The Lottery Heartbreak: Better Schools would End It

I started researching my elementary school options at the beginning of the year, filled out a few applications at a couple of charter schools, visited a pilot school and now experienced my first Lottery at Kipp Raices. I went in understanding that it was a tiered lottery, yet I had high hopes.

What I have learned on lotteries

Some charter schools have limited spots, especially schools that are excelling. Applications are handed out at the schools during an interest period, and anyone can apply.  If the charter school receives more applications than the available spots, it is required by law to hold a lottery to determine which students will have the opportunity to attend. Once their open interest period is over, a lottery is held, and parents are welcome to attend.  The school accepts applications after the lottery date, however these applications are entered at the bottom of the wait list. The process might be slightly different at each charter school. With Kipp, their lottery is tiered in the following manner:

Each KIPP school is focused on, when possible, serving families in the community near each school. Where open seats are available, children receive prioritization in the lottery for each KIPP school in the following order:

  1.    Brothers and sisters of KIPPsters who live in the zip code zone for a specific KIPP school or who live outside of any KIPP zip code zone; and children of KIPP faculty and staff.
  2.    All children who live in a specific KIPP school’s zip code zone.
  3.    Brothers and sisters of KIPPsters who are zoned by zip code to a different KIPP school that could serve that child’s grade level.
  4.    All children who live outside the zip code zone of the KIPP school they are applying to.

Students’ names are drawn at random and every student will be given a number in the order his/her name was drawn. Once seats fill up, a waitlist that also pulled at random.

Applicants versus Open Seats

What I did not anticipate was the high number of applicants compared to the low number of open seats. Transitional kindergarten had 50 applications and 12 open seats. Kindergarten had 256 applicants and open 96 seats. First grade had 64 applications and 0 open seats. Second grade had 49 applicants and 1 open seat. Third grade had 47 applicants with 0 open seats. Lastly, fourth grade had 54 applicants with 0 seats.

As you can imagine, there were many parents with very sad and worried faces at the end of the lottery.  I also left with a broken heart when my son’s name ended up towards the end of the wait list, and there were 96 open seats in kindergarten. This was the school I wanted for my son. It is the only public school with a 10 out of 10 rating within the 2 mile radius in Great Schools, and it is also a short distance from our home.

I knew from seeing the sad expressions of the moms and dads, their hearts ached too when their child’s name did not come up on the screen. I wondered if the rest of the parents had sad faces because they also knew that this was the only school in the area with a great rating.  There are 22 public elementary schools within the 2 mile radius and only 3 other elementary schools currently have a 6+ out 10 rating.

411 children went home waitlisted that evening. If they live within the 2 mile radius, most of the area belongs to LAUSD along with a small part of Montebello and Alhambra school districts. Although there are plenty other schools in the area, the majority have ratings below a 5 and sadly they are part of LAUSD. This gave me an understanding as to why this charter school had applications in all the grades.  It is an indication that parents continue to search for the best.

The lottery was a couple of weeks ago, and I still think about all the other children  who were at the bottom of the long wait lists. Will the parents keep searching for alternatives?  If all public schools would be excelling we would not need lotteries,  parents would not have to go through this heartache and worrisome time.

As for me, I will stay positive and continue to explore my options. I would like to find a thriving public school with a dual language immersion program; this is the main reason I am searching out of my district. I also want a school with updated books and technology along with a balanced curriculum. A strong parent connection would also be a plus for me, not just your typical PTA.  I am excited to have learned these options actually do exist, however, they are currently at capacity or much too far for us. What keeps my hopes high is knowing I have options, and will enroll my child where I feel is best as every parent should.

What do you think?

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Cindy Borbon

Cindy Borbon

Cindy Borbon is a Co-founder, Editorial Manager of and is also a licensed Financial Advisor. Cindy is a single mother of two children; her eldest attends the University of Merced and youngest attends elementary school. Cindy has 15 year experience in Auto Finance industry. She is currently pursuing her Bachelor’s in Business Management.

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