To do this, he will have to keep a close eye on the teachers’ unions and district bureaucracies. But that’s nothing new, as the mayor has already seen. Paul T. Hill is a distinguished visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution and a member of the Koret Task Force on K 12 Education.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORESurfer attacked by shark near Channel Islands calls rescue a ‘Christmas miracle’Unions don’t like charter schools because they employ teachers outside the districtwide collective-bargaining agreement. And school districts often oppose charters because they don’t help pay for central office services that they don’t want. But teachers employed by charter schools enjoy the working conditions, and though some (including the teachers at Green Dot) form unions, they avoid all the provisions of district collective-bargaining agreements that cripple schools. Charter schools also get less money per pupil than school districts and reduce the number of children a district must serve – which means that in most cases, a district’s per-pupil expenditure rises when children transfer to charter schools. Sometimes the conflict between the public-education establishment and charter schools is based on tribal rivalries, not practical issues. Central office bureaucrats and unions try to tilt the playing field against charters, making sure they get less money than other public schools and have trouble finding facilities, while discouraging educators from teaching in them. Much the same is true of unions’ efforts to limit the number of charter schools. But the reality is that the numbers of charters are naturally limited by the requirement that the schools either perform well or close. Arbitrary caps in California and other states limit the numbers of charter schools, no matter how good they are. Step one in education reform is to make sure public funds intended for children’s education follow students to whatever school they attend. Step two is taking seriously the district’s responsibility to evaluate charter proposals and oversee schools on the basis of performance, not politics. Los Angeles made a partial commitment to chartering even before the Gates grant turned up. And now Villaraigosa has the chance to go further, to treat charters as a central part of his reform strategy, not just an inconvenient intruder. DOES the Gates Foundation’s new $1.8 million gift to the local Green Dot Charter Schools help or undercut mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s school takeover strategy? The answer is that it could help a great deal. Whether or not it does depends on how the mayor and Los Angeles Unified School District bureaucrats respond. As a new book published by the Hoover Institution’s Koret Task Force, “Charter Schools against the Odds,” shows, communities that try to ignore or undercut charter schools hurt themselves. They cut off new ideas about teaching and learning and exclude people who want to teach disadvantaged children but don’t want to work in a bureaucracy. At a time when No Child Left Behind is requiring districts to provide options for children in low-performing schools, districts that give up on chartering give up one of the few available ways to create alternatives. Not all charter schools that are good are innovative, but in big cities such as Los Angeles, many offer something that parents want and can’t get any other way.