It was 19th century British historian Lord Acton who said, “All power tends to corrupt, absolute power tends to corrupt absolutely.” You’d think by the 21st century we might have learned this lesson, but the purposefully failed Los Angeles Unified School District, which absolutely refuses to share power with any of its shareholders — teachers, parent, or students — has continued to exemplify this quote and there doesn’t seem to be any governmental entity willing to bring it to any end, even though so doing is the clear prerequisite of finally having a well-run and pragmatic public school system capable of dealing with the problems LAUSD continues to cause and is clearly incapable of addressing.
During the last week, I have had four separate experiences with different groups dealing with LAUSD that have in common a remarkable similarity of how LAUSD, as a matter of its normal business practices, enters into bilateral negotiations to share decision making power, but in the finally analysis has no intention of every divesting itself of any power when it comes to decisions regarding pedagogy or finances. Could this account for why it continues to fail when it comes to the rather straight forward task of educating students?
The first experience I had was at a hastily called United Teachers Los Angeles House of Representatives meeting that was called with a falsely manufactured sense of urgency. And where a complicit UTLA leadership was presenting a Memorandum of Understanding Tentative Agreement to replace the expired LAUSD UTLA Collective Bargaining Agreement that was still in force.
In reading through this 14-page agreement, a pattern was clearly present where all promises of a shared power were presented as vague platitudes and where all power supposedly divested to parent and teacher committees could be overturned by power that LAUSD reserved in its principals or superintendent.
The second experience took place at Dorsey High School where LAUSD’s Andrea Canty-Toole was trying to get parents to go along with the District’s Public School Choice program, but sabotaged the breakout groups discussion of the plan, when it deviated from the programmed process that the parents were compelled to follow. Canty – who herself seemed to have little actual knowledge of the plan – exhibited an attitude that could be summed up by something like, “How dare these parents who are supposed to be analyzing and criticizing the District plan, actually do what they were being asked to do.” In the LAUSD land of staff developments that never get implemented, how dare these parents in a similar process actually take this process seriously and try to enunciate specific objections to the District’s less than up front Public School Choice plan. Clearly, the LAUSD plan was really designed to further degrade the educational process, while preparing for complete public school privatization.
The third experience I took part in was a meeting of parents and other interested parties from Roosevelt High School along with some parents and community members from Dorsey High School. They were trying to deal with LAUSD’s outrageous behavior toward parents who also took their responsibilities as advocates for their children in a school that seems only capable of continuing to serve LAUSD and Mayor Villaraigosa’s political and financial interests, while doing nothing to turn around the programmed failure of predominantly Latino students — yes, it is 43 years since the E.L.A. Student Walkouts and Latino education is worse than ever.
Again, LAUSD when pushed to live up to being bound by its commitments and rhetoric of shared responsibility for financial and pedagogic decisions, threatened those parents who would not knuckle under to the imperial will of Superintendent Deasy and the District with citations for trespass, if they continued to come on Roosevelt High School property or, worse yet, reporting parents to the Immigration and Naturalization serve for deportation as undocumented.
And finally, my fourth experience in less than a week took place today at the UTLA headquarters where astounded members of the Districtwide Advisory Committee and their attorney Robert Brown, who had just filed a law suit against LAUSD, were trying to make sense of LAUSD’s attempt to arbitrarily disband this federal Title I group without cause or due process for what seems only explicable because of the effectiveness of DAC as advocates for parent and student rights.
What LAUSD has done is to front an alternative group called Parents as Equal Partners that it believes it can control, while arbitrarily and without legal authority disbanding DAC without even minimal guarantees of due process of law.
DAC derives its authority from federal Title I which clearly uses contract language in defining DAC’s rights vis a vis LAUSD. But again, Superintendent John Deasy in total disregard of these rights thinks that he has the power to arbitrarily disband DAC, even though to do so is a complete violation of the 1983 Civil RIghts Act and 1st Amendment rights to freedom of association on the part of DAC members. LAUSD not only disbanded DAC by fiat, but prohibited them from ever meeting again. From where do they derive this authority does not seem to concern Deasy, even if it is a gross violation of these parents civil rights under the constitution.
In this final case brought today by DAC against LAUSD, LAUSD will probably make the argument in the case that DAC has no standing to complain about LAUSD disbanding them. So again, take note of the pattern: LAUSD solicits a collegial process to get buy in from parents in this case, but when the process deviates from LAUSD’s immutable and disreputable goals, LAUSD denies that it ever really gave parent stakeholders any power in the first place. Franz Kafka didn’t even have the nerve to write something this bizarre.
In all four of these cases, I do not fault LAUSD for being the corrupt entity that LAUSD has been for close to half a century. What I find reprehensible is the cryptic participation of city, county, state, and federal regulatory entities and judicial authorities that continue to sit back and watch this obscene farce of a process continue with its predictable catastrophic consequences for students and their families and teachers.