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In a wealthy section of Los Angeles, parents sick of public schools’ focus on standardized testing are petitioning to form a charter school modeled on an Encinitas academy. The Los Angeles Times reports that the proposal is intensely controversial in Palos Verdes, where opponents say a charter will drain funds from the Palos Verdes Peninsula Unified School District. Statewide, schools are facing deep budget cuts under a governor’s proposal to close the state deficit.

The Encinitas school is Theory into Practice (TIP) Academy, which has attracted controversy of its own. The Times reports:

Anti-charter parents said Michael Hazelton, chief operating officer of the Encinitas TIP school, has been involved with prior charter schools that ran into financial problems or other troubles.

Relations between the Hazeltons — his wife, Deborah Hazelton, is the principal at Encinitas — and some founding families in Encinitas have grown strained, with at least one former board member filing a complaint with the state Department of Education. Additionally, an independent audit of another charter that Hazelton helped found, Cortez Hill Academy in San Diego, found that he gave himself an $18,350 raise without board approval.

Several phone calls to Michael Hazelton seeking comment were not returned.

(Palos Verde father Michael) Schwerdtfeger said Hazelton would not receive money from the Palos Verdes charter, which would be wholly independent from TIP Encinitas. Charter supporters cite the waiting list of students to enroll in the Encinitas campus as a sign of its success, but critics say that its standardized test scores are middling among Encinitas schools.

EMILY ALPERT

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