Fixing L.A.’s schools

first_imgThe deal was struck the same day that a national study found that the dropout rate was even worse than the 50 percent that the district was constantly trying to deny. According to the study, only 44 percent of students graduate from LAUSD schools. Clearly, the educational crisis was worse than even the most cynical suspected. These numbers show, if nothing else does, that the status quo is not working. Far more dramatic strides are needed or another generation will be lost. The district’s successes have been limited because Romer and the school board have failed to deal with the bloated bureaucracy that consumes tax dollars and undermines reform and innovation at every turn. Real reform means finally throwing off the burden of the hack-ocracy and creating palaces of academic excellence. It can happen if teachers and parents and students and communities seize the opportunity together. But will that kind of partnership actually evolve? In the past, efforts at school-based management all too often wound up being taken over by the teachers union, which squelched parents and dissenters. In this case, we have a deal that was cut by the mayor in a backroom with the California Teachers Association and United Teachers Los Angeles, powerful interest groups that have long been a big part of what’s wrong with our schools. The governor and both the leader of the state Senate and the Assembly are all aboard this deal, which raises yet another concern. What’s needed is an open and lively public conversation about our schools and what’s best for the kids – not behind-the-scenes political manipulation. Villaraigosa has a nice feather in his cap as he celebrates his first anniversary in office but the hard work remains to be done – and done in public.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! IT’S not quite the victory that Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa sought when he declared he wanted to take control of the massive Los Angeles Unified School District. But the political compromise that the mayor worked out in Sacramento after marathon negotiations is a step in the right direction. However, there are still many critical questions left unanswered. First and foremost: Where’s the accountability? Under the proposal, the school board – long a largely dysfunctional group serving the unions better than the public – would be stripped of much of its authority. Instead of meddling ineffectively in everything, it would be more like a corporate board of directors, removed from day-to-day involvement. Villaraigosa, along with the mayors of small cities that are within the LAUSD, would have veto power over choosing the selection of a new superintendent to succeed the retiring Roy Romer. The council of mayors (with the L.A. mayor having most of the power) also would have a major say in budgeting and running the district’s worst schools. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORE11 theater productions to see in Southern California this week, Dec. 27-Jan. 2The superintendent would have greatly expanded authority even to awarding all contracts without public scrutiny or debate. And schools – principals, teachers and parents – would have direct responsibility for running individual campuses, as charter schools now do. In Villaraigosa’s mind, the deal is about 80 percent of what he originally wanted when he first made mayoral takeover the flagship of his candidacy. The devil is in the details that the Legislature finally works out and in how this plan – if it passes both houses – is ultimately implemented. There remain a lot of concerns. The first goal was supposed to be accountability, but the proposed structure is cumbersome and has multiple lines of authority. Then there is the question of clearly defining the authority of the superintendent so that individual schools don’t run amok and the quality of education improves dramatically. Still, the outline of the plan represents the first significant step toward real reform. And it comes not a moment too soon. last_img read more