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A Last Word on Charter Academy

November 16, 2003

Richard Lee Colvin's mean-spirited article about the Los Angeles Leadership Academy caused considerable disruption in our community ("Reading, Writing and . . . Revolution," Oct. 5). I realize that liberal Democrats are an endangered species, but calling us revolutionaries shows terrible disrespect for people who try to make the system work and, in my case, for someone who has studied, taught and been dedicated to the American legal system.

Colvin failed to mention the partnerships and alliances in the education community that give us broader legitimacy. We also cook and serve our own food on the premises, employing parents and linking up with farmers' markets for fresh produce. We serve three meals a day. We keep our students in school until 5 p.m. because teens [can] get into trouble between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m.

What is most disturbing is the failure to describe or appreciate the immense task of creating a new school and getting it up and running. It is particularly galling for Colvin to invoke the spending of taxpayer dollars when California spends only $6,000 per pupil per year. To maintain our student/teacher ratio of 16 to 1, we spend $10,000 per pupil. The difference has to be made up in private funds.

Colvin is shocked that taxpayer dollars are being used to show students that there is a community-action component to their political position; that is, there are peaceful actions that can be undertaken to effect change. The subtext of [the students'] actions is not a particular political agenda, but the questioning of the status quo. For the students here, the status quo means a lifetime of failure. The status quo is death. By modeling a democratic community and showing our students that collective action can bring results, we are teaching old-fashioned civics.

Roger Lowenstein

Founder and executive director

Los Angeles Leadership Academy

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