LAUSD Superintendent Michelle King says she’ll expand school choice 'pipeline'
Superintendent Michelle King, Mayor Eric Garcetti and other elected officials and dignitaries paid visits to several Los Angeles Unified School District campuses on Tuesday to welcome back the roughly 514,000 students who returned to classes.
That district projection pegs L.A. Unified's student enrollment roughly 13,000 students smaller than it was last year, continuing a decade-long decline.
In part to reverse that trend, King has said she intends to expand access to L.A. Unified's half-dozen "school choice" programs, which allow parents to send their kids somewhere other than their default, neighborhood school.
These choice options — from magnet programs and language immersion schools to transfers and open-enrollments — have been popular for years. In 2013-14, more than 135,000 students exercised school choice; that's roughly one out of every four students in the L.A. Unified that year.
But since then, enrollment's still declined by an estimated 42,000 students.
In an interview with KPCC on Monday, King said parents in some of the vast district's neighborhoods still have trouble accessing choice programs. While she did not offer many details of her solution on school choice, her answers in the interview reveal her conception of the problem.
"All choices aren’t everywhere," King said. "What I learned in having the opportunity to talk to families from across this district, is families want certain things in their area where they can have direct access."
King mentioned the popular dual language programs. She says not every language is available in neighborhoods accessible to everyone.
In a similar way, she noted a student who open-enrolled in an arts-focused elementary school might not be able to matriculate to an arts-focused middle school — simply because there isn't one nearby.
"Even though we have a lot of choice, it wasn’t a pipeline, we couldn’t move from elementary to middle to high and to be able to maintain that theme or area of interest," King said.
Many of the details of King’s plan to expand choice may be included in the strategic plan her staff has said is due out early this fall.
When asked for details about what that choice plan might look like, L.A. School Board president Steve Zimmer said a lot of the work to create instructional pathways that carry students through consistent choice options from kindergarten through high school will happen at the grassroots level.
"We don’t have the grand marquee, shout-it-from-the-mountaintop [plan], but that doesn’t mean it’s not happening,” said Zimmer, "and it actually doesn’t mean that it’s not happening in a much smarter way.”
This call for more choice within the district comes as the list of public school options Audio: LAUSD Superintendent Michelle King says she’ll expand school choice 'pipeline' | 89.3 KPCC: