By Louis Pugliese | Op-Ed in the Daily News
Aug 9, 2009 -- Throughout the ruckus last month surrounding LAUSD board member Yolie Flores Aguilar's resolution to solicit competitive proposals for the operation of new schools, it was clear that already existing players in the new schools adventure all think they know best about schools and teaching, and learning.
Well, as a teacher, let me tell them who knows best.
Not the teachers' union, not the charter management organizations, not the district's leadership, principals or Innovation Division - and not the mayor.
Teachers. There, I said it again. Teachers, teachers, teachers.
Are you listening Mr. Duffy? Mr. Cortines?
Charter schools were first proposed by teachers' union leader Albert Shanker as a way for teachers to break free of bureaucratic shackles in order to do what they do best. Yet both the United Teachers Los Angeles and the LAUSD have systematically kept actual classroom teachers in the dark about charter schools, much like slaves were kept from learning to read. Today, other than district-affiliated conversion schools, only a handful of the district's independent charter schools have been started by actual LAUSD classroom teachers.
Let's keep in mind, this is the same district that hires outside contractors instead of its own teachers to write test questions and develop instructional materials. Not surprisingly, these contractors then turn right around and hire the real experts, teachers, to do the job, just like these new schools' operators will.
So here's my question: When the district finally gets around to issuing the requests for proposals to operate new schools, will every district teacher also get an RFP in his or her mailbox? Well, they should. And if not, I'd like to hear why the district and why the union wouldn't want teachers to know how the new system works, how to participate, and why they wouldn't want teachers to also become leaders and innovators of these new schools.
I'm listening, and so are scores of fine and dedicated district teachers who up to now have only been helpless observers to the same old top-down hanky-panky that has kept them out of the loop for far too long.
To date, the district has never held a workshop just for teachers on how to operate a charter school, and neither has the teachers' union. Rather, both have fretted and fussed about the "privatization" of public schools in the path of an apparently unstoppable public school choice movement, ignorant of their own internal potential to lead that movement by recruiting from their own ranks. The pending resolution before the board offers a platinum opportunity for them to do just that. If they indeed seek operators with "proven track records," they need only to look inside first. There are thousands of teachers with proven track records.
As board members scramble toward the Aug. 25 deadline to amend and revise the motion to make it palatable to all interested parties, they would serve our city well by including one of the most interested parties of all, teachers, and ensuring that proposals from them will get top priority.
Without an explicit and purposeful invitation to the current, qualified and excellent teachers of LAUSD to go to the front of the line in proposing new and innovative schools, this resolution will be nothing more than outside contracting-as-usual.
Louis Pugliese is a former LAUSD teacher who currently trains new teachers in educational psychology at CSUN. He is a national board certified teacher and L.A. City Commissioner for Children, Youth and Families.
●● 4LAKids' 2¢: Not to put words in Louis' mouth, Louis is a friend… OK, one word: Parents.
Not The Parents Union or The Parent Revolution or the Parent Collaborative or The Lemonade Initiative or TransParent or Burning Moms or even the PTA (…though 'Teacher' is our middle name).
Rank-and-file run o' th' mill parents.
The stakeholders with the most invested – welcome at school as long as we register with the principal first, are fingerprinted, wear a yellow badge and get a TB test.
"Cahoots" is a funny word.
But unless and until teachers and parents and administrators and the bureaucrats and the electeds/appointed/anointed at Beaudry and City Hall in the local district offices and at UTLA and AALA etc., embrace the concept, smile at the way it sounds and love the way it works - children are lost. Relational trust.
Charter schools are like Project Runway (Heidi Klum's accent is an awful lot like Arnold Schwarzenegger's) – you are either IN or you are OUT. And for most parents with charters -- with applications and deadlines and mandatory meetings; with waiting lists and lotteries, you are OUT.