DÃ©jÃ vu. Unfortunately, LAUSD’s Black students are not even a footnote in the latest proposal for reform. Board member, Yolie Flores Aguilar has introduced a resolution that calls for a different approach to choose and run new schools. The proposal, Public School Choice: A New Way at LAUSD, “(invites)… instructional and operational plans from internal and external stakeholders…who are interested in collaborating with LAUSD or operating the District’s new schools, in an effort to create more schools of choice and educational options for the District’s students and families.”
“Students coming from designated, overcrowded schools will be served first and foremost, and the new school student composition must be reflective of the student population at the school it is intended to relieve…..If sufficient progress is not made in a timely manner and/or work stalls due to an unwillingness of stakeholders to collaborate … the Superintendent is directed to independently continue the effort to ensure the work is completed” (On July 14th, the Board continued further discussion on the proposal until August 25th.)
The plan makes new schools available through a competitive process-for the District, along with charter schools, the Mayor’s Office, other institutions and non-profit groups. A majority vote could not be reached, chiefly because of strong objections by unions, including United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA).
Marguerite LaMotte, the Board’s only Black member, issued the following statement: “The Flores Aguilar Resolution assumes that additional ‘choices’ will result in improved educational outcomes and that new charter schools will do a better job of educating children than existing schools. The motion also fails to recognize that LAUSD’s current Choices Program offers a significant number of educational options for students at all levels and interests. Most noticeably is the fact that the motion identifies specific organizations and organizational types that will have the opportunity to play an active role in the implementation of such a resolution.
“If taken to the next logical level, this motion would, in essence, “anoint” certain organizations to shape the educational philosophy of the district’s new schools for the next several years. And, without the involvement of all geographic areas of the community, this motion could potentially create a two-tiered educational system. For these reasons, it is imperative that everyone in the community, especially community organizations, not only read, but analyze the resolution to truly understand its intention and the impact it will have on our community and the students it serves. It is our responsibility as Board members to ensure that our actions benefit students in all areas of our district.”
The Black Education Task Force formed after Superintendent David Brewer’s buyout. In a letter to the Board of Education it registered its opposition to the resolution based on four principal concerns: 1) The Resolution fails to specifically address the needs of African American children for academic improvement; 2) The requirement that “student composition at each new school must be reflexive of the student composition of the schools it is intended to relieve” does not ensure that African American students will be in environments that are conducive to academic improvement and success; 3) The provision that allows the Superintendent to “independently continue the effort to ensure the work is completed….if sufficient progress is not made in a timely manner and/or the work stalls due to an unwillingness of stakeholders to collaborate,” is subjective in its determination and potentially usurps the will of the community; 4) There was insufficient outreach to the broader African American community to foster dialogue and develop stakeholder support.”
LAUSD has never sustained programs that address the specific needs of Black students, including “The Triad,” (95th Street Elementary, Bret Harte Junior High and Washington Preparatory High), and the Ten Schools Project. The African American Learner Initiative (2001) is the only Board approved program designed exclusively for Black students. It surreptitiously morphed into the “Action Plan for Culturally Relevant Education that Benefits African American Students and All Other Students.” Predictably, it too is being implemented spottily, and certainly not district-wide.
A combination of demographic changes, institutional negligence, ineffective administrators and teachers and parents and concerned others’ failure to hold LAUSD accountable, ensures failure for far too many Black students.
The Public School Choice Resolution continues pattern of indifference to the plight of Black students-that is not acceptable. Parents, teachers, school boards and concerned others must work hard, and together, to guarantee a quality education for these much maligned but immeasurably deserving children.