Sunday, December 12, 2010

So…. where’s this week’s 4LAKids?

The e-mail server and publisher that distributes the 4LAKids e-mail newsletter is down for ‘routine maintenance’ – whatever that means. The articles are all written+edited and what-not – and are waiting in their little files to go out to your emailbox – waiting only for the programmers with their code and/or the engineers with their little green screwdrivers to work their magic. Which may not be until monday morning

Onwardly – smf

following is the lead article for those who can’t wait:

Creating the swamp.

"When there is evidence of bad public policy, you can safely assume that it took two parties working collaboratively to create the swamp."

As a lover+practitioner of hyperbole+metaphor that that's a lead line that's gonna draw me in - especially if the article's about education. This time it's about public education in NYC, that faraway land of myth and Giants (football but no longer baseball ones) populated with characters like Mayor Bloomberg and Joel Klein ...and their impromptu apprentice Cathie Black.

The article "Cathie Black’s Tenure Trap" | is by a NY City Schools teacher, Marc Epstein. As Epstein is a high school history teacher I'm trusting that his history is well-researched and correct - but that really doesn’t matter. There is irony and pathos and conflict and angst; the storytelling is excellent and it has a beat you can dance to. And it contains - along with a description of the absurdity that is the NYC Schools - the best definition+puncturing-of the popular misconception of what "Teacher Tenure" is:

"Tenure for public school teachers is not a lifetime sinecure. In most respects it is no different from civil service protections for police, fire, and sanitation workers. You have to have due process in order to fire an employee."

Quoth the mad poet to his bust of Pallas: "Only this, and nothing more."

BUT NEW YORK HAS NO EXCLUSIVE CLAIM TO SMALL CHARACTERS WRIT LARGE - surpassed only by their egos - and possessed with all the answers gained without a credential to whatever ails public education.. We in L.A. have our own ...and this week saw the recharging/re-emergence/reset of The Energizer Bunny and the grand reappearance of his alter ego: The Education Mayor!

Mayor Tony was seemingly everywhere this week. see: - even The Times wonders what he's up to!

He made a self-described major policy address to the Public Policy Institute of California in Sacramento about education reform. Seeing as he was in Sacramento, the subject was the Los Angeles teachers union - which Tony is no longer a fan of. Apparently UTLA is "the one, unwavering roadblock to reform ...they have consistently been the most powerful defenders of the status quo. At every step of the way, when Los Angeles was coming together to effect real change in our public schools, UTLA was there to fight against the change and slow the pace of reform."

'Reform' being the direction the mayor wants to go; the 'status quo' being anything/anywhere else.

This is rather sad in a way - at one time Tony was an organizer for UTLA; when he attempted to unconstitutionally take over LAUSD the the current UTLA leadership supported him. Now the romance is over. Like I said: sad.

In a Huffington Post article [] Tony waxed poetic: "In the 60s, when I was in school, the California public school system was the gold standard--a national model that complemented our State's image as a land of opportunity." That overworked theme of the mythical golden age is pure balderdash. Read George Skelton's column AN A IN OVERCOMING THE ODDS, below.

Tony was also there in Compton this week - speaking out for the Parent Revolutionaries and tearing down the Compton school district. Gentle readers - there is nothing so important+meaningful to local government and school district officials - and the citizens of any of the smaller cities around L.A.- than the musings of the mayor of Los Angeles on how they are running their cities and schools. They truly appreciate it that our mayor - and one of our assistant city attorneys (Parent Revolutionary-in-chief Ben Austin) are badmouthing and attempting to dismember their school system - the mayor in his spare time, Austin as part of one of his other part-time jobs. Every day I dodge the pothole-the-size-of-a-Buick at San Fernando Road and Avenue 26 I'm reminded that Mayor Tony has other things to fill his time besides running the City of LA. Every gang crime I hear of, every municipal injustice unresolved I wonder if that wasn't a case where Ben Austin might have made a difference - if he wasn't otherwise employed.

There are no magic bullets in public education, no quick fixes - no short cuts to excellence. There is no substitute for the hard work that needs to be done over time. But the 'reformers' pulled the 'parent trigger' anyway in Compton; they played the parent card in a piece of theater so elaborately choreographed it would impress Guy Laliberté, the Cirque du Soleil impresario.

Imagine: Compton parents, all by themselves, not only identified their troubled school - but interviewed and selected the right charter operator to turn it around - and obtained the requisite number of signatures on the petition they wrote. They all but wrote the charter. This wasn't parent driven, it was chauffeured by five paid community organizers employed by Parent Revolution - an unholy-owned subsidiary of Green Dot Public Schools. It's a hostile corporate takeover right out of the corporate arbitrageur playbook - Kohlberg Kravis Roberts couldn't have done it better! And when the dust settled and the masks were off they trotted out the big guns to celebrate their victory ...or at least the scary noise they made. Tony. Ben. Arnold. Gloria Romero. Michelle Rhee. Mission accomplished.

Supermen+women?  No, just the cast that proves the opening quote.

And the kids? ...still waiting.

¡Onward/Adelante! - smf

PS: Imagine my horrified delight at this headline on the education homepage at the Huffington Post: SHOCKING: L.A. SUPERINTENDENT ACCUSED OF MISSPENDING $5 MILLION | OMG! (Un)fortunately the story refers to the former Beverly Hills superintendent and alleged shenanigans in the BHUSD Facilities Division. Somehow I don't think that Arianna & Co.suffer from mistaking 90210 for LA ...unless that's Mayor Tony's voice in their GPS.

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