January 19, 2020

Lashon Academy Plans Appeal of Charter Denial

A Hebrew-language charter school in Van Nuys plans to appeal to the Los Angeles County Board of Education the denial of its charter renewal by the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD).

On Oct. 3, the LAUSD Board of Education voted, 6-0 with one abstention, to deny the renewal of Lashon Academy Charter School’s charter.

Of the school’s 350 students, about 40 percent are Hispanic, 50 percent are white and 10 percent come from other backgrounds.

In 2013, the LAUSD board approved Lashon Academy’s charter status, and the school opened the following year. The school submitted a renewal petition this year because, like all charter schools, it was required to have its charter status reviewed and approved every five years.

The curriculum of the publicly funded, tuition-free school includes Hebrew and Israeli history and culture. Lashon (Hebrew for “language”) has been the only LAUSD-authorized, Hebrew-language charter school.

In an Oct. 3 report, LAUSD administrators recommended the denial of the school’s charter because, among other reasons, the school’s demographics did not reflect the makeup of its immediate surrounding area.

Of the school’s 350 students, about 40 percent are Hispanic, 50 percent are white and 10 percent come from other backgrounds.

Lashon Academy’s Executive Director Josh Stock said the school is more diverse than the data indicated because the school’s white students include immigrants from Russia, Iran, Israel and elsewhere who are learning English as their second language.

Because a school featuring Hebrew-language instruction draws a significant population of white students, he said, it’s unrealistic to expect the school’s population to mimic its surrounding area.

“We’re not getting students from a mile, two-mile radius. Our average kid is driving 10 miles to get to our school,” he said. “To compare us to the school next door is unfair.”

The LAUSD report also said the school had demonstrated an intent to avoid providing special education services in accordance with LAUSD policies and procedures.

Stock said the school wanted more flexibility in purchasing special education services because it was not satisfied with the services LAUSD providded.

Since opening in 2014, Lashon Academy has added a grade every year and now has students in kindergartern through 5th grade. It plans to continue adding a grade each year until it has grades K-8.

At the LAUSD board meeting, District 6 Board Member Kelly Gonez, whose district includes Lashon Academy, said she considered it a high-performing school.

Nick Melvoin, the board’s only Jewish member, said in an interview that he voted against renewing the charter because the school had not been able to resolve its differences with the school district.

Stock said he is confident the school will continue to operate. “I don’t think we’re going to close. I think we’re going to appeal to the county and be successful.”  If the appeal to the county fails, he said the school would appeal to the State Board of Education.

“There is no reason why [students who] have a passion for the Hebrew language or Israeli history should not have an option to get a public education that represents that,” Stock said.

Tarzana resident Sara Dagan said she enrolled her three children in Lashon because she wanted them to feel connected to their Israeli heritage in a public school environment.

“It’s not like I have an alternative,” she said. “I won’t be able to afford taking them to private school, to day school, so anything other than Lashon would be a compromise for me.”