EDUCATION POLITICS - That's the directive Kate Anderson …handpicked by LA’s Mayor V and New York’s Mayor B … has been flinging into every sound bite she can leverage these past weeks. With her sweet voice and deceptively soft looks, she summarily asserts without qualification, that she knows just who is a subpar teacher, and she will move them on out.
Well, with all but the uncounted mail-in votes tallied and 52.4% trending toward Steve Zimmer, I believe we voters of Los Angeles Unified's fourth School District (LAUSD4) have requested another job of Ms Anderson. Zimmer's been doing his well-enough, and the harsh, un-nuanced puppeteering from beyond has been rejected.
As a random mother of 2 teenagers, I awoke to this school board race when 4.5 million industrialist's dollars poured into my little, local, school district, preempting attention from commonplace travesties such as sluggish fundraising and understaffed schools.
In short order it became clear that this is an end-game for a massive, national power struggle in the dismantle-and-privatize-our-government game. Including an assault on the bulwark of labor unions, checks & balances and free thinking, this is a campaign of Herculean scale. And it's been going on a long time; where have I been??
Without ever noticing it I was moved into a constituency camp termed "parent", consigned to a group I never knew was conscripted, and ascribed a whole host of concerns and partisan viewpoints I never knew were mine.
Ultimately I have come to feel like a tiny character in a massive, national children's battle of good-and-evil. Far, far up there in the stratosphere - from about 3000 miles away in fact (the distance to Mayor Bloomberg's NYC), loom oblating dementors, leaning in on our little neighborhood angling to suck the soul out of our local power of choice, the prerogative of our independently elected school board.
It sounds hysterical and fantastical, but reading up on the "School Reform Movement" of the past ten years reveals a presence that is nothing short of democracy-threatening; the scale is right. With a multi-million dollar war chest donated by the 1% who range from nominal democrats to libertarians right on through to ultra-right foreign-born moguls -- our tiny corner of the world has become a microcosm for class warfare on a scale I never had a glimmering of just weeks ago.
It turns out, and I just never noticed, that my neighborhood, or at least school board district (which encompasses hundreds of square miles, so it's hardly little at that) houses more charter schools than anywhere on the planet. And to the uninitiated, these charter schools wouldn't really signal anything terribly nefarious. The opportunity to involve your child in an angle on education that's a little bit unorthodox seems terrific, "choice" is clearly unassailable - who could possibly object to a little leavening in the educational mix?
As the child of educators, living in the education and research biz myself, it's hard to credit too much wrong-doing to any effort devoted to better-serving the transcendental question of how best to educate our children. Because it turns out this is the holy grail, and no one has gotten any closer to finding it since the days of Socrates. The legacy of our educational system in the recent past has been less than exemplary, especially among select demographics.
Therefore "reform" is a fine goal, as unassailable as "choice". Moreover there is common cause with corporations in educating our children in skills that are useful for modern business. Reforming our schools by addressing the impediments to our children's learning is vital, and there is no inherent reason not to use corporate dollars toward that end.
However there is no offer to direct the massive funds of this recent election toward present day under-resourced institutions. While those campaign dollars could have significant effect on our school campuses directly, instead they are devoted to closing down what was. Rather than working with teachers and administrators and the other components that compose the scaffolding of our social fabric, the agenda of the School Reform Movement is to remove the incumbent and install a challenger instead. This election silhouettes how reform never was part of the agenda at all; revolution is.
This election, with its shockingly outsized spending has revealed a hidden agenda, as old as the hills. With massive institutions and systems is embedded the opportunity for equally massive personal gain. Prerequisite is private control, wrenched from what was formerly public, democratic governance. Couching this banality of greed in educational ideology has been an effective strategy, but tonight's results suggest a whisper of increasing awareness and resistance to uncontrolled and unbridled, unjustified change.
Because the evidence is starting to pour in. The Reform School agenda which seeks to install privately setup small, isolated, corporately run charter schools are at best no worse than their public counterparts, and reach a small, select subset of the public besides. They result in breathtaking segregation and privation and an impoverished educational landscape. They leach public resources.
Unaffordable, now, are the rich opportunities of varied educational "services" like music programs and art programs, lending libraries and speech and behavioral therapists. This School Reform Emperor has no clothes, and the evidence while slow to come in, is arriving at last.
This, I believe, is the real reason for the recent "billionarie's-push" to fully enact the privatization agenda of School Reform. As the inferior outcomes of charter schools are revealed with time, so too is this canard of "reform".
Lost in the jockeying for private gain is the vast, ignored needs of the 99%. Social services, support and education are what sustain a democratic society. Replacing the aspirations of upward mobility among our lower and middle classes, codifies a system of short-term gain and massive profit that benefits very few. Removing our educational system from public control is undemocratic, inherently destructive of a sustainable society, and immoral.
I am so glad Steve Zimmer won his LAUSD4 race tonight. But make no mistake about it, this is a small battle in a much larger war.
(Sara Roos is a politically active resident of Mar Vista, a biostatistician, the parent of two teenaged LAUSD students and a CityWatch contributor.)
Vol 11 Issue 20
Pub: Mar 8, 2013