Friday, December 23, 2011

The view from the Chamber of Commerce: GOOD NEWS FOR LA STUDENTS

Gary Toebben President & CEO | Los Angeles AreaChamber of Commerce Business Perspective Blog |


December 20, 2011 :: For the students of Los Angeles, holiday presents came early this year. Despite difficult financial times — including California's mid-year budget cuts to education last week — two recent developments show that it is still possible for public institutions to get their act together when addressing the future of our children.

First, California was selected as one of nine states to share $500 million in federal "Race to the Top" Early Learning Grant money. California's $52.6 million grant will fund quality improvement efforts and raise the bar at early learning centers to close the school readiness gap.

The Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce applauds Gov. Jerry Brown, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson and leading early education advocates in California for their collaborative efforts to secure this competitive grant. The Chamber played a key leadership role in helping the State compete against 35 other states and was the co-leader of Torlakson’s team in drafting A Blueprint for Great Schools, which outlines plans to jump-start improvements in California’s early childhood programs.

Second, the Chamber congratulates the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) and United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) on taking a critical first step to create real systematic change in our schools by negotiating one of the most important labor contracts in the history of the City. LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy, UTLA President Warren Fletcher, and the LAUSD Board all played key roles for reaching an agreement on Public School Choice that calls for local site management in every school. The agreement puts an end to "must place" teachers and principals, allows for school site elect-to-work agreements, and calls for a new teacher evaluation pilot program — all major steps forward.

For LAUSD schools to get the most out of this new flexibility, they will need significant financial support and leadership from foundations and businesses. While the agreement enables and embraces local autonomy, it does not insure successful implementation of school transformation plans developed by design teams for the Local Initiative Schools (LIS). LIS calls upon teachers and principals to utilize leadership skills in decision making that principals and teachers have not been asked or required to utilize before. Businesses and foundations can assist in developing and implementing these leadership skills.

We predict that parents and taxpayers in LAUSD will rally to embrace these positive and transformational changes toward school improvement. We have invited Superintendent Deasy and UTLA President Fletcher to share their plans and needs for successful implementation with the community and the private sector so we can support their efforts. The business community is excited about being part of this team to dramatically improve the quality of public education during 2012. Last, but certainly not least, I want to take a moment to thank each of you for your support and contributions of time and talent throughout the year. We wish you all Happy Holidays and a prosperous new year.

And that's The Business Perspective.

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