Thursday, August 27, 2009

PLAN B/ROUND 1: The Mayor Has His Way – <cut …I mean> A New Way with LAUSD

By smf for 4LAKids

These WebPages mourn.

We mourn the death Tuesday night of "Liberal Lion" Teddy Kennedy - A champion if not THE champion of public education. As his friend Ramón Cortines said: "He was a friend of public education all the time, every day he was in office."

And we mourn the tragic outcome for public education in the LAUSD boardroom Tuesday afternoon with the passage of Yolie Flores Aguilar's "Public School Choice" Resolution.

Mr. Mayor, Mr. Barr …which schools do you choose?

We do not question Yolie's heart or her good intent. Her frustration at the lack of urgency of reform in LAUSD is heartfelt and genuine - but 4LAKids cannot miss the genesis of her plan and respectfully questions the authorship. Mayor Villaraigosa probably over describes his role as it being his "Plan B" - Plan A being his failed attempt at mayoral takeover and control, thrice quashed in the courts. But the fingerprints are there - and the confession: "my plan" - must mean something.

Despite public denial of the 'done deal" by the doers - and anguish and attempts-at-amendment and pretence-at-compromise, the Deal as realized was Done.

It wasn't pretty.

The list of advocate organizations named in whereas #5 grew with each draft as the 'me too's' tasted victory and wanted their logos on the t-shirt. A least one of the alphabet soup sponsors (and the most potentially powerful partner) withdrew their support at the last moment. Ultimately the entire list - the total active membership of which is probably a couple of thousand at most - was amended out.

ON THE DONE DEAL: According a speaker in public comment the mayor at one time claimed to have "six school board votes in his pocket".

All six came through Tuesday.

As Meredith Willson wrote:

Ya got one, two, three, four, five, six pockets in a table.
Pockets that mark the diff'rence
Between a gentlemen and a bum,
With a capital "B,"
And that rhymes with "P" and that stands for pool!

Friends, we got trouble right here in (L.A.) River City!

DONE DEAL II: A couple of weekends ago Board President Garcia had a soiree at her house and invited the Board of Ed and the superintendent. Apparently District Counsel Bobbi Fesler gave this get together her blessing - as long as the Boardmembers didn't discuss certain things. Like any pending or potential action before the board.

All well and good - if they didn't discuss those things.  As long as they didn't think about the elephant in the room.

  • The Ralph M. Brown Act is an open meeting law - a by-invitation-only-meeting at anyone's house is not an open meeting in my appointment book …even if partners and the kiddies are invited!
  • Make no mistake, the invitees were invited in their official capacity; the invitation is addressed  "Dear Board Members"this was not "Dear Yolie, Tamar, Richard, Steve, Nuri and Marguerite".
  • Of course I'm strict constructionist (What part of 'no!' is it you don't understand?) who considers the intent of the law rather than the wiggle room within it.

DONE DEAL III: After the big vote at Tuesday's meeting - but before the meeting was over and adjourned - the Board of Ed had special visitors: Mayor Villaraigosa and entourage! How kewl is that? And did Hizzonner stand in the well of the boardroom and congratulate the Board of Ed? No. He took the superintendent's chair up on the dais and sat therein -- master of all he surveyed. When Superintendent Cortines returned another chair had to be found for him.

  • Fifty new schools, financed by $20 billion+ in public financing - schools the taxpayers are about to get higher tax bills for - are to be up for grabs. Charter operators? Mayor's Partnership? Jiffy Lube? C'mon down!*
  • As an afterthought - or perhaps a 'leftover' - two hundred existing underperforming schools were added to the mix of schools up for grabs.

It remains to be seen how interested outside operators will be in taking over those "Program Improvement " schools in light of the Mayor's Partnership's record at his ten schools …and that of Green Dot at Locke.

The promise of 'Choice' in the resolution is the resolution is illusory. The charter school model  (parents choose their child's school) is incompatible with the neighborhood school model (all students attend their local school per attendance catchment areas). The lesson of the Belmont Zone of Choice (open enrollment within a greater geographic area) has apparently been lost completely. The YFA resolution commits the District to continue attendance area boundaries - if anything perpetuating lack-of-choice.

The Board of Ed chooses between operators who choose to apply. Yes, the resolution promises to involve parents and teachers and the community in the decision making process - but their role is advisory. The superintendent recommends; the Board of Ed decides. Who's 'Choice' is that?  How many 6 to 1 votes will it take before we realize what's going on?

I suppose operators get to choose whether to honor collective bargaining agreements; under some interpretations of the plan they may get to choose which education standards and provisions of the Ed Code they choose to observe.

Bill Ring, in last week's 4LAKids wrote: "…. true public school choice means I have a choice as a parent as to the school my child will attend."


"I choose."

Bill wasn't allowed into the Boardroom Tuesday. There wasn't room for him. Or maybe his radical ideas.

Three speakers spoke extraordinary Truth to Power Tuesday afternoon:

Jackie Goldberg, the liberal lioness of L.A. politics presented the actual bond language of the five school construction bonds to the board. It may be language previous boards wrote but is nonetheless binding on this board because it was enacted overwhelming by the voters. "If this resolution passes," Ms Goldberg warned, "Have no doubt. You will be sued!"

Boardmember La Motte posed a couple of good questions but in the end questioned the Board's authority to give up any schools to anyone, citing the California Constitution, Article IX, §6, ¶3: "No school or college or any other part of the Public School System shall be, directly or indirectly, transferred from the Public School System or placed under the jurisdiction of any authority other than one included within the Public School System."

And Boardmember Zimmer - almost a tragic figure - spoke of his anguish, disputing the process and the outcome - bemoaning the raw politics and threats made against him by both sides. Decrying the fact that the fight was about the fight and the color of the t-shirts - not about the kids. Ultimately Zimmer held his nose and voted yes - in order, he said, to be at the table in the future.

Ms LaMotte retorted that she was not voting for it and she would be at the table too ...because that's what the people elected her to do.

As for Winners and Losers…

The parents in the light blue t-shirts, paid for by the mayor and Green Dot celebrated their victory and filed back onto the buses that bused them in.

As Jackie Goldberg said three years ago in the fight against Plan A, when adults fight with adults over adult issues it is always the kids who lose.

* OK, Jiffy Lube, a for-profit corporation is excluded. But the Jiffy Lube Educational Foundation? C'mon down!

No comments: