Over a decade ago, when there was a push to break off the vast San Fernando Valley from the Los Angeles Unified School District, and for the Valley to form its own school district, I was not in agreement. However, with approximately 675,000 students in the seven district areas that comprise LAUSD, I find I am now changing my mind, as have many of us who are education professionals and follow and write about public education.
This huge LAUSD enterprise, with a yearly budget of over $7 billion, has been mired in confusion, corruption, and inefficiency for many decades, and seems not to be manageable.
This huge LAUSD enterprise, with a yearly budget of over $7 billion, has been mired in confusion, corruption, and inefficiency for many decades, and seems not to be manageable. I tend to now agree with some Angelinos who are pushing to reconstruct LAUSD into multiple independent districts. The danger, however, is that it would further segregate the inner city students.
Right now, the multitude of charter schools (LA has the most in the nation) that pick and choose among students of color—leaving behind those who are hard to teach, English Language Learners, or are personally handicapped and have special needs—have contributed to almost total re-segregation of students of color despite the 1954 landmark Supreme Court decision of Brown v. Board of Education.
Also, it would be very costly to have all these new districts with a multitude of administrators. One of the greatest economic problems at LAUSD is the nepotism that for so many years has caused the abundance of hiring many unnecessary middle managers whose large salaries are now built into the budget and who do little to deserve this taxpayer largesse.
Many lifelong Los Angeles residents—and particularly those of us who are also professional educators—are beleaguered by the lack of input allowed the public by the district, lack of transparency of the district and the Board of Education, and the system of highly financed candidates who get elected to the BoE, who either are not educators, or also are not skilled in business management.
We do not need more ‘Voteria’-impacted (paying for votes through an illegal lottery), multi-millionaire charter school candidates and other toadies of Eli Broad using his directives to run LAUSD. It is We the People who pay all the freight and this is the only thing that is "public" about Broad's latest permutation. His new takeover scheme to hide his name but use his plan for charterizing the district—which they now call Great Public Schools Now, and which is designed to convert public education into a business model and a vehicle for free market profiteering, but with the taxpayers still footing the bills—is not the 'robber baron' solution to funding and running public schools that educate the entire student base, and not only carefully selected students.
The audacity of these billionaires to appoint a hardball charter school lobbyist to run their new 501c3 nonprofit that they rapidly tossed together after the major teacher and public protest at the Broad Gallery on the day of its opening, boggles the mind, and when Broad's paid articles and editorials are run in the LA Times suggesting this hired gun (to kill public schools in favor of free market profiteering) should have the public servant who is the new Superintendent of Schools participate in this destruction of public education by "giving her a seat at their table," is the greatest form of sophistry we have witnessed yet. This is off the charts in terms of any democratic structure...and public education has always been the crux of our democracy.
We do need more people willing to run for the Board of Education who have some training in business management plus a background in education. We got lucky that Scott Schmerelson, with his many decades of experience as a teacher and senior administrator, was willing to come out of retirement to run for, and win, a seat on the Board. He has become the major hope on the BoE to make reasoned decisions while also holding back the Broad deformers from taking over the district.
We had hoped that George McKenna and Richard Vladovic, with similar credentials to Schmerelson, would also function positively to protect the public schools against the charter onslaught of these billionaires, but it seems that these two men have become stuck in their own personal issues.
Monica Ratliff, who is a both a Columbia-trained attorney and an elementary school teacher, has been a staunch defender of public education as a member of the BoE, but she has been pushed to a background role by the testosterone overload on the Board. I still have faith that she will vociferously support Schmerelson’s position as he speaks loudly against the ‘Broad-billionaire clique’ takeover, and that there will be a far more fair changing of the guard when Zimmer completes his role as a BoE member and as the current President of the Board.
For now, however, it is imperative for the public to raise loud voices in support of our public schools. All this outsider cash donated by Broad, the Waltons, Bloomberg, Murdoch, Anshutz, and others, to now multimillion dollar elections for LAUSD BoE, elections that only a decade ago cost $30K to participate as a candidate, must be stopped.
It is a push by these few golden boys and girls to takeover all of our American institutions by these few, so that all the rest of us are made to conform to their form of rule....all of us all serfs for Eli Broad and his band of invaders. It would be more fair and productive if these privatizers would donate to programs that strengthen the public schools by hiring back teachers, aides, nurses, counselors, janitors, etc. and funding the arts and special education, as well as academics.