Tuesday, September 23, 2014


LA Daily News Editorial | http://bit.ly/1mLplMR

LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy on stage during his annual administrators' meeting at Hollywood High School in 2013. (Photo by Andy Holzman/Staff Photographer)

9/17/14, 5:04 PM PDT  ::  A year after John Deasy threatened to resign, the Los Angeles Unified School District’s superintendent and its board are back at a dangerous crossroads.

Where do they go from here? Onward, honestly debating Deasy’s worthy but controversial education-reform efforts? Or taking a hard turn, toward the end of the promising but increasingly fraught Deasy era?

Those are the only good choices: An honest effort at policymaking for the good of L.A.’s kids and families and the district’s dedicated employees, or an admission of failure by Deasy and the school board.

It is untenable for Deasy and his critics to continue to play political games.

Education will never be politics-free, of course. But it should be above politics as usual.

Instead, the current squabbles leave constituents to doubt the sincerity and motives of LAUSD officials and union leaders.

Deasy’s opponents are trying to squeeze every chalk-speck of political advantage out of the troubles with LAUSD’s technological initiatives, aiming to drag down a strong advocate for reforms they never liked in the first place.

On the other hand, Deasy has been disingenuous in trying to portray criticism as a purely political “witch hunt,” failing to acknowledge his own responsibility for creating the huge openings for his opponents’ jabs.

That’s what has changed since autumn 2013, when Deasy made noises about resigning and it was easy to sympathize with his frustration over the resistance and general messiness he was encountering in the school board.

In 2014, as Deasy approaches his annual October performance review by the board, there are legitimate questions about his self-inflicted damage.

We refer to the district’s ongoing problems with a program to provide iPads to all students and teachers, and with the new MiSiS student record-keeping system. Questions about the iPads program deepened with the revelation in August that Deasy and former lieutenant Jaime Aquino discussed the venture with executives from Apple and education software publisher Pearson before official bidding began. Deasy has suspended the program and said he wants to solicit new bids, and an investigation of the original selection process is under way.

Deasy must acknowledge it’s fair for skeptics — who isn’t a skeptic when it comes to public officialdom? — to be suspicious about whether Apple and Pearson got favorable treatment.

Meanwhile, his critics must admit that questions about the iPads bidding process aren’t their real concern, that they’ve never liked the iPads program and never liked Deasy’s agenda since he became superintendent in 2011. United Teachers Los Angeles has called for the LAUSD board to fire Deasy rather than roll over his contract. The board should have all the facts before it considers that decision.

It is possible for Angelenos to both support Deasy’s reform agenda and hope he is able to continue it, and demand answers to the substantive and procedural questions about the iPads program.

But Deasy and the board can’t have it both ways. They face a test in practical — and, yes, political — calculus: Can they or can’t they work together for the good of students? They will be graded on their effort to do so.

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