YOUR name as a guardian it will only be factored at 5%? 

(Oops, sorry kids. Your account is MINE now!)

That’s just one of the many things I learned after working with SmartTrack, who helped me move my assets around in order to minimize the sting of what colleges will expect me to hand over to them for tuition.

I can hear you now, “But it’s WAAAAYYYYY too early to be thinking about that stuff, I mean, I just got my kid into middle school. We don’t even know where he’s going to high school, let alone college!!”

Folks, the prep time comes earlier than you think. (Are you listening my middle school families?)

So I sat down with Cyndi Menegaz of SmartTrack and had a little chat about all of this college financial planning intel. She’s got a lot of great info and a special deal for my GoMamaGuide families. Take a look:


Tanya Anton of GoMamaGuide chats with Cyndi Menegaz of Smart Track

Don’t despair, get prepared. Get SmartTrack.

They’ll help you figure out:

• How to pay for college
• How to pay LESS for college (yes!)
• How to maximize merit and financial aid

Don’t pay “retail” tuition. Learn how to mitigate red flags in your financial profile and lower your Expected Family Contribution (EFC) tuition calculation. Get help with your FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). Utilize SmartTrack’s online suite of college funding tools and handy resources, and work with a personalized SmartTrack College Funding Coach who will walk you through the financial process to save you money.

Schedule your FREE 15 min call! 818-552-0800 and mention GoMamaGuide.

To get started, sign in to your FREE SmartTrack account at:

https://collegefundingkit.com/gomama

**Specifically targeted for my 8th-10th grade families, but it’s never too early to prepare. Call for your FREE assessment today. 

Guys, your kids will be doing SAT/ACT test prep, they’ll be doing college essay prep, and parents if you’re smart, you’ll be going to SmartTrack to do financial prep.

 

 

Heads Up! ECHOICES Deadline Extended One More Week To Friday Nov 16 5p!

It has been brought to my attention that the LAUSD has extended their eChoices online application deadline one extra week.

New deadline is Friday, November 16th at 5p.

Sending love and prayers to all the families who are impacted by these crazy fires. Please be safe, please help one another, and together we will get through these trying times. My heart goes out to friends who have completely lost their homes.
❤ ❤ ❤

eChoices Deadline This Friday, Nov 9 at 5p!

5 LAUSD Programs, 1 Application.

Due by 5p this Friday, November 9, 2018.

New Deadline: Friday, November 16, 2018.

Go to: echoices.lausd.net or apply.lausd.net

If you are considering Magnets, Dual Language programs, SAS/Schools For Advanced Studies programs (no, it’s not due in March anymore), PWT/Permits With Transportation, and the newly coined programs called Admission Criteria Schools for next fall, then get those applications in NOW!

You can go up and edit your application as many times as you like between now and 5p on Friday, but whatever is listed on your application at the deadline is what will be submitted.

Your Verification of Eligibility Forms and Kindergarten Readiness Checklist Forms for Gifted/SAS Programs also need to be RECEIVED by 5p this next Friday.

Should you miss this deadline and submit a late application in February, Magnet folks will forfeit the opportunity to collect any waitlist points. You will also run the risk of not getting into the more competitive programs. Just get it in on time.

Got questions? If you need a last-minute consult to review your app or strategy, I have a block of 30 min phone consultations available between 9a and 4p through Friday afternoon. You can grab your call with me here: https://gomamaguide.com/store/phone-consultations/

I turn into a pumpkin Friday at 5:01p.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Will There Be A Strike? What Happens Then?

If you haven’t heard, there’s been quite a bit of rumor swirling around about a potential teachers strike as LAUSD and UTLA (United Teachers of Los Angeles) hash out their labor negotiations. What does this mean? What will happen? When will it happen? What happens to my kids’ school if there’s a strike? What if I have to work when there’s a strike? Will schools shut down? Who’ll watch my kids???

I know. I know. So many questions, so many unknowns. These are good questions. All of them. For all of us.

