A big win for public education in LA, KIPP mega-charter school defeated
Los Angeles, CA – Centro CSO (Community Service Organization) along with teachers, parents and students from several East Area schools announced a historic victory, April 4. After months of struggle, corporate KIPP Promesa Charter school will not be building a new mega-charter school in Boyle Heights, at the location of the former Lincoln Hospital near 4th and Soto Street.
Rosario Bonilla, a mother who lives next to proposed site said, “I’m excited we obtained the victory against KIPP that I know would have affected the lives of my children and my community. Also, I feel proud to say that billionaires can't teach our kids!”
KIPP, which is the United States’ largest charter school corporation, operates in multiple states. In Los Angeles, like many other cities, charter schools are promoted in poor working-class neighborhoods that are primarily Chicano and African American. With the backing of real estate billionaires like Eli Broad, they build new private charter schools that pull students from already existing public schools. As student enrollment from public schools declines, funding also declines, causing layoffs for teachers and support staff. Those jobs are almost always unionized, with good benefits. Charter schools are also a part of the wave of gentrification responsible for rent hikes, evictions and displacements. With a population of over 100,000 who reside in Boyle Heights, there are currently over a dozen charter schools. KIPP Charter Schools already have one school in Boyle Heights and three in East LA.
When word spread that KIPP was trying open up another school the community sprang into action. On January 4, Centro CSO supported a lawsuit filed by Boyle Heights Neighborhood Association and longtime activist and resident Carlos Montes. The lawsuit against KIPP Promesa and LA City was based on the environmental damage to the already existing bad conditions and failure to conduct an Environmental Impact Report.
Carlos Montes, of Centro CSO said, “The proposed mega-project would have an adverse impact by adding more pollution, traffic and noise to the already harmful conditions.”
Centro CSO, along with teachers from nearby schools like Breed St. Elementary and the groups like East LA Padres Contra Privatizacion, went to LA city hall and through the planning commission’s long process demanding they not build the new charter school. But the LA city council voted to approve the project, with the urging of Councilmember Jose Huizar.
KIPP also got letters of support from LAUSD Board member Monica Garcia, LA County Supervisor Hilda Solis and Maria Brenes of Inner City Struggle, which the community strongly criticized. Centro CSO led protests several times at the proposed site, demanding an end to privatization of public education.
In late January, Los Angeles teachers, overworked with huge classroom sizes, lack of support services, plagued with charter school co-locations and budget cuts went on a historic week-long strike. Over 30 thousand teachers fought against the attacks on public education, as more and more public funding went to private charter schools. The attacks were led by billionaires like Eli Broad, the Waltons of Wal-Mart and the Gates Foundation with their sellout lackeys on the LA school board like Monica Garcia and former board member and money-launderer Ref Rodriguez. During the strike, the United Teachers of Los Angeles led a protest on the headquarters of the California Charter Schools Association demanding a moratorium on charter schools within the district.
After the strike, teachers and parents in Boyle Heights continued the fight against privatization. They continued with protests, and on February 28 they went to KIPP Promesa offices demanding, “No new mega-KIPP!”
On the afternoon of April 4, at Mariachi Plaza, mothers, students and teachers of Boyle Heights and East LA announced the huge victory. Lupe Torres, an ELA resident, teacher and UTLA Chapter Chair at Marvin Avenue Elementary school, fired up the crowd, chanting “No mega KIPP!” CSO announced that the LA City Planning Department issued a termination letter on the proposed project. Eloisa Galindo of Eastside Padres Contra Privatizacion said, “The people united will never be defeated! The power and money will never defeat people united!”
Carlos Cerdan, a teacher from nearby Breed Street Elementary said, “This win was a huge victory for the community. Centro CSO’s commitment to Boyle Heights is clear yet again, defeating a corporate charter behemoth. The fight doesn’t end here. We need to continue to inform and mobilize the community because privatizers are not going away easily. Charter schools serve to divide communities at an early age in order to destroy unity through false pretenses of choices. Schools not profits!”
This historic victory shows that the wave of charter schools can be stopped if communities stand up and fight back. Teachers, parents and community members will continue to struggle against co-locations and the invasion of private charter schools on the Eastside. Community leader Carlos Montes states, “This victory against KIPP will inspire others to fight back against privatization.”