El Rio Community School — A Gentrification-Enabling Charter In Highland Park — Sued To Enforce Compliance With The California Public Records Act

Yes, this post is about another CPRA petition. If you don’t want to read through the reams of nonsense to get to the goods, here is a direct link to that petition!

Charter schools in Los Angeles1 serve a variety of social functions. There are white savior charter schools which operate in majority black/brown neighborhoods and seem to mostly consist of real estate and tax scams thinly overlain with implausible social justice rhetoric and toxic moral complacency. The Accelerated Schools are a paradigmatic example of this variety. There are zillionaire-serving schools, which play essentially the same role in 21st Century Los Angeles as segregation academies did in their day. Pali High and Granada Hills Charter High are good examples of this sort.

And then there are gentrification-enabling charters.2 Once the gentrification of a neighborhood has moved past the edgy urban pioneer stage and the pre-existing residents have been pacified to a sufficient extent, young families start to move in. Or the original edgies get smoothed down a little and start having kids. All these new arrivals need schools to send their kids to, and the neighborhood public schools generally won’t do for all the obvious reasons. The same reasons that the so-called legacy bars and restaurants won’t do.

The gentrification process requires new establishments with craft cocktails and $37 nitro cold brew lynx poop coffee drinks to satisfy the settlers, and the equivalent replacements for neighborhood public schools. Charters are an ideal (and recognized) way to fill this need, given that they can be relatively easily started from scratch and the kids of the soon-to-be-displaced so-called legacy residents relatively easily excluded. And they can be spiffed up with all kinds of shiny hipster-appealing educational baubles, like e.g. Waldorf or Montessori.3

And of course Highland Park has been and is one of the most gentrificationally contested neighborhoods in Los Angeles. And the gentrification bars are there in force. And the coffee. And now, therefore, it is time for the gentrification charters to move in. Which brings us to the subject of today’s post, that is El Rio Community School, a Waldorf charter establishment approved by LAUSD last year and set to open in Highland Park in the Fall of 2020.

This school is in the intersection of three of my favorite subjects to investigate via the California Public Records Act,4 so when I first learned about it I immediately sent the supreme commander, Dr. Katie Chau, a request for the usual array of records. And ten days later Dr. Chau responded with a cryptic note that read: “Thank you for your email. El Rio Community School is authorized by LAUSD to operate a charter school in 2020, but the school hasn’t even opened yet. We don’t have any public records.”

Well, this is nonsense, of course. When LAUSD authorizes a charter school to open in a year the authorization includes a requirement that the school comply with the CPRA. It doesn’t matter if they’re open or not. So I asked Dr. Chau a few more times and she ignored me completely. If public agencies are allowed to defy the law in this manner well, can complete social breakdown be far off? No, it can’t, and thus, with the able assistance of heroic attorneys Ian Stringham and Tasha Hill, did I file a petition last Friday asking a judge to compel El Rio Community School to follow the damn law and hand over the records. Stay tuned for news!

Image of El Rio Community School Supreme Commander Katie Chau is ©2020 MichaelKohlhaas.Org and then there is this Katie Chau here.

  1. And maybe elsewhere but I don’t have time to think about elsewhere and anyway I’m not that interested.
  2. There are other kinds too, this isn’t the place for the full taxonomy.
  3. I’m not saying there’s anything inherently wrong with Waldorf or Montessori schools. I have no opinion about this at all. My point only relies on their brand appeal. Just as craft cocktails might be delicious and nitro cold brew lynx poop coffee might be worth $37 a shot these might be super-excellent educational systems. But that’s irrelevant to the social role they play in the gentrification toolkit.
  4. Those are in this case charter schools, gentrification, and Highland Park.

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