I received the following additional questions from a working mom today, which made me decide to tackle these questions and share my response more widely with all of you parents in the hopes that it provide you with some understanding of where we are at currently with this pending situation.

Q: As you have heard, the LAUSD is possibly going on strike. We have been told by the principal that they will still have classes that will be combined and taught by administrators should there be a strike. Further, they are saying that if we do not attend these classes that our son would be marked as absent. This seems illegal to me. Do you know who I can contact that would know about whether or not some of these suggested strike actions are legal?
.
Ok, let’s dive into this.
.

In a perfect world, LAUSD and UTLA will be able to settle their differences, and come up with a workable solution through the mediation process they are currently going through, and avoid a strike altogether. However, UTLA’s members have voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike, and if they feel they need to use that tactic to get what they want, they have agreed to stand together should their leaders enact that option. Latest word I heard was that if it did happen, the strike wouldn’t be until December, but who knows. The negotiations are done privately. At any point if the mediation process breaks down, then yes, a strike is a definite possibility.

Meanwhile, LAUSD, and specifically LAUSD School Board Vice President Nick Melvoin, have assured me that should there be a strike, schools will NOT be shut down, they will bring in subs or whomever they can (administrators) to keep schools in session.

Also, understand that schools get paid by their ADA – Average Daily Attendance – money. This is just a fact of how schools are funded in our California public school system, which is why they are so adamant that attendance stay high, and if your child is not in school, why they insist you bring a doctor’s note or legitimate written excuse so they can still collect the daily attendance dollars. If a child is marked absent without an excuse, called an “unexcused absence,” schools are docked that child’s ADA amount for that day. So cumulatively, they are losing a lot of money due to absences. And this is why, at the end of the year if your child has more than 7 unexcused absences (you forgot to send the note!) they send you some threatening letter with a bunch of legalese under threat of prosecution that it is your parental responsibility to get your child to school or they will sue you. It’s all about money. And they are serious. [You can read all about excused and unexcused absences and attendance and Ed Code in this handy LAUSD tome, “School Attendance – A Parents Guide.” Or how chronically absent students cost a district millions of dollars here. And read the CA Legislative Analyst’s Office 2018 Update of K-12 Student Attendance and Funding.]

So, back to the labor issue. If there’s a strike and the majority of students walk out too – schools will not be getting paid their ADA funds multiplied by all the students who are absent during a strike. Meaning, the strike will not only affect teachers who will lose teacher pay for each day gone, but school budgets will also be impacted with lost ADA funds each day a strike wages on and students do not attend. It is NOT a win-win. It is quite a lose-lose for everyone, unless UTLA and LAUSD can end up cutting a deal they can live with and UTLA calls off the strike threat.

Complicating matters is that with the rising fiscal cliff of unpaid health and pension benefits careening towards LAUSD, taking up a significant portion of the annual operating budget and driving them towards near insolvency, if LAUSD doesn’t balance their budget, the State and County have already come knocking twice to warn LAUSD that they WILL take over if they cut a deal with UTLA that they cannot afford. So it is a dramatic time right now as both sides continue the mediation process. A process which is done between the negotiating partners, which we-the-people-the-stakeholders have no say or control over.

It’s worth mentioning that since Independent Charters have the flexibility to hire and fire and negotiate their own staff’s benefit packages directly, and have the autonomy to manage their own budgets and governance decisions, they will NOT be impacted at all should there be a strike.

But LAUSD neighborhood schools, Affiliated Converted Charter schools, Magnets, Dual Language Programs, Schools For Advanced Studies (SAS) Programs, Small Learning Communities (SLCs), Academic Criteria Schools (ACS), as well as other Specialized Academies within LAUSD, will ALL be impacted by these negotiations and potential strike.

I hope this explanation helps you understand the process and ramifications. I am holding hope that the strike is avoided and a settlement can be reached. For all our sakes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Heads Up! SAS Now Included in Oct/Nov EChoices App!

Heads Up Everyone.

If you are considering applying to an SAS or Schools For Advanced Studies (gifted) program for next year, LAUSD has moved the application deadline from March (when it had previously been due), to the newly revamped Oct/Nov eChoices application.

That means SAS apps are DUE by Friday, November 9, 2018 by 5p. 

FOUR AND A HALF MONTHS EARLIER THAN LAST YEAR!

Yep.

This is causing a slight last-minute panic, both for SAS schools AND parents, however I have gathered everything you will need to get this done on time.

Here are the bullet points:

• You will have up to 3 choices for SAS on the eChoices application, so choose and sequence them wisely. You will have a 1st, 2nd, and 3rd choice, so think about which SAS school you want the most, and also consider which one is most likely to have space as residents will have priority enrollment in the school before SAS applicants.

• You only have the potential to draw one SAS offer from the eChoices lottery, however you could also apply and get drawn for a Magnet AND a Dual Language Program AND an Admissions Criteria School (new category) as well. In fact, you could ostensibly win all 5 program categories on the eChoices application. Then you will have to make a choice between programs.

• So to recap, if you want to apply to some SAS programs, you will do it in Oct/Nov on the online eChoices application while you’re also applying for Magnets, Dual Language Programs, an Admission Criteria School, and also Permits With Transportation (if your school is a sending school.)

• If the SAS program you are interested in is also an Affiliated Converted Charter School, you cannot use this process. You must apply directly through the school’s onsite non-resident lottery. At a later date. Set by each school. (Valley, Palisades peeps, we’re mainly talking about you here!)

• There are NO POINTS for any program EXCEPT the Magnet program. (That’s a relief!)

• Additionally, in order to apply to an SAS program, your child must meet the GIFTED eligibility threshold and submit the necessary paperwork by the Nov 9th deadline. 

• There are multiple ways to meet eligibility, however probably the easiest method is to have your child’s Teacher and Principal or Director fill out the Verification of Eligibility Form, especially if your child is coming from preschool, private school, a charter, or another non-LAUSD program.

• In addition, for incoming Kindergarten SAS applicants, you will also need your child’s current Teacher and/or Director to fill out and sign the SAS Kindergarten Readiness Checklist Form.

To repeat, you’ll need BOTH these forms (linked below) filled out and signed:

The Verification of Eligibility Form
The SAS Kindergarten Readiness Checklist Form

Send the signed completed forms either by mail or deliver in person BEFORE the Friday, November 9, 2018 5p deadline:

U.S. Mail:
Unified Enrollment
P.O. Box 513307
Los Angeles,  CA  90051

or Hand Deliver:
L.A. Unified Headquarters/Unified Enrollment
25th Floor Reception Desk
333 South Beaudry Ave
Los Angeles, CA  90017

Don’t you love a good paperwork scramble? Yeah. I thought so.

• If your child is already enrolled in an LAUSD school and has already been identified as GATE, the District will automatically check the student’s eligibility through the school’s records so in that case you won’t need to submit these forms.

SAS Schools Alphabetical List
SAS Schools FAQ
SAS Schools List by Grade Level

=====

SAS-eChoices Commentary:
(Warning! Tanya’s getting on her soapbox. Hey, my blog, my soapbox!)

I’ve been calling around to various SAS schools for the past week to gather as much intel as possible ahead of this October 1st eChoices/SAS launch, and I can tell you after speaking with more than half a dozen SAS school office personnel, they are just as “in the dark” about these new application changes as “we the people” are. One Office Manager from a prominent SAS program asked me to call her back once I found out what the new policy was! Really? So instead of the SAS School being the source of intel, the parent has to be? Really? Another SLC Coordinator from an equally high profile SAS school in another part of town echoed similar sentiments. She just kind of sighed and resolved herself that this year “we’ll just figure it out as we go.”

Oh great. Tell that to the parents who were not informed of the changes, who will show up in March and have completely missed the SAS deadline.

