Monday, March 28, 2011


My Turn -Diana L. Chapman, CityWatch Vol 9 Issue 25 |

Active ImageMar 29, 2011 - About a week back, I expressed my dread with the Los Angeles Unified School Board’s decision to hand over seven schools to outside bidders – a move that makes me brutally concerned over what that does to the disintegrating morale of the district’s staff. (Link to CityWatch story)

With 5,000 more layoff notices  issued last week alone – and more expected to rain down on LAUSD staffers – I couldn’t help but be wary of what ramifications this means to teachers and support staff already awash in massive tsunami of cuts – yes, where many of our kids go to school.

Despite that, LAUSD Supt. Ramon Cortines, who will retire in April, approved most of his employees proposals to breathe new life into 13 campuses, the board discarded many of his suggestions and handed over seven schools to charter operators. The move was made after the board approved an earlier policy of “public school choice.” This allows charters to bid some of LAUSD’S failing and newly constructed schools.

The action disappoints me, because I fear an inequitable form of education branching out amongst the charters and a head toward privatization of public education.

In the meantime, seven LAUSD schools are gone – and only time will tell if the charter is a better provider to students.

Readers immediately emailed me their views, which included one who argued the teachers can only blame themselves and another calling it the avenue the board embraced as a remedy to bust the union.

In one case, a reader said teachers need to look in their own direction.

“I hate to say it, but teachers have brought this upon themselves,” wrote Kim Stevens. “It is not a money issue (the charter teachers are paid the same), but it is a matter of work rules leading to inflexibility and waste. All the nominated schools were a failure under LAUSD operation. Principals had no control over unqualified, unwilling or failing teachers. No way to run a school.

“The UTLA has two choices. Act passively and try to keep what it has and see the jobs dwindle. Or act positively, go back to zero on work rules keeping the same pay, and try again under able management. You  cannot fire a bad teacher. But you can eliminate their job. That is not about wages.”

Martha McKenzie, a former LAUSD teacher for 36 years, argues there are no other motives than one – to break up the UTLA.

“You know as well as I that they (the school board) has ulterior motives,” McKenizie wrote. “They are doing it for one reason-union busting!! They fail to see the LONG term results of their irresponsible actions!!! Shame on the School Board. (School Board Member Richard and former administrator) Vladovic receives his pension because of the union-UTLA. The administrators always fell in suit with the teachers’ bargaining issues. What a traitor!”

Calling it a “giveaway,” of schools, parent Teresa Feldman has other concerns that have nothing to do with the UTLA. She worries about whether the board’s move is  even legal when involving newly constructed schools.

“When the district first proposed allowing charters onto new campuses like Eli Broad’s school for performing arts downtown, I emailed (Superintendent Ramon Cortines) and voiced my concerns. I actually ended up getting a phone call from the man himself and we had a long conversation. At that time, he made it clear that he was not in lock-step with the Mayor, but somehow the district ended up with the “failing schools” giveaway anyway.

“Now that Cortines is leaving, he is showing his real disdain for this move toward privatization, and I applaud him for that. I do wish he or someone familiar with the law would look into whether or not giving away new schools is against the law. I voted for bond issues to build new LAUSD schools for underserved populations that were expecting overcrowding. Now the district has decided that they need to use those campuses to avoid being sued by charters for not providing them access to LAUSD campuses. This is not what I voted for, and unless the charter schools agree to have gifted education, special ed., integration, etc. I do not want charters to go in.

“My kids have friends who lost whole school years because the charters their parents placed them in turned out to be bogus. Others have moved to charters only to have them close up for various reasons. Some educators I know have seen former charter school students pushed back into their neighborhood schools because the children didn’t “fit in”…Someone in the know has to wage a legal battle over the use of these campuses for charters.”

The last writer echoes my sentiments exactly. Let’s not give up on kids who don’t “fit in,” or have special needs beyond the scope of any given charter. All kids deserve a chance at a good education – and not all kids will be equal or receive that at charter schools.

Diana Chapman has been a writer/journalist for nearly thirty years. She has written for magazines, newspapers and the best-seller series, Chicken Soup for the Soul. You can reach her at:   hartchap@cox or her website )  -cw

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