EDUCATION POLITICS - Heads-Up Ven-Mar! This matters to you. It matters to you if you are a member of society, living on Los Angeles’ Westside. It matters to you specifically if you are a parent, or especially as one who holds in your heart some special regard for any child. It matters to you whether your child is in a protected small learning community, a private school, a public school, a charter, pilot, magnet or school in your own home. It matters not: education cuts across all strata. And the Reform Education movement drills through it all.
There is a Reform Education move afoot to “build up our neighborhood schools so that they are strong”. This is their language and it is a terrific idea, un-assailable in fact. But it begs the question: What is our neighborhood school?
Is it the one established publically to serve all of the neighborhood? Like the district schools (incomplete, alphabetical list) currently at Beethoven, Braddock, Broadway, Grandview, Mar Vista, Marina, Mark Twain, Palms, Venice, Walgrove? These schools, by law and by conviction, include everyone: academically challenged, non-English speakers, physically disabled, poor, immigrant, and just plain smack-dab-in-the-middle average and ordinary. They include as well the extra-ordinary, the gifted, the talented, those with home environments that prepare them well for learning. These schools serve all alike.
But please understand this very, very deeply: the movement to “build up our neighborhood schools so that they are strong” does not include this list of "district" neighborhood schools. It is a movement for a separate set of quasipublic “neighborhood schools”. “Quasi” because the “neighborhood” has no say in governance. Functionally “separate but equal”, they will not admit everyone. And as a parent-consumer of its corporate services, these designer-labeled, focus-grouped, parallel “neighborhood” schools will, in general, educate exclusively only a select subset of the community.
“Impertinent! Libelous!” I hear you crying out. Where’s the proof? I am shocked, shocked, to contemplate such social injustice.
Here’s the proof: millions of dollars is anticipated from private interests to be poured into neighborhood schools, but not into the district ones listed above. This private money is not available to “Beethoven, Braddock, etc…”. Ordinary, budgeted, through-the-front-door funding at this list of district schools remains shockingly insufficient, and largely corporate-free.
Here’s what’s happening: The very physical assets of these neighborhood schools, their classrooms and physical grounds, must, by law (prop 39), be portioned off to the private-interest schools simply for their asking. A chain-link line is drawn in between physically divided schools creating two, “separate but equal” entities. (See photo above.) On one side is the privately - and lavishly - funded entity, permitted to matriculate just and specifically only those kids most likely to achieve a narrow success defined by this school itself.
Meanwhile on the other side of the fence are the unselected kids, relegated to institutions struggling with resources that are utterly insufficient. The war-chest of funds is not being offered to the unselected kids, only the privately-controlled matriculants. All the same, court-enforced quarantining of the public school’s facilities from their side of the fence, over to side of the privately-funded, richly appointed one, is.
Closer to home, right here, right now, a proposition has erupted with no warning, to appropriate half the space at Venice High School (VHS) for a new “pilot” school. The full-fledged scheme will drop a middle-high “technology-based” school right within the grounds of VHS. The school will be privately funded, presumably with a torrent of cash and non-monetary support, and will sequester space presently utilized by VHS. Meanwhile, Venice’s bleachers remain condemned, for insufficient funds to repair them. Classroom size in VHS approaches FIFTY (50) in some classrooms. For want of lab teachers or space, AP students are consigned to work designed for 4th graders.
VENICE HIGH SCHOOL COULD USE THAT MONEY! All the kids, school-wide, any of the programs: comprehensive, special services, magnet, SLC, adult school. Every last one of these is cut past the bone into the “quick”. By way of contrasting comparable sub-communities, a new Science and Technology (STEMM) magnet school is slated to open there next year, but no startup money has been provided for it. The present global languages magnet has dated, wholly inadequate language lab facilities. Community partnerships at any level, anywhere in the school would be highly appreciated as part of authentic, district-level support. We in the district school are left wondering why our community’s support is so comparatively scarce.
Why can’t all that private money be offered to our district neighborhood school to make it “strong”? Well, this private money isn’t being offered that way. That’s just the bottom line. It’s not being offered, and public lands and space is being physically wrested from our present school buildings and grounds in order to be given to this brand new “neighborhood” school instead.
MARK TWAIN, MARINA DEL REY AND VENICE HIGH WOULD WELCOME THE PUPILS eyed by this pilot school. It feels instead as if rather than accommodating them in our district school with adequate resources, the school board condones siphoning them into this commandeering institute as a consequence of amenities we cannot promise.
By virtue of its unfair resources, this pilot program effectively skims students from the neighborhood district schools. Important to test-based outcomes metrics, students of successful potential are especially missed.
No one would deny these students an excellent education; but what of those not-selected? What of the institutions left on the side in the future, impoverished of funds and diminished in overall numbers, including precisely those high-potential children whose academic facility floats everyone’s learning-boat, high-achieving and otherwise?
This disparity is nothing short of monstrous. Two schools are being supported by the same public entity, disproportionately. One school will directly cannibalize at least three separate neighboring district schools as a consequence of these unfair sanctions. Better for LAUSD to assure that private, external coffers will fund our struggling institutions equally. Please let these monies seed the neighborhood conversation of how to strive for improved excellence equally, for one and for all.
It’s very hard to see this happening. Instead that money threatens to strongarm the demise of our current neighborhood district schools. This outcome would be completely unconscionable. Why, Westsiders of good conscience, should we permit this to happen?
What you can do: Attend the LAUSD March 19 meeting downtown. Voice the request that this money be earmarked for our current district neighborhood schools, rather than leveraged to destroy them. Raise concerns regarding the removal of public facilities for a “pilot” school that will isolate some of the neighborhood from the rest. Contact VHS Parent-Teachers association here: Call your local school board’s office: 311. Distribute the following nformational flier:
Dear Students, Guardians, Parents, Friends & Ven-Mar Neighbors of
Venice High School (VHS),
Mark Twain & Marina Del Rey (MDR) Middle Schools
On March 19, LAUSD may approve plans to situate a
6-12 pilot school inside the campus of VHS
During recent elections a campaign slogan exhorted that our school board:
“build up our neighborhood schools so that they are strong”
In consideration of this imperative, we need to know:
¿ How will this “FIN” pilot school “build up” VHS ?
¿ How will this pilot school “strengthen” the district neighborhood school where it proposes to co-locate, VHS ?
¿ How will startup enrollment in the pilot school impact enrollment in district neighborhood middle schools (Mark Twain, MDR, Palms) ?
¿ How will this pilot school aide the current teachers of VHS ?
¿ Will the pupils of the pilot school benefit at the expense of VHS’ pupils ?
¿ What startup funds will be available for the new pilot school ?
¿ Will there be comparable startup funds for the new VHS STEMM magnet ?
¿ Will any programs or facilities be shared between
pilot and VHS schools (e.g. athletics, activities, laboratories) ?
¿ Will incorporation of the pilot school physically crowd VHS students?
(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 22
Pub: Mar 15, 2013