Cortines: LAUSD has “no jurisdiction over the mayor’s Partnership Schools and, consequently, are not in the loop about anything they do.”
By BETTY PLEASANT, Contributing Editor | Los Angeles Wave
July 16, 2009 -- As the result of last week’s column on the “Spanish only” summer program at John Ritter Elementary School, LAUSD board member Marguerite LaMotte presented a motion at Tuesday’s board meeting calling for access and equity for all students in the school district.
The motion, which was co-authored by board members Richard Vladovic and Steven Zimmer, specifically addresses the revelation that a four-week summer school session for Spanish-speaking students only is under way at the Watts-area Ritter School while no summer instruction is being provided to English-speaking students.
The Ritter School is one of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s Partnership for Los Angeles schools — a group of 10 public schools carved out of the LAUSD system and given to the mayor to operate.
A furor has erupted in the city’s non-Spanish speaking population over Ritter’s special summer class, especially in light of the fact that no elementary and middle school summer classes are being provided for public school children anywhere else in the district, as they were all canceled because of the district’s catastrophic shortage of funds.
The Rev. Eric Lee, executive director of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference-Los Angeles, was livid when he learned of Ritter’s Spanish-only summer school, and vowed: “We’re going to do something about this.” He said he spoke with Marshall Tuck, the CEO of the mayor’s Partnership Schools system, and listened to his explanations for the program.
“It still doesn’t make any sense to me,” Lee said. “If they were committed to have a Spanish-language instruction program, then they should have at least had an English-language instruction program as well.”
Lee, along with Adrian Dove, head of the California Congress of Racial Equality, met with the Black Education Task Force on the issue Monday and Lee said the group is demanding that Partnership Schools amass enough resources to have an English-language summer school at Ritter.
The National Association for Equal Justice in America (NAEJA) is scheduled to take up the Ritter summer school issue at its membership meeting Saturday, and the Urban Roundtable has issued a scathing indictment of the separate, but in-no-way equal, educational activity under way at Ritter and has vowed to fight it.
Ramon Cortines, superintendent of the LAUSD, said Monday that he and his district have no jurisdiction over the mayor’s Partnership Schools and, consequently, are not in the loop about anything they do. “But I want to make it plain that I never have believed and do not now believe in ‘separate but equal’ anything — certainly not a separate education,” Cortines said.
LaMotte, the only African-American on the LAUSD school board, angrily denounced the goings-on at Ritter.
“The Partnership Schools are still district-owned schools and are subject to all laws and policies of all district schools,” LaMotte said. “It is unacceptable and unconscionable that this has occurred in an LAUSD school. Although Partnership Schools have greater flexibility in their operation, this does not give them the right to discriminate in any way, and I personally, apologize to the students and parents who were denied access and appeal to the district and the Partnership to publicly do the same."
As to the LaMotte/Vladovic/Zimmer motion, it reads as follows:
“Whereas the alleged incident at an LAUSD IDesign Partnership School and other incidents have brought to light the disturbing reality that racism and social injustice continue to exist in the educational community, as well as the community at large; and
“Whereas, the Equal Protection clause of the U.S. Constitution, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and state doctrines, such as the California Constitution demand and guarantee equality of treatment, social justice, protection of civil rights and freedom from racial discrimination; and
“Whereas, the Los Angeles Unified School District is involved in a process to transform schools to improve student academic achievement and social behavior by having all students college prepared, career ready and performing at proficiency and advanced levels. Therefore, be it
“Resolved that the LAUSD Board of Education publicly recognizes its responsibility as the governing board of one of this nation’s leading educational institutions to serve as committed advocates for equality of every student, to be champions of social justice and civil rights and to hold accountable all parties involved in IDesign [Partnership] and the transformation process to adhere to these same access and non-discriminatory standards; and be it finally
“Resolved that a statement of agreement with the district’s position on access and equity will be specifically incorporated in all MOU’s and signed by all parties prior to the approval/acceptance of any LAUSD partnership or joint venture involving students.”
This resolution will be debated by the school board at its Aug. 25 meeting.