Well yes, there’s a late application starting in February, but your child will then be placed at the bottom of the already sequenced waitlist. Result? Well…you do the math.

True to LAUSD form, this notion of consolidating a number of program applications onto a “common app” and moving the deadline a good 4.5 months earlier than usual should have been rolled out and announced widely months before we all found ourselves at the start of the application cycle. However that simply was not the case. It appears that some SAS schools are literally just now finding out about these new changes right at the same time you are, creating unnecessary stress and confusion in what could have been a smoother, more inclusive rollout. Or maybe the Principal or Magnet Coordinator knew about it, but the office staff fielding parent phone calls had no idea at all. I guarantee there will be disappointed parents who “didn’t get the memo” (since as far as I can tell there wasn’t one) who will bring their paper SAS apps to the schools in March just like in previous years, only to find they will now be placed hopelessly far down the waitlist and have little chance of enrollment. Because. No. Notice.

And shall I continue?

You know what’s great about producing a list of all 288 SAS programs all cutely colored and listed in alphabetical order?

Nothing. Absolutely nothing is great about that. Except for, um, at least there’s a list. 

You’ve got elementaries along with middles and high schools, all mashed together in one long alphabetical list of schools that span over 720 square miles across this vast behemoth of a city. Clearly no one on the “eChoices Common App Graphics and Strategic Planning Team” has ever ACTUALLY had to find a school for their kid within a reasonable commuting distance from where they live.

Ok LAUSD. Let me break it down for you.

For a parent seeking a school for their children, this is absolutely not helpful. I mean, if my 2nd grader needs an SAS program and I live in Van Nuys, why the heck do I want to wade through a 3-column multi-page list of hundreds of schools I’ve never heard of, mixing San Pedro schools with Silver Lake schools with schools in Cheviot Hills and KTown? And how the heck am I going to know the difference if I’ve never even heard of these schools to begin with? It doesn’t work, folks.

I feel like that scene in Spinal Tap, where Nigels’s backstage playing with his “mini” baloney sandwich….

“I’ve been working with this now for about half an hour… I can’t figure out….”

 

 

So in conclusion, parents, here is your memo.

The SAS application is now going to be part of the eChoices application which means it, and all the necessary supporting eligibility documentation, will be due by Friday, November 9th before 5p. Do this at the same time you are applying for Magnets, and Dual Language Immersions, and that other new category, ACS, and Permits with Transportation if you qualify for those.

Should you find you need assistance with this or any of your K-12 Los Angeles public school choices, please know I am available for phone and in-home consultations, and I would be more than happy to work with you to come up with your very own personalized public school plan based on your specific needs and what makes sense for your family.

Best of luck to all of you.

xo

(exit soapbox.)

 

 

PHBAO, Overcrowded and Twins Points UPDATE for 2018-19 Magnet Application

 

OVERCROWDED POINTS UPDATE
It’s been brought to my attention that there are a handful of neighborhood schools, out of the nearly 1300 within LAUSD, that will buy you an extra four “Overcrowded” points on the Magnet eChoices application.

Overcrowded points historically were assigned for zoned schools that were so full they had to operate on a multi-track year, meaning a group of students started school in the fall, and another group started in the summer or even in multiple tracks in multiple months, and school went year-round in order to fit everyone in.

After LAUSD spent all those billions of dollars worth of bond money building out 131 new schools over the past decade, (the largest buildout in the country btw), we ended multi-track schools, we ended CAP sending and receiving, (busing kids from overcrowded schools to under-enrolled schools), the final multi-track school, Bell High School, went to a single track calendar and those 4 “Overcrowded” points went the way of the dodo bird, from what I understood. They became extinct. Nobody had them.

But I just spent 20 minutes on hold with the LAUSD Office of Student Integration (you’re welcome) in order to verify this astounding discovery. While so many schools across LAUSD are now under-enrolled, there are currently 9 LAUSD schools that are in OVERCROWDED status believe it or not, according to last year’s list, meaning if you are zoned to one of these schools, you get an extra 4 points!

