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L.A. school board ends preference practice at charter schools

Campuses will no longer be allowed to offer admission in exchange for volunteer work or other services.

December 14, 2011|By Howard Blume, Los Angeles Times

The Los Angeles Board of Education on Tuesday agreed to ban charter schools from offering admission to families in exchange for volunteer work or other services. The admission preference had been offered by two popular charter schools overseen by the L.A. Unified School District.

One, Larchmont Charter School, ended the practice recently. The other, Los Feliz Charter School for the Arts, was already headed toward dropping the preference.

The schools have long waiting lists; the law provides for a lottery when there are more applicants than spaces.

Critics said permitting families to skirt the lottery was unfair and could lead to serious abuses, such as enrollment based on connections or because parents promised substantial donations.

Charters are independently managed, free public schools exempt from some regulations that govern traditional schools.

Until recent exposure of the practice, the school district's charter school office had tolerated the preference policies. In one instance, the charter office directed Los Feliz to rename the beneficiaries, calling them "founding parents" rather than "community participants." But the district didn't order the school to stop what it was doing.

A third campus in Los Angeles, New West Charter Middle School, continues to offer admission to selected volunteers, but it is overseen by the state rather than L.A. Unified.

howard.blume@latimes.com

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