Mission

To establish and support high quality, values based elementary and secondary charter schools for populations of students who have been historically underserved by the public school system.

Underserved Students

Many students today, particularly in urban areas, are not getting the quality of education they deserve. Over-crowded and failing public schools are especially common in low-income neighborhoods where there are often high concentrations of minority students. These are students who could succeed in a regular school, but do not presently have the opportunity. It is with these students that Value Schools works to make an enduring difference.

The Educational Model

Value Schools has adapted a model that research has demonstrated is highly effective in educating low-income and minority students. This approach is characterized by an environment that provides a strong academic program in a small school setting, with a decentralized structure that can respond to the particular needs of students and their families, an emphasis on responsible behavior and an underlying inspirational vision of what it means to be an educated person in the 21st Century.

The schools that developed this model are faith-based schools, particularly Catholic schools. Drawing on research originally done by Dr. James Coleman, Dr. Anthony Bryk and others studied Catholic schools to identify what made them work. In Catholic Schools and the Common Good (1993), they concluded that shared beliefs and values were the key to a school’s success. A compelling ideology motivates students to see the importance of succeeding in school in the context of a broader vision. School becomes not just something to be endured here and now, but the means to future achievement and a full life.

Value Schools adapted this model by removing the faith-based ideology and replacing it with a secular one. The Value Schools’ underlying vision is expressed in its five core values.

Five Core Values

Value Schools asserts these five values as the core of its educational model:

  1. Academic excellence is the means to a full life.

    Academic learning develops a person’s capacities to enjoy life, to live cooperatively and comfortably with others, to contribute to the economic well being of oneself and society and to be an active citizen. Anything less than striving for excellence deprives both students and society. The fundamental means to excellence are teachers who offer expert instruction with high expectations for performance, students who are disciplined learners, and standards of accountability for both.
  2. Each student can develop to his or her fullest potential.

    Each person is different, but each is gifted with talents and abilities. While each ought to excel in an area of special talent, each also should develop the whole range of human talents to the maximum extent possible. Schools have the responsibility of assisting parents and the students to identify areas of special talent and, at the same time, guiding students so that no area of learning is neglected.
  3. Each individual is unique and deserves respect.

    Each person has the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. These rights accord each with dignity that is to be respected by all. This dignity implies that in society there are rules that limit certain behaviors so that all might have the fullest exercise of their rights. These rules are the laws enacted by government, codes of conduct set by institutions, customs and practices found in civil society and the moral norms freely adopted by individuals. Good schools set high standards for student behavior.
  4. A safe, nurturing community is essential to academic excellence.

    Rules of conduct that protect each person’s dignity are not enough to create community. A community grows from common ideals and shared experiences. A community is composed of persons who genuinely care for each other and who seek good for each other. In a community, everyone belongs and feels valued by the others. In community, each feels secure and is supported in efforts to grow in every way.
  5. Service to others and the community is a responsibility of an educated person.

    An education completes a person by developing his/her talents and abilities. However, an educated person is not satisfied only with personal development. Talents and abilities perfected through an education need to be used to make a better world for all.

The Business Model

The financial plan for Value Schools is founded on the principle of sustainability. A fully operational charter school can, under this plan, provide a quality education using only the public funds that are available. This has proven to be the case with Downtown Value School, which became fully enrolled in its fifth year of operations. However, as Value Schools has learned in developing its first two charter schools, until the school is fully enrolled, supplementary funds are needed for startup and for facility preparations.

Value Schools has found that it is not feasible to plan for a school to be fully enrolled on its first day of operation. The school grows its enrollment over time. This presents a funding dilemma, because public funding is directly tied to the number of students enrolled at the school. With smaller enrollments during the start up phase resulting in less public funds, the fixed costs incurred regardless of school enrollment must be supported with supplementary funds. In its first three to four years the school requires financial support beyond the public funds to offer a quality program. To address this situation, Value Schools raised funds from charitable sources and “loaned” these funds to its schools. These are no interest loans to be repaid when the school has the financial resources. By the end of its fourth year of operation Downtown Value School had repaid its “loan” for startup.

Additionally, there is very little public funding available for initial facilities expenses.

Beyond rent expense, Value Schools has learned that it costs approximately $90 per square foot to retrofit an existing building to meet the building code for schools. A typical size for a Value Schools’ building is 25-30,000 square feet. That translates into an up-front cost of approximately $2.5 million. While Value Schools has found with the success of Downtown Values, its schools can pay over time some or all the cost of facilities preparation, it does not have the wherewithal to borrow that amount of money in its early years. As with startup costs, Value Schools raised funds from charitable sources and gave funds to its schools with “loans” similar to those for start-up costs.

As Value Schools grows and its schools mature, the schools will repay the funds used for startup and facilities preparation. In the short term Value Schools is seeking philanthropic funding to enable to creation of new schools.

Charter School

To receive public funds to operate its schools, Value Schools has organized them as charter schools.

Charter schools are public schools that are responsive to students needs and are held accountable for improved student achievement. They

  1. Are open to the public
  2. Are tuition-free
  3. Participate in state tests
  4. Employ credentialed teachers1
  5. Do not discriminate.

While there are numerous local, state and federal requirements that dictate how charter schools must operate, they are free from many requirements of the state education code and from the control of a local school board. In exchange for these freedoms, charter schools are held to a higher level of accountability than regular public schools. This accountability is measured by the state standardized testing program. While there are some sanctions that can be placed on regular public schools for failing to achieve success on these standardized tests, they are not closed for poor performance. Charter schools that fail to achieve at the levels specified in California law are closed.

An initial charter is authorized for a period of up to five years. The charter can then be renewed for a five-year term. This five-year renewal process continues throughout the life of the school. This ensures that charter schools are monitored by their authorizing agencies and continue to meet the standards of accountability specified by state law.

To obtain a charter an organization must demonstrate to a charter authorizing agency that is capable of operating an effective school. Charter authorizing agencies in California are local boards of education, county boards of education and the California state board of education. This is done by submitting to the agency a petition that comprehensively explains how the proposed school will meet the sixteen elements prescribed by California law for charter schools. The petition must also be signed by 50% of the parents meaningfully interested in enrolling their children in the charter school or 50% of the teachers meaningfully interested in teaching in the charter school.

At present Value Schools’ charter schools are authorized by the Los Angeles Unified School District

Organizational Status

Value Schools incorporated as a California, non-profit public benefit corporation on July 19, 2000. The United States Internal Revenue Service granted Value Schools Section 501 (c)(3) status and May 3, 2002.

Chronology

July 2000 Dr. Jerome R. Porath founds Value Schools

July-August 2001 Value Schools operates a fee based summer enrichment program for 150 students in grades K-6 in the Crenshaw neighborhood of Los Angeles.

September 2001-June 2002 Value School operates a free kindergarten for 15 students in cooperation with the Las Familias del Pueblo community center in the Los Angeles garment district. Classes are held in the community center. The program is entirely funded with private donations.

December 2001 The Los Angeles Unified School District grants a charter for Downtown Value School to educate students from kindergarten through eighth grade.

May 2002 The Internal Revenue Service establishes Value Schools as a Section 501 (c)(3) organization.

July-August 2002 Value Schools again holds its summer enrichment program in the Crenshaw neighborhood.

September 2002 Downtown Value School opens with 9 students in kindergarten and 16 in first grade with classes still at the Las Familias center.

Fepuary 2003 The Los Angeles Unified School District grants a charter for Central City Value School to educate students in ninth through twelfth grade.

June 2003 Value Schools leases a building on Washington Boulevard on the southwest corner of downtown Los Angeles to be the permanent site for Downtown Value School and it leases a building on Westmoreland Avenue in the Mid-Wilshire neighborhood (Belmont Senior High School attendance area) to be the permanent site for Central City Value High School.

July 2003 Value Schools initiates the process to obtain a Conditional Use Permit with the Los Angeles Planning Department to use the Westmoreland property as a school for Central City Value High School.

September 2003 Downtown Value School begins its second school year with 55 students in kindergarten through 4th grade in its newly renovated facility on Washington Boulevard. Central City Value High Schools begins its first year with 83 students in the 9th grade and classes are held on the second floor of Downtown Value School’s facility.

June 2004 Downtown Value School’s enrollment grew during its second year from 55 students to 90 students.

September 2004 Downtown Value School adds classes for 5th and 6th grades and begins its third year with 243 students. Central City Value High School adds a 10th grade, accepts modular classrooms on the campus of Westchester High School, and begins its second year with 179 students.

December 2004 After almost eighteen months the City of Los Angeles Planning Commission approves the Conditional Use Permit for the Central City Value High School to use the Westmoreland property.

August 2005 Downtown Value School posts a gain on the California Academic Performance Index (API) of 115 points, the largest of any elementary school in Los Angeles. Central City posts a gain on the API of 127 points, the largest of any secondary school in Los Angeles. September 2005 Downtown Value Schools adds a 7th grade and begins its fourth year with 345 students. Central City Value School adds an 11th grade moves from Westchester to East Los Angeles, and opens its third year with 194 students.

December 2005 Value Schools negotiates a deal with private investor to purchase the Westmoreland property and renovate it for Central City Value High School’s use as a school building. The anticipated “move-in” date is September 2006.

September 2006 Downtown Value Schools adds an eight grade and opens it fifth year with 394 students. Central City Value High School’s building is not read, so it temporarily rents classrooms from two churches nearby its Westmoreland site. The school adds a twelfth grade begins the year with 231 students.

January 2007 Value Schools purchases the Washington Boulevard facility for Downtown Value School.

May 2007 Central City Value High School finally moves into its permanent facility on Westmoreland.

June 2007 Central City Value High School graduates its first class. Of the forty-three graduates, forty are accepted in two and four year colleges.

July 2007 The Los Angeles Unified School District renews the charter of Downtown Value School for a second five-year term.

September 2007 Downtown Value School begins its sixth year with 411 students. Central City Value High School begins its fifth year, and the first in its new facility, with 312 students.

June 2008 The Los Angeles Unified School District renews the charter of Central City Value High School for a second five-year term.