Green Dot Public Schools have received a $7.8 million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, bringing the organization one step closer to opening 10 new high school campuses in Watts.
But School Board member Richard Vladovic, whose district includes the area’s Alain Leroy Locke Senior High School, is concerned about what will remain of the school’s history.
“The impact that Green Dot has on the community is that it draws out the population to charter schools, and the question then becomes ‘what do we do with the remaining student body,’” says David Kooper, Vladovic’s chief of staff. “There will be an absolute dissipation of Locke’s 2,800 students.”
But with a rate of 25 percent of students graduating on time, according to data complied by the state Department of Education, and less than five percent of students going on to attend a four-year college, according to UCLA/IDEA research, Locke seems to be dissipating itself.
Steve Barr, CEO and founder of Green Dot Public Schools is offering the community served by Locke High School another option, much in the similar fashion he did in 2006 when he opened five Green Dot charter schools surrounding south Los Angeles’ Jefferson High School. That also marked the beginning of a relationship between the non-profit organization and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. In September 2006 the foundation invested $1.8 million in grant money for the five charters, and almost a year later (July 9, 2007) has invested another $7.8 million for 10 more charters.
“Any time a philanthropic group makes a donation, that is a great thing,” Kooper comments. “But we wish there was more investment in public schools. Money is of essence.”
According to Gates Foundation spokesman Eli Yim, the Los Angeles Unified School District has seen money thrown its was.
“The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has given more than $9.5 million in grants directly to the Los Angeles Unified School District. The most recent was a $1.3 million investment last fall, which was designed to improve algebra instruction and college-prep courses that correspond with the approved A-G curriculum.”
With a goal of ensuring all the nation’s students graduate from high school with the skills they need for college and work, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation identifies and supports communities and organizations across the country that are working to improve secondary school. The foundation identified Green Dot Public School as one such organization, with the help of NewSchools Venture Fund that is also focused on transforming public education.
“Too few students in the U.S. get the high-quality education they deserve,” says Steve Seleznow, program director for education at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “By growing its network of high schools, Green Dot has a unique opportunity to strengthen partnerships across the city and provide more students with the skills and knowledge they need for college and work success.”
Although others such as Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and newly elected president of the School Board Monica Garcia are thrilled with the Gates’ generous donation, Vladovic remains concerned about the future of Locke. “We would like to form some type of partnership and come to a compromise,” said Kooper. “We don’t want to see Locke terminated.”