Now, I was told that this is last year’s list and the new list for 2018-19 will not come out until December – AFTER the Magnet deadline – however, she did confirm that these are the schools on the current Overcrowded list:

92nd Street
Bridges
Carpenter EL
Dixie Canyon EL
Franklin EL
Hesby Oaks
Kittridge EL
MacArthur Park VAPA EL
Wisdom EL

Playa Vista EL and Westwood EL, who have recently moved their TK programs off to nearby hub schools to make additional room on campus were on my mind, which I specifically asked about, and as far as she was concerned, were not on the list. Yet. Check back in December though when the list updates.

PHBAO POINTS
As for determining PHBAO status, in addition to calling your zoned school’s office, or waiting 20-30 minutes on hold for a person at the Office of Student Integration to get to your call, I found this PHBAO LIST of Schools online, (also to be updated in December), but it will at least give you a good idea of current standings. PHBAO stands for Predominantly Hispanic, Black, Asian and Other, (i.e. the majority is non-Caucasian) and if you are zoned to one of these schools, you get 4 points. We cover this extensively in my talks and consultations, and you can learn all about points in my latest guidebook, The GoMamaGuide to LAUSD.

***ALSO NEW! TWINS/MULTIPLES ADVANTAGE
For 2018-19, eChoices finally worked some magic to support families with TWINS and MULTIPLES!! Before now, each child was treated as an individual and took their shot in the lottery, which meant many times only one child would get in and the other twin was out of luck until the following year when they would get those extra 3 sibling points. Now, if one twin gets in, the other twin or multiples jump up to the next number(s) on the top of the list. Meaning, if there is one more seat available, they will get it. In essence, finally being able to allow twins and multiples to get in together in the same program in the same year.

We discussed how crazily upward trending (and by that I mean unaffordable) real estate has started to force out diversity in certain neighborhoods, so schools that once were PHBAO, are no longer PHBAO, and therefore families who have siblings already attending the magnet program who have a younger rising sibling whose zoned school has fallen out of PHBAO will likely have NO chance of getting their siblings in, since Sibling status only gives you 3 points, yet PHBAO status gives someone 4 points. Since this whole magnet system works on a weighted points-based lottery starting from the highest down to the lowest points, the way this is currently set up, a particular magnet program would have to exhaust ALL their PHBAO applicants before a Sibling-nonPHBAO student could get in to join their other sibling. Meaning, families will become divided with little chance of keeping their kids together in the same magnet program.

I asked this administrator to please take this concern to her superiors and magnet coordinators, because inadvertently this points-based discrepancy will be splitting families apart. I suggested at a minimum giving siblings 4 points – equal to PHBAO points – so at least the playing field is level. She seemed receptive to my concerns and said she would bring it up at the next meeting. If you too are concerned about this, please talk with your magnet coordinators so they can discuss potential adjustments for future years, just as they were able to do with this year’s TWIN/MULTIPLE FIX.

As always, if you have no idea what I’m talking about and your head is spinning with question marks about all these points, let’s book a call to go over your magnet strategy and I’ll do my best to shoehorn you into my schedule right now.

That’s all I got for the moment. Hope you enjoyed the update.
-Tanya

 

 

 

 

 

SAS Applications Now Through March 30th (It’s earlier this year!)

GATE
Hey folks, heads up! They moved the SAS date up a month!

If your child qualifies, NOW is the time (March 1-30, 2017) to apply for LAUSD’s Schools For Advanced Studies (SAS) programs for next fall. The deadline to apply for the 2017-18 school year is March 30, 2017. Acceptance notifications come out April 21st.

In order to apply to an SAS school, students must meet specific eligibility requirements, either by being identified as Gifted and Talented (GATE), verified by their teacher and principal, or by meeting specific testing thresholds.

