Tuesday, September 06, 2011


By EMILY WALKER | Los Angeles Wave | http://bit.ly/oXt81n

Sep 6, 2011 at 2:02 PM PDT -  Public education within the Los Angeles Unified School District is in a state of distress. As a parent, grandparent and community member, it is a painful process to watch; akin to watching a patient’s condition deteriorate, while the patient’s suggestions for his own condition are being ignored.

In this case, the “physician in charge,” LAUSD, continues to disrespect the patient’s wishes by failing to allow him to fully participate in his own healing process. With the backing of parents, teachers, students, community and legitimate stakeholders, the “patient” (the traditional public school) is trying to participate in his own recovery by factoring in personal, up-front, first-hand knowledge of the problem.

Instead of allowing this to occur, the patient is being directed to follow a treatment regiment that includes heavy doses of political interference and corporate takeovers. At this rate, he’ll never get better.

What happened at Henry Clay Middle School in South L.A. is the tip of the iceberg. The administration of Clay was recently handed over to a charter school operator, Green Dot, allegedly to improve school performance. The irony of the matter is that Green’s Dot’s test scores are no better than Clay’s.

Nevertheless, the school was given to them over the objections of Ramon Cortines, the superintendent at the time, and Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte, the school board member who represents Clay’s area. The decision was made by a board majority that seems hell-bent on dismantling the schools in LaMotte’s district. A plan for improvement, written by teachers at the school with input from parents and legitimate stakeholders, was completely ignored.

To add insult to injury, the school board voted to change the name of the school, effectively telling the community and more than 50 years of graduating classes that their history is no longer important.

Henry Clay

1818 portrait by Matthew Harris Jouett

8th, 10th and 13th Speaker of the United States House of Representatives

a name not good enough for Green Dot.

If left unchecked, moves such as this one, under the district’s Public School Choice process, will result in the bulldozing of community schools. We will be left without the type of public schools that have educated all children for more than a century. In its place, our tax dollars will be used for a sea of charter schools — which pick and choose which students they want to educate, and employ educational practices that do not serve our interests.

The community should be aware that charter schools are run by outside entities. They are businesses, designed to make profits. We want our kids to learn how to pioneer and operate businesses to uplift our community, instead of being used by corporations for monetary gain.

While it continues to inject the “patient” with charter school “syrup”  — approving more than any other district in the nation — LAUSD continues to chip away at the notion of parental involvement. Their decision to dismantle the District Advisory Committee and the supporting proposal to turn the parent involvement aspect over to an outside organization (without the consent of parents) effectively delivered a message that says, “We will ignore federal and state law and make decisions without meaningful input and advice from parents.”

The board’s actions caused concerned parents and community members to form Advocates for Schools in Exile in South L.A. (ASESLA), specifically to address the undemocratic process used to dismantle our schools. (Along with Clay, Dorsey, Washington Prep, Woodcrest, Manhattan, LaSalle and West Athens have been targeted).

We must stand up and voice our opinions. Let’s support organizations like ASESLA and let LAUSD know that we will not sit idly by as they destroy the public education system that helped to build neighborhoods, communities and cities. Let’s tell them that we will not be co-signers to their illegal, immoral, discriminatory and unjust policies. LAUSD must be held accountable under “No Child Left Behind,” Title 1 and every other federal and state law that mandates parental involvement. By standing up and working with like-minded individuals, LAUSD will get the message: that although the patient is in distress, he’s still alive and kicking.

Walker is a member of ASESLA and serves on National Coalition of ESEA Title 1 Parents.

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