FIRST PERSON-If you compare predominantly minority filled and long-failed Detroit public schools with the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), there is only one glaring difference -- LAUSD has been run by a better bunch of liars than Detroit.
There is now in Detroit a class action lawsuit brought against the State of Michigan for allowing "...systematic, persistent and deliberate failure to deliver instruction and tools essential for access to literacy...which serve almost exclusively low-income children of color..." This is the same reality that has and continues to exist at what remains de facto segregated LAUSD for generations now. But at LAUSD they just fix the grades and falsify the assessments as they continue to socially promote students, irrespective of their objective academic levels. LAUSD's unofficial motto seems to be: Out of public sight, out of mind, especially for White folks who don't have their children trapped in these LAUSD failure factories.
The fundamental problem with large school districts like Detroit, LAUSD, and others like them around the country is that their leadership is disproportionately determined by their vendors. And their vendors’ and lawyers’ most important concern is not the quality of education being given to each student, but rather how much money they make by being the exclusive providers of goods and service to these school districts -- irrespective of inflated prices.
By merely establishing an independent entity to assess the true level of student achievement, this longstanding academic and financial fraud could be brought to a quick end. But White folks who have the political capital to bring such a change to fruition have no skin in the game and are not "superior" enough to see how much this failed public education system they abandon years ago is costing them.
In Detroit, which is no different than LAUSD when it comes to past administrative malfeasance, new Detroit Superintendent Nikolai Vitti says students in the district were used as "political pawns." Vitti says, "Detroit public school policies were racist, because they never would have been accepted in any predominantly White suburban school district in this country.” Vitti claims students in some Detroit schools were denied a basic education and literacy by poor management of their school district.
Sound familiar? It’s like LAUSD that has been teetering for years on the verge of bankruptcy, a condition that is clearly attributable to ongoing administrative fraud.
No objective, independent measurement as to how students are really doing in school has ever been instituted in the LAUSD or Detroit system at any time. If a truly independent federal bureaucracy like the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) were used to audit the academic and financial actions of school districts that are now controlled by their vendors’ surrogates (the school districts' administrations) we would undoubtedly see our schools get better.
In Detroit, "only 5% of 4th graders can read at or above a [4th grade] proficient level. For 8th graders, the level only rises to 8%." The results are no better at LAUSD, NYC, Chicago or other minority-dominated districts.
One of the most virulent and destructive aspects of racism that still thrives in this country, is that it has created no expectation of excellence for minority students. This low bar exists not only among those who continue to believe in their racial superiority, but also in the minds of the minorities who have suffered under racist systems of public education for generations.
What is most positive about the new class action suit being brought on behalf of mostly minority children who remain trapped in poorly run Detroit public schools, is that significant numbers of people are no longer willing to just accept it.
Fixing public education once and for all would be a whole lot less expensive than maintaining what remains of the failed systems we continue to maintain. This seems to defy logic until you consider that a whole lot of vendors continue to get rich by bleeding LAUSD dry. And they will not stop unless they are compelled to do so -- if that's still possible in these surreal Trumpian times, a world in which the federal courts are being packed with more and more judges who see and hear no evil.
The social promotion of students to higher grades, when they haven't mastered the grade-level standards of their current grade, has tacitly been based on the false assumption that holding students back from their age group does worse, irreparable harm than socially promoting them. It’s time to consider these facts and ideas: 1) The longer you wait to try and get a student caught up to grade-level in school, the less likely you are to succeed. 2) What are the avoidable costs to society that result when young people are not educated to their potential in a timely manner?
This failure is at the root of why we spend so much now on an expensive, corporate-owned juvenile and adult criminal justice penal system that is packed with undereducated ex-students from Detroit, LAUSD, and elsewhere, that compete with public education for limited state and federal budget resources? Simply stated, people educated to their potential in a timely manner are less likely to be a financial burden on society. Rather, you would be able to call them taxpayers.
(Leonard Isenberg is a Los Angeles, observer and a contributor to CityWatch. He was a second- generation teacher at LAUSD and blogs at perdaily.com. Leonard can be reached at Lenny@perdaily.com.) Edited for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.