Tuesday, December 29, 2009

ATTACKS ON LA SCHOOLS CONTINUE: Corporate interests behind assault on public education


By: David Feldman | PSLWeb.com  - Party for Socialism and Liberation

●●smf’s 2¢:  …the fact that they’re the radical fringe doesn’t mean they're wrong!

Monday, December 28, 2009 -- Last week, Education Secretary Arne Duncan made a visit to Los Angeles. The Superintendent of LA schools, Ramon Cortines, felt the occasion called for some anti-public education grand-standing.

Los Angeles rally for public education early this year

Cortines proceeded to announce the "reconstitution" of Fremont High School in South Los Angeles. The entire staff at Fremont High School will be dismissed and forced to re-apply for their jobs. Cortines will develop an anti-union "right to work" agreement for all new hires.

Fremont High School is in an oppressed section of Los Angeles, long ravaged by poverty.

The excuse for this drastic measure? A piece of the $4.35 billion that the Obama administration has called the "race to the top" for all public schools.

The "race to the top" is nothing other than a ploy to weaken teachers’ union rights and privatize education. The most California would receive is a one-time payment of $700 million, a drop in the bucket when placed in context of what the state spends on education for 6 million public school students. (Sacramento Bee, Dec. 8)

Duncan has said he wants to see 1,000 schools reconstituted every year. The Obama administration supports these efforts to the tune of $3.5 billion in grants. (LA Times, Dec. 11)

Never mind the fact these methods, which Duncan likes to call "turnarounds" have not been successful in the past. As the "CEO" of Chicago schools, Duncan was responsible for the "turnarounds" of 61 schools. According to a University of Chicago study released in October, students who were transferred out of their old schools did not perform better academically in their new schools. (Education Week, Oct. 28)

The changes at Fremont were made possible by provisions in the much-despised No Child Left Behind Act. LA’s teachers’ union, the United Teachers Los Angeles, along with parents, students and community members, were notified of the reconstitution at the last minute.

Low test-scores and bad academic performance are the reasons given by those who want to reorganize Fremont. But when many urban neighborhoods throughout the country have high rates of poverty and no access to fundamental rights like jobs and quality health care, of course academic performance is going to suffer. The amount of money the government spends on education is minuscule compared to the trillions spent on imperialist war and bailing out the banks.

The reconstitution of Fremont is part of a pattern of moves taken by Cortines to take away rights from teachers, students, and parents. In August, the school board passed a measure that will possibly open about a third of the district’s lowest performing schools to being taken over by outside groups, mainly charter schools. The UTLA and many community leaders fought hard against this measure.

A recent article in the LA Times exposed the fact that the man overseeing the measure, Christopher Hill, works for Eli Broad. Broad is an area capitalist responsible for the spread of charter schools in LA.

Charter schools are essentially private schools that take public money and are under no obligation to educate every child like regular public schools. Charters often pick and choose the students they want to educate. They are also hostile to unions. Unions are the only day-to-day means already underpaid teachers have in their struggle for decent wages, benefits and workplace rights.

Despite technically being employed by LA Unified, Hill’s salary is being paid in full by Eli Broad himself! A dozen other key LAUSD officials whose official duties are to oversee the takeovers are also being paid by corporately funded foundations. Cortines personally gave his thumbs up to Broad’s proposal to pay Hill’s salary. Cortines and Broad are longtime friends. (LA Times. Dec. 21)

The school takeover plan passed last August is the most consequential measure passed by the LA school board in many years. Technically unions and other groups can offer their own proposals to run a school in need of reform. But the implementation of the measure is being overseen by capitalists who want to weaken unions and de-fund public education.

The immediate future is one of intense struggle for teachers and students all over the country who are fighting for their rights and benefits. Teachers, parents and students all have the same interests. Individually we are powerless, but together we are a force to be reckoned with. Workers, teachers, parents and students unite to defend public education!

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