Friday, July 31, 2009



Random Thoughts By Diana L. Chapman | CityWatch – an insider look at city hall

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July 31, 2009 - My toes are curling and my head is spinning with the Mayor of Los Angeles’ recent endorsement to pretty much sell off our new schools and let non-profits, charters or teacher partnerships run them – rather than Los  Angeles Unified School District.

In a long editorial endorsement in the Los Angeles Times this week, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa wrote that the district board should support  LAUSD Board member Yolie Flores Aguilar’s motion to let others compete to take over all new schools .. and do so on Aug. 25. This forces the district to compete to operate its own spanking new campuses.

This definitely depicts an educational revolution – but the question is: Will it be a good one and when will we have gone too far? Revolution can be good – but it can be deadly when you keep picking off pieces from the vine in a haphazard way.

Remember the French revolution?

This seems just another move to cover up what the true revolt should be – a  breakup of the entire district.

I can’t somehow help but feel this motion gives the store away. The so-called  revolt is already well under way within the district, with 154 charters currently operating city schools (which still use public funding and are not private campuses although sometimes they act as though they are private).

Each of these schools have their own philosophy, do not have to follow district guidelines and have far fewer regulations to face then our district’ campuses that have a duty to help all children , no matter what their issues, developmentally disabled or otherwise. For instance, if a child is expelled from a charter, the public school still has to take that student in.

Or, if any charter  can show it doesn’t have the resources to aid special education students, or students with other issues, it can turn those students away. That scares me.

What this motion does is open the doors to have the district compete against other organizations to run each of its new schools scheduled to open 2010. This really diverts us from the reality of what really needs to happen: a break up of the district.

What I’d rather be looking at – which is a much greater form of liberation and protects all children at a much greater level  -- is to carve up the district into smaller regions and give each region more autonomy, a decentralization so to speak.

Now, that’s a true revolution and one I trust will ensure a public education for all.

In his endorsement, the mayor makes me worry even more – because I don’t believe an ounce that he cares for our kids like he claims. What he does care for is his political future. In his life, that has always come first it seems.

Despite his excuse that he’s not running for governor because he didn’t want to leave Los Angeles bleeding leaves me with much doubt. I believe it really stems more from  the polls  that reflected few of us really want him to become governor.

If he is so interested in our children, he would understand that the charter plan would not necessarily provide or protect what he states: that “every child in Los Angeles ought to have access to high-quality public school in his or her neighborhood,” and parents more access to schools than the public schools.

My son’s charter, which I took him out of, acted like parents were vampires and they had their crosses out.  They wanted parents – yes – to raise money, but didn’t really know how to deal with them after that. They didn’t want parents in the hallways, they stated in their school information.

That’s an instant red flag for me at any school. Why don’t you want parents?

In my son’s public schools in Los Angeles, I was able to volunteer  and be on his campuses in a variety of capacities.

Parents – as we all know even though we deny it– need to return and help at schools, whether we like it or not. There are just too many great issues at hand across the board.

My son has received an excellent education from LAUSD, even at one of the middle school’s most residents feared. Yes, he was in the gifted program, but since all the schools are moving toward  small campuses within each large public school  the district will be able to provide more mini-schools than ever.

I am all for breaking up the district and maybe having a lot less administration downtown, but a board with a heartbeat that can help each region and make sure all students – rich, poor, disabled or otherwise – get an education.

Breaking up the district, however, probably scares Los Angeles city officials, including our mayor.

Because isn’t that exactly what the city of Los Angeles needs to do? It’s become too large, too authoritative and cumbersome to truly care for its residents simplest needs.

If we break up the district, then the true revolution will begin and it might not just stop at the door step of the city’s schools. It might happen to the city. And maybe that’s not such a bad thing.

Photo art credit: (Diana L. Chapman was a journalist for 15 years with the Daily Breeze and the San Diego Union. She can be reached or visit her blog ) ◘ 

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