Friday, August 07, 2009

The Los Angeles Mayor’s Endorsement of Allowing Charter Schools and Non-Profits to Take Over New Schools Frightens Me;

It’s Something We Should All Be Asking Questions About Carefully

Dear Readers: I wrote this story and it was posted on City Watch last week. Soon after, I received a phone call from David Kooper, chief of staff for Los Angeles School Board Richard Vladovic, asking for another story to clarify why his boss supports this resolution. I agreed since that was not included in the story.

But to put it all in perspective for you, here’s the original piece. In the next couple of days, I will post the second story. Here’s to our kids coming out on the top – which is where they belong. Diana

By Diana L. Chapman

My toes are curling and my head is spinning with the mayor of Los Angeles’ recent endorsement to pretty much sell off our new schools and let non-profits, charters or teacher partnerships run them – rather than Los Angeles Unified School District.

In a long editorial endorsement in the Los Angeles Times this week, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa wrote that the district board should support LAUSD Board member Yolie Flores Aguilar’s motion to let others compete to take over all new schools do so on Aug. 25.

This forces the district to compete to operate its own spanking new campuses.

This definitely depicts an educational revolution – but the question is: Will it be a good one and when will we have gone too far? Revolution can be good – but it can be deadly when you keep picking off pieces from the vine in a haphazard way.

Remember the French revolution?

This seems just another move to cover up what the true revolt should be – a breakup of the entire district.

I can’t somehow help but feel this motion gives the store away. The so-called revolt is already well under way within the district, with 154 charters currently operating city schools (which still use public funding and are not private campuses although sometimes they act as thought they are private).

Each of these schools have their own philosophy, do not have to follow district guidelines and have far less regulations to face then our district’ campuses that have a duty to help all children , no matter what their issues, developmentally mentally disabled or otherwise. For instance, if a child is expelled from a charter, the public school still has to take that student in.

Or if any charter can show it doesn’t have the resources to aid special education students, or students with other issues, it can turn those students away. That scares me.

What this motion does is open the doors to have the district compete against other organizations to run each of its new schools scheduled to open 2010. This really diverts us from the reality of what really needs to happen: a break up of the district.

What I’d rather be looking at – which is a much greater form of liberation and protects all children at a much greater level -- is to carve up the district into smaller regions and give each region more autonomy, a decentralization so to speak.

Now, that’s a true revolution and one I trust will ensure a public education for all.

In his endorsement, the mayor makes me worry even more – because I don’t believe an ounce that he cares for our kids like he claims. What he does care for is his political future. In his life, that has always come first it seems.

Despite his excuse that he’s not running for governor because he didn’t want to leave Los Angeles bleeding leaves me with much doubt. I believe it really stems more from the polls that reflected few of us really want him to become governor.

Had he been so interested in our children, he would have perhaps started with his own, not taking his family through a brutal saga of his romantic affairs – which had to hurt his own kids – and led to divorce. Had he been so interested in our children, he might of looked seriously at a model brought to his office that used after school programs as a carrot to keep students interested at middle school and off the streets – and out of gangs.

Had he been so interested in our children, than he would understand that the charter plan would not necessarily provide or protect what he states: that “every child in Los Angeles ought to have access to high-quality public school in his or her neighborhood,” and parents more access to schools than the public schools.

My son’s charter, which I took him out of, acted like parents were vampires and they had their crosses out. They wanted parents – yes – to raise money, but didn’t really know how to deal with them after that. They didn’t want parents in the hallways, they stated in their school information.

That’s an instant red flag for me at any school. Why don’t you want parents?

In my son’s public schools in Los Angeles, I was able to volunteer and be on his campuses in a variety of capacities. Parents – as we all know even though we deny it– need to return and help at schools, whether we like it or not. There are just too many great issues at hand across the board.

My son has received an excellent education from LAUSD, even at one of the middle school’s most residents feared. Yes, he was in the gifted program, but since all the schools are moving toward small campuses within each large, public school, the district will be able to provide more mini-schools than ever.

I am all for breaking up the district and maybe having a lot less administration downtown, but a board with a heartbeat that can help each region and make sure all students – rich, poor, disabled or otherwise – get an education.

Breaking up the district, however, probably scares Los Angeles city officials, including our mayor.

Because isn’t it exactly what the city of Los Angeles needs to do? It’s become too large, too authoritative and cumbersome to truly care for its residents simplest needs.

If we break up the district, then the true revolution will begin and it might not just stop at the door step of city’s schools….

It might happen to the city. And maybe that’s not such a bad thing.