What is an SAS school? It is a specialized program for qualified students that (hopefully and depending on the strength of the program and staff) delves deeper into course material at an accelerated pace. From the LAUSD website: “Gifted/Talented Programs creates high end learning opportunities which allow students to flourish in stimulating academic and social environments. In designing challenging educational opportunities, we strive to raise the floor, remove the walls and eliminate the ceiling on learning.”

If your gifted child is wait listed at their magnet choice and you haven’t yet heard if they got into that charter school, the possibility of an SAS program can be another school option to consider. You can apply to more than one SAS program, you apply directly at your desired SAS school site, and the school will determine which applicants get accepted or not by the end of the application period. Some schools handle applications on a first-come first-served basis, and most schools base student acceptance on a more selective criteria which might include a student interview plus review of work samples, cumulative grades, teacher recommendations and SBAC test results.

*Note: For middle and high school, they will look at your child’s grades going back 2-3 years, making your child’s grades and test scores from 3rd, 4th and the 1st semester of 5th grade particularly important when applying for middle school, and 6-8th grade outcomes critical for high school applications.

For more on SAS (Schools for Advanced Studies) programs, see: achieve.lausd.net/gate

SAS application and criteria: achieve.lausd.net/Page/2033

All about GATE options and “The List” of SAS programs by area/grade begins on page 5: List

You can pick up applications at each SAS school office during the application period, or download it here: achieve.lausd.net/Page/2033

Transportation is not provided for these programs, so keep that in mind when applying.

As always, if you want to discuss anything further, I’m here to help!
phone consultation
in-home consultation

Charter Schools: What You Need to Know

by Tanya Anton | GoMamaGuide.com [Updated from a previous version.]

Now that it’s Charter Season, we want you to be prepared. In this article we’ll cover some basics and a few specifics you should know about charter schools.Charter Draft

First, it bears repeating that California is at the forefront of the charter movement with more students enrolled in charter schools here than anywhere else in the country. There are 23,000 101,060* 199,863* students enrolled in charter schools in Los Angeles County alone, and 49,840* on waitlists. Nearly 1 in every 4 students within LAUSD attend charters, and that number is growing every year.

*updated for the 2016 school year according to CCSA.org  

Charters are tuition-free semi-independent, somewhat autonomous schools operating with public funds, authorized by either the local school district, the county, or the state board of ed. Charters get their name from the lengthy legal document that outlines the many facets of the operation of their charter school – from the vision to curriculum to staffing to governance to fiscal, academic and campus procedures.

Some charters are chains of schools replicated on multiple sites run by large charter management organizations (CMOs), and others are small individual school start-ups launched by an ad-hoc group of parents, educators, visionaries and entrepreneurs with a shared vision of providing an alternative model of education.

All charters in California have to follow federal law, state ed codes, teach grade level content standards, and participate in standardized testing.

In Los Angeles There Are Two Types of Charters

Independent charters have the most autonomy to operate with full flexibility on staff hiring and firing (they don’t typically use the UTLA teachers contract so they are non-union), can make their own decisions in terms of budget, governance, overall school direction and operation, and are unaffected by district budget cuts or policy changes. Unless they are extremely well-endowed and can afford their own building, most independent charters apply for classroom space via Prop 39 and are given a minimum number of classrooms co-located on the side of another LAUSD neighborhood school campus. In recent years this process has been fraught with political infighting and less than transparent negotiations when it comes to which campuses have space, which do not, and which programs get offered which space. The current school board climate has been at times downright hostile to charters, thus severely limiting their ability to operate and serve students, let alone grow to accommodate their waitlists. Highly sought-after charters can sometimes have wait lists in the hundreds each year. 

