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EDUCATION POLITICS -  Tuesday’s LAUSD school board meeting provided more than fourteen (14) hours of High Drama on Beaudry Street. Angeleno educational stakeholders withstood the full gamut of emotions ranging from Anger to Zealotry between the hours of 7am when sidewalk turf was first staked out by families with small children and teachers devoted to students of all ages, all the way through to 9:13pm when the gavel fell on the LAUSD 6/18/13 school board, leaving one would-be speaking member of the public standing at the podium, unrecognized. 

A veritable plethora of mini-dramas punctuated the day, referenced below for your viewing pleasure by video time in parentheses:  

 

Parent Revolution, the corporate-bankrolled, trigger-friendly, purportedly parent-led organization, commanded overriding attention. Indicative of their tactics at large, in two separate waves of intimidation against those in line awaiting entrance to the board room, peaceable stakeholders prevailed against their attempt to sabotage the board’s ‘first come-first served’ rules for public recognition (7:10). 

Rampant, systemic misconduct in implementing the “parent trigger” was publicly attested to from across the community (7:14). 

The teachers’ union president highlighted their professional mandate to reach out to parents (7:34), and board members emphasized supporting constructive rather than destructive, violent means for initiating parent-driven improvement of our kids’ schools (7:57). 

Board member Zimmer introduced a resolution designed to structure the process for the Race To The Top (RTTT)-ingratiating “parent trigger” law, clarifying LAUSD’s role in conveying clear and balanced information, without jeopardizing federal RTTT funding.  RTTT is a federal money-lure, a jackpot of competitive funds essentially rewarded to, and only to, states enacting laws that enable charter-schools and high-stakes testing. 

A fascinating political slight-of-hand ensued with an amendment that escalated the original thoughtful, measured resolution into explosive territory, demanding full-out repeal of a law in defiance of federal funding mandates. The irony of this conflagration was extreme. Several board members eloquently decried the essential violence of this law that incites community stakeholders who ought properly to be allies.  But worst of all, by instigating factions a “breach” (7:56) appears between adversaries that entraps the most guileless among us: our children. 

And so the essential explosive nature of the “trigger” law was harnessed to an amendment that would obliterate it, causing further collateral damage to LAUSD by ruining its finances and reputation.  While the board agrees implicitly with the underlying motivation of “parent empowerment”, and sought only to mitigate any malevolence that arose in implementation of the law, this maneuver would have blown apart California’s bid for much-needed federal educational funds. 

But hold on; it all gets more complicated. 

Upon inciting the alchemy that transformed this benign resolution into a poisoned pill threatening the very political integrity of LAUSD, our superintendent exited the meeting quietly (8:15). The architect of such perfidy remained absent when one hour later the resolution was called back onto the floor (9:15), first separated from its amendment and subsequently re-voted into being in its original form. 

Thus the purportedly “friendly” resolution that was anything but, was in the end, neutralized. And this twist came in the last three minutes of a day of meetings that lasted over twelve hours. 

Other riveting happenings of controversy occurred when LAUSD voted to purchase $30M worth of iPads at 170% of retail cost (3:54). Yep, it’s cheaper to walk into the apple store and buy the things. 

Though these devices come “loaded with software”. Presumably that is Gates-manufactured software by the self-same tycoon who has spent so very much influencing “Ed Reform” efforts. There was concern about ‘buyer’s remorse’ and spending priorities that favor machines over humans. 

Class size reduction was discussed (4:58) at some length, though the issue is essentially a “no-brainer”. Everyone benefits from a smaller classroom size, students and teachers alike. It benefits students to have teachers who can pay attention to them. It benefits students to have teachers who are not impossibly overextended. 

There is no threshold below which class size reduction is enjoyed exclusively; benefit is seen continuously. 35 is better than 40, 25 better than 30 and charter schools, nominal “public” schools on equal footing as district public schools, bet their full value on the capacity to offer class sizes below 20 (5:34). Why one flavor of public schooling (charters) should be thus blessed and another (district schools) not is an abidingly perplexing and unfair proposition. 

Yet while the need is incontrovertible to lower class room size and increase ancillary support staff, yet there is a concerted effort elsewhere to morph the issue as pertaining to personnel rather than our children’s learning needs (5:36). Denying the imperative of in-classroom needs, including support staff, is just preposterous. Schools are criminally underfunded, classrooms unconscionably overcrowded, facilities embarrassingly filthy, libraries scandalously left fallow, students adrift with effectively no counseling. And all this is documented by testimony at the hearing … as the World Turns.

 

(Sara Roos is a politically active resident of Mar Vista, a biostatistician, the parent of two teenaged LAUSD students and a CityWatch contributor, who blogs at redqueeninla.wordpress.com

-cw

 

 

 

CityWatch

Vol 11 Issue 50

Pub: June 21, 2013

 

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