As more than 200 William Howard Taft High School students, parents, and faculty paraded along Ventura Boulevard on Thursday, March 10, carrying "No Charter! Save Our School!" posters, Milken's track and field team joined in on the protest.
A picket-line demonstration was held to protest against Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) for allowing Ivy Academia Charter School the ability to use Taft's campus and facilities.
The issue stems from Proposition 39, which was passed in 2000, which says that charter school students should have access to 21st century learning tools, new classrooms, repaired and rebuilt schools, and access to safe, secure learning environments.
Initially, LAUSD responded by suggesting that charter schools could share space with its existing district schools. If Ivy Academia shared Taft’s campus, Taft would lose several classrooms, computer and science labs, and academic and extracurricular program workrooms. In addition, Taft students would lose up to 20% of their current allotted time to their athletic fields, gyms, and performing arts spaces. Several programs, such as their nanotechnology and deaf and hard of hearing programs, would also be terminated.
An increase in students using Taft’s facilities would result in overcrowding, posing a threat to the safety and security of the students as well as potentially forcing many students to transfer to another school. Open enrollment permit spaces would be reduced as another consequence, possibly forcing those students who are not from the neighborhood to transfer.
If LAUSD’s initial plan went through, this would have affected Milken’s track and field team, which currently practices at Taft because Milken lacks fields and athletic facilities. For the past seven years Milken’s team has been practicing at Taft, since track coach Richard Rucker started Milken’s team. This agreement is partially due to the fact that Rucker also serves as one of Taft's track and field coaches.
Milken athletes claim that there are many advantages to practicing at Taft that would be lost if they were forced to find a new practice venue. A main benefit is the opportunity to practice with Taft students. Taft's track team boasts top-ranking athletes at both the state and national level. The ability to practice with these athletes forces Milken students to push themselves in mock races and field events against the Taft athletes. Taft also allows Milken runners access to many of their athletic facilities, including a weight room, shot-put field, high jump bar, and jumping boards.
"By practicing at Taft, we are enabled to do the same workouts as state champs and develop our skills," Gabrielle Zimbler '12 said. "The environment is also enjoyable in meeting new people who are motivated to win and work hard."
However, due to the rigorous protesting and opposition to LAUSD’s decision, LAUSD has modified its proposal, which was released April 1. LAUSD shifted their proposal from allowing 600 Ivy Academia students access to 20% of Taft’s facilities to allowing about 100 students access to 12-15 classes and none of the athletic facilities. Because LAUSD is building a new campus for Ivy Academia, their students only need access to Taft’s campus for one year. The main difference between the two proposals is that the new one only offers the charter school a one-year agreement.
The charter school has one month, from April 1, to either accept or reject the offer.
According to Jennifer DeSpain, president of Taft High School Booster Club, the biggest concern that Taft parents and faculty have with the new proposal is that they think the Ivy Academia students will end up occupying Taft facilities for more than one year. They also fear that LAUSD will gradually allow more and more Ivy Academia students to use Taft’s campus and facilities. Taft parents and faculty hope that Ivy Academia will not come to Taft at all and just stay put until the district builds them their own school.