The other type of charter is the affiliated conversion charter – schools that were a traditional neighborhood school that “went charter” after 51% or more of the staff voted to convert to charter status. More of a hybrid, these charters have some autonomy on teaching, curriculum and textbooks, some budgetary flexibility with monies they get directly from the state, but are bound by UTLA/LAUSD policy on things like teacher contracts (must hire UTLA teachers therefore subject to seniority and bumping rights), and are affected by district decisions such as class size increases, calendar changes, or lateral reductions in specific staff positions and programs. Think of them as a neighborhood school with some autonomy perks. Affiliated charters may have less autonomy than the independent charter, but more importantly they get to keep their facility (building), and must give enrollment priority to those who reside within the neighborhood attendance area. So the only way to assure enrollment, is to reside within the footprint. Many conversion charters are so full of neighborhood kids that few remaining seats ever go up for lottery, and if they do, hundreds of students may apply for them and be waitlisted.

In terms of applying to charters, anyone from any district may apply, and you may apply to as many charters as you like. Enrollment for independent charters is drawn by public lottery, which you can be present for or not. Independent charters give priority enrollment to founding families if it’s a start-up, staff members, and usually siblings of current students. Some charters will also give priority to those who reside within the local school district (LAUSD), a specific nearby school attendance zone, or to those who qualify for the Free/Reduced Lunch program. Affiliated charters must give priority to residents first, then non-residents. Each charter application process and lottery is overseen and run independently by each school site.

Built-in Academic Accountability

Unlike a neighborhood school that can fail year after year and nothing is done about it, charter schools face a renewal process every 4-5 years where in order to continue to stay open they are reviewed and voted on by their authorizing board. They MUST meet state requirements or they can be in jeopardy of being shut down. This can, and has happened to some charter schools.

Many charters (but not all) have had excellent academic results. Some are able to offer smaller class sizes, and a smaller overall student body size which can lead to greater individual attention and student success. Some offer alternative models of education that might fit better for some children than the traditional district model. However, sometimes due to space constraints this is at the expense of other “peripheral programs” or enrichments, such as visual or performing arts, an instrumental music program, PE or sports or outdoor green space, or a dedicated lunchroom or cafeteria, or even a library.

Not all charters outperform neighborhood schools. In fact, most recent numbers show that charters, on average, aren’t performing that much better than district schools. Some are, some aren’t. It really depends on the school.

Charters Offer Alternatives to the Traditional District Model
One thing charter schools do offer is a panoply of educational options, ranging from strictly college-prep academic, to crunchy-granola progressive schools, to language immersions, to STEM-focused (science, tech, engineering, math), to developmental project-based co-constuctivist leanings, to pumped-up traditional schools whose only difference to the garden-variety district model is a nicer demeanor, more enrichments and curricular flexibility. But there are plenty of choices. If the traditional neighborhood school is not meeting the needs of your child, there’s a whole range of charter schools out there to explore.

Prop 39 Co-Locations
Charter schools apply for District space every year via Prop 39 which requires districts to provide classroom space to charter schools. Due to space limitations, many charters are co-located on the side of another district school campus, housed in a set of temporary bungalows, or a side wing of another campus. Sometimes they share facilities, and sometimes charter schools opt for private space and set up in a church, a business park, or even a strip mall. Accordingly, the space limitations can be less than ideal. There might not be a library, or sports field for PE and recess, or an auditorium for assemblies, performances, or graduation, or even a dedicated lunchroom or cafeteria. Sometimes having a (non-union/non-district) charter on the same campus as a traditional district-union school can cause friction and a literal turf war. Sometimes co-locations can work in a collaborative way, but many times (especially of late) the schools like siblings, fight and campaign against each other, politically-speaking, pitting families against one another.

Still, charters are not going away and they provide much-needed options where district schools have failed kids. And, many of them are extremely successful. And, despite allegations otherwise, most LA charters are not-for-profit.

What makes a charter great? Could be an innovative teaching model, collaborative learning, special partnerships, flexible learning environment, enthusiastic teachers, motivated students and a great community of like-minded families. No two charter schools are alike. One must really do one’s research, tour and apply directly at each school site you’re interested in, as there is no one-stop centralized application process that covers all your charter options.

