LOS ANGELES — On Sunday morning, public school teachers, panicked and angry over billionaire philanthropist Eli Broad’s ambitious plans to expand charter schools, picketed the opening of the new Broad art museum.
At the museum, which will house Broad’s famous art collection, hundreds of teachers from the L.A. Unified School District who wore the red shirts of United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA), along with some students and parents, paced under the museum’s honeycomb façade, according to the Los Angeles Times. One teacher used a bullhorn to prompt, “You want art for the masses?” Other teachers yelled back. “Then fund more classes!”
Alex Caputo-Pearl, president of UTLA, the union representing teachers of the LAUSD, said, “We’re very concerned that Eli Broad is part of a network of foundations and billionaires who are actually behind a plan to undermine public education by opening unregulated schools, unregulated charter schools that don’t serve civil rights and that don’t serve kids,” according to ABC 7. He told City News Service, “We’re concerned about the hypocrisy of building this great new arts museum in downtown, but working against schools having good arts programs across Los Angeles,” the Daily News reported.
Broad and his wife have invested $144 million to expand the number of charter schools in Los Angeles, which currently teach 100,000 students–roughly 16% of district enrollment. Public school teachers are unionized; charter school teachers are not generally unionized.
One source who attended a meeting between charter schools and the Broad Foundation said the participants want the 16% of students in charter schools to rise to 50% in the next eight years. Another source said that enrolling half of the students at public schools with low test scores represented another option.
A spokeswoman for Broad stated, “As families demand high-quality public school options–and more students want to attend public charter schools, we want to support them in meeting that demand. Our only interest is in supporting the growth of high-quality public schools.”
The Times reported in February that at least $8,000 per student in state funding goes to the charter school where a student enrolls.