• A sign on the street for a school district

      Pasadena Unified School District (Photo – ColoradoBlvd.net)

      PUSD Board Votes Against Amendment to Add Charter Schools to Parcel Tax Ballot Language.

      By News Desk

      The Pasadena school board considered a resolution to approve an education parcel tax for the ballot in the November 2024 election. The resolution was moved for approval and seconded. The board discussed and voted down an amendment in the ballot language to add charters as beneficiaries of the measure.

      Three Board Members Vote for Adding Charters

      Board President Kim Kenne and Members Patrick Cahalan and Tina Fredericks voted to add charter schools as beneficiaries of the parcel tax on the November ballot.

      Member Cahalan appreciated the public comments from charter supporters whose families have students in both regular PUSD schools and charter schools. The district’s survey about the November measures showed the potential support for passing this measure and the facilities bond is very close to the ⅔ needed for passage. He wanted the support of the approximately 2000 charter school parents to get it over the threshold. He proposed a board resolution to spell out the sharing of monies.

      President Kenne proposed an amendment to add charters to the ballot language based on this same argument and also to avoid a lawsuit. Mr. Cahalan seconded it. Member Fredericks asked district counsel if the current resolution would allow the district to share any proceeds with the charters. Counsel confirmed that it would allow for that.

      Member Fredericks said she also supports including charters because of the votes needed to get the parcel tax passed. She read from very lengthy prepared written remarks as to why the parcel tax is important to provide money to re-hire laid off staff and why this general election bodes well for passage; she said polling support is close to 66%. She rejected making a statement of principle against charters in favor of getting the money to bring back staff. She spoke about charters feeding into PUSD high schools and getting charter parents to campaign to support the measure. These remarks received applause from charter school supporters in the audience.

      President Kenne and Members Cahalan and Fredericks, who all came to the board with their perspectives as parents of PUSD students, have been consistently supportive of parent critics of the district. Kenne and Cahalan have supported charter schools in previous charter-related facilities and authorization votes. Member Fredericks’s support to charters is consistent with her support of parents and critics of the district. Fredericks sued the district in the past as a board member, but later withdrew the lawsuit.

      Four Members Vote Against Adding Charters

      Those voting against the amendment were Michelle Richardson-Bailey, Patrice Marshall McKenzie, Yarma Velazquez and Jennifer Hall Lee.

      Vice President Hall Lee spoke about having charters in the district authorized by other entities, not PUSD, like the L.A. County Board of Education. She spoke of the history of charters. While initially founded to help the public schools, they have become competitors and have become anti-union. She said she is a union-supporter, and she believes there is competition between charters and PUSD schools, like in Altadena. She spoke against the argument that charters are needed to be cutting edge options. PUSD is recognized in state education circles as a cutting edge district of excellence. Later in the meeting she mentioned that members of the California Charter Schools Association (CCSA) were present earlier. She found that CCSA is funded by the Walton family, and a director of CCSA is also an employee of Walton Enterprises. The wealth of the Walton family is problematic when the CCSA threatens legal action against the district.

      Member Marshall McKenzie introduced herself to the charter supporters in attendance, who had referred to her by a shorter version of her name not used by her. She spoke about her deep roots in the community and in PUSD public schools; her parents attended PUSD schools. She spoke of her university training in state public universities, her full commitment to public education as democratic, a creator of society, a lever of economic mobility, and a center of community. These things are really important to her and are why she ran to be on the board of education. She was not prepared to entertain or accept any amendments tonight, as those are longer conversations.

      Member McKenzie said that she was clear on the nature of charters as separate Local Education Agencies (LEAs), which have the ability to raise money from their parents, and which get their own Average Daily Attendance (ADA) money from the State. These funds do not go to PUSD. She pushed back on the charter supporters’ comments about inclusion and building community, saying, “If you are willing to convert your charters to be affiliated charters or dependent charters, let’s have that conversation about how we build community and how we serve all of the students in the area of the Pasadena Unified School District because now we’re all public schools.” She said she has been consistent on this point.

      Member McKenzie made the same argument back in 2019 at the joint meeting of the City Council and the PUSD Board, when charters wanted some of the Measure J sales tax monies. At the time she said, “Since charters are their own LEA, that would be like PUSD giving Measure J money to Glendale Unified. We would not do that. So why would we give these dollars away as well?  I just don’t understand the logic in that.  So right or wrong, I’m going to be consistent in my position on that.” She struggles with the situational alliance with PUSD. “When it’s convenient for you, you want to be PUSD kids, you want to be public school kids, and when it’s not convenient for you, you’re very happy to divest… I feel like right now you’re not with us; it’s for your personal benefit and not for the greater good of the community.”

      Like Vice-President Hall Lee, she referred to the origin of charter schools as being the center of innovation and providing flexibility for educators in curriculum development and with staffing, but charters have gone far away from those principles in the current charter and school landscape. “We simply just cannot afford to fund two systems out of one pot of money, and what you’re asking us to do is to dilute this one small pot of money even smaller.” She referred to the parcel tax amount being small compared to PUSD’s state funding and budget challenges. Yet she said she was very supportive of the bond and the parcel tax as a voter and a property owner who is happy to make the investment in public education. She reiterated that charters could have the same flexibility in curriculum development and staffing and special programs if they were PUSD-affiliated charters, but if they aren’t willing to have that conversation, she stated that she’s  not willing to go down this road of sharing funding. Member McKenzie ended by saying she can’t support the amendment without a longer dialogue and a building of community with those in charters.

      Regarding the argument about losing the votes of many parents with children at both a charter and a PUSD high school, Member Velazquez said, “They have the choice to support our public high schools. I support our PUSD teachers; I support our PUSD staff. I am a proud CFA (California Faculty Association, the faculty union for the CSU system) member. I am a proud educator in the public education system in this beautiful state of California. I am a ‘NO’ on the amendment.”

      Members Marshall McKenzie, Richardson-Bailey and Velazquez have had significant careers in public education. The latter two members are also parents of former or current PUSD students, as is Vice President Hall Lee.

      Calling for the Vote

      President Kenne called for the vote on the amendment without calling on the student board member present. This was pointed out; she stopped, apologized, and asked for his vote. He voted yes on the amendment, although his vote has no legal standing.

      Unanimous Vote on the Original Resolution and Motion

      After the amendment to add charters to the ballot language failed, the PUSD Board voted unanimously to approve the original resolution and motion, calling an election for approval of an education parcel tax.

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