Charter Highlights:
-Can apply to as many as you like
-Apply directly at each school site
-Each school site maintains its own lottery and timeline/deadlines
-Some make you attend a mandatory open house/tour before you can apply
-Some allow you to apply online site unseen
-Conversion charters give priority to residents within the attendance area
-Each charter has its own lottery priorities: founding families, staff, siblings (sometimes)
-Some also give a priority to LAUSD residents, if you qualify for Free/Reduced Lunch program (Title 1), or come from a certain feeder school
-Charters means commuting (no transportation provided)
-No accumulating wait list or points
-Must reapply yearly if you don’t get in

What are the charters in your area? Please consult my color-coded maps on the school finder page of my website. Charters are marked in green.

Or book a consultation with me and together we’ll go over all your charter options.
In-personPhone.

Or check out the California Charter Schools Assoc for more info.

Want to use this article? You can as long as long as you include this complete blurb with it:
 
Tanya Anton is the creator of GoMamaGuide.com helping parents demystify and navigate their public school options in Los Angeles. To read more articles by Tanya or to learn about her Guidebooks, House Chats, Consultations, and Seminars, visit GoMamaGuide.com or email us at GoMama@mac.com.
© 2017 by Tanya Anton, GoMamaGuide.com All Rights Reserved. 

Introducing Speak UP!

My work over the last decade with GoMamaGuide has been mainly to educate and assist parents in navigating the array of public school choices in Los Angeles. But choosing a school is only the first step. I’ve also encouraged you to stay active and involved no matter what kind of school you end up in, to speak up if something doesn’t feel right, and to work together to come up with solutions.

Speak Up logoBuilding on those ideals, I am excited to announce a new collaboration with Speak UP, a grassroots movement of parents and families who want a more powerful voice in shaping education policy in California.

Despite having the greatest numbers AND the greatest vested interest in our kids’ education, parents in California have historically NOT had a meaningful role in education policy decisions and have NOT engaged in the electoral process – even when the results have a direct impact on our children.

*In 2013 barely 1 in 5 registered voters cast ballots in the school board election, and fewer than 4 out of 10 voters were under age 55.

Parents, we’ve basically been ABSENT from the vote. We intend to change that!

We believe parents can be a powerful force for change if we unite and use our collective voice in our schools, communities and at the ballot box. We invite all parents from all types of schools. Our only “special interest” is our collective children.

If you believe that parent voices matter, please become a Speak UP member
(it’s FREE to join) and take our survey so you can help drive our agenda. We’re also looking for parent leaders and ambassadors to work closely with us in your communities.

Let’s spread this movement. Join us today!
http://www.speakupparents.org

Facebook page: /SpeakUpUnitedParents
Twitter: @SpeakUpParents

And no, I’m not abandoning you, I’ll still be offering all things GoMamaGuide. 😉

2016 Charter Deadlines Are Happening!

Charter SchlsHey folks, it’s Charter Season, meaning if you’re looking for charter school options for the Fall of 2016-17, NOW is the time to get those applications in!

Each charter school is responsible for running their own admissions process and application timeline, so be sure to check with the charter schools you are interested in to get all the specific details. If you applied and were waitlisted last year, you need to apply again this year. (Luckily there are no points to worry about!)

To make things easy for you, I have compiled a list of some of the more asked about charters. This is by no means an exhaustive list but it’s a good place to start. Use my maps. And as I always recommend:

Tour.  Ask Questions.  Apply.  Repeat.

Most charters give preference to siblings of existing students*, and many charters offer other priorities such as to founding families or staff members, students residing within LAUSD or even a specific LAUSD school attendance area, or students who qualify for the Free/Reduced Meal Plan. To be sure, read the fine print on the application.

* LAUSD has recently removed the sibling preference from the boilerplate charter language that must be included in all Affiliated Conversion renewals.

To learn more about what a charter school is, go HERE.
To learn more about affiliated conversion charters, go HERE.
To peruse my color-coded school finder maps, go HERE. (Charters are in green.)

OK. OK already. Here are the Lists.
(Remember these are by no means exhaustive. Do your research!)

Charter Elementary Schools
Charter Middle Schools