Students and parents hold protest sign in support of new choice
school reform at LAUSD board meeting in downtown Los Angeles on Tuesday,
Â Divisions Run Deep in New Choice School Plan
‘Status Quo Must Go’ at LAUSD in approval to move forward
By Kenneth Miller
Sentinel Managing Editor
In the end the lone African American School Board Member Marguerite LaMotte stood tall for her district and all of the students of Los Angeles School District, but her one dissenting vote against the highly controversial proposal was not enough to prevent it from passing unanimously.LaMotte, said she supports reform when it is fully vetted by stakeholders involved and results in improved academic performance. “Once again, we find ourselves advocating for a fair, above-board, non-segregated, transparent and inclusive process, which addresses the educational needs of all of our children and adequately answers the questions of parents, guardians and key constituencies within the community.”
Thousands of parents and students held signs and chanted in unison “Hey-Hey-Ho-Ho, Status Quo Has Got To Go” at a heated Los Angeles Unified School District Board Meeting in downtown Los Angeles to approve a controversial school reform measure.
As a cross culture of Blacks and Latinos battled the scorching sun and brought along supplies of water, juices and sandwiches, organizers representing charter schools and other community organizations mounted their rallying cry in support of a landmark resolution that could alter the history of public schools in the nation’s second largest district.
Item No. 22, co-authored by LAUSD Board President Monica Garcia and Board Member Yolie Flores Aguilar’s Public School Choice ‘A New Way at LAUSD’ resolution passed resoundingly by a 6-1 vote, but not before a hotly contested debate that still left as many questions as its plans to answer.
Andrea Canty, Political Action Coordinator, California School Employees Association, indicated that the School Choice resolution was prepared without the involvement of parents, teachers, LAUSD administrators, employees (both certificated and classified staff) and labor representatives.
“The unions are in favor of educational reform,” Canty said, “however we must be included in all stages of the process. The School Choice resolution does not include provisions and protections for collective bargaining agreements and sacrifices jobs of workers, who are parents of LAUSD children.”
One of the many opponents of the motion that would allow for privatization of an estimated 50 new schools over the next three years and the possible take-over of another 111 under achieving schools was former board member Rita Waters.
“The proposal is not researched based and public schools should remain public. It is very ill-advised and not good for the public or education,” Waters told the board.
Another community advocate Celes King suggested the motion was brought together, “by a small group of elitist that want to control the district.”
Los Angeles NAACP President Leon Jenkins went further saying the motion threatened advances of the 1963 Civil Rights Act and long standing statute Brown vs. Board of Education.
Jenkins pleaded with the board to take its time and not vote on the measure for at least 90 days and drew rounds of applause from the packed boardroom with an overflow audience of members from the United Teachers Los Angeles Association and labor group AFL-CIO watching on a flat screen in the cafeteria next door.
Others pleas that went on deaf ears were those that claimed that LAUSD was out sourcing education.
Superintendent Ramon C. Cortines, who will oversee the historical plan, voiced the “urgency to act now to help our students succeed.”
Cortines pledged that the new plan is necessary because parents, teachers and community leaders are tired of the status quo and its time to try something different.
Erika Gray, a single African American parent, is in support of the plan.
“I sent my son to charter school and he was doing just fine and then I allowed for him to go to public school for one year and his grades declined. I now have enrolled him in charter school again because it works,” said Gray.
The preliminary plans calls for community engagement, a letter of the vision of the school, discussing the needs of the community by the community, an internal review and quality review according to Cortines.
Administrators and owners of charter schools, which have been praised by President Barack Obama, were on hand and in firm support of the motion, even securing more than 3,000 signatures on a petition in case the motion had failed.
Many felt the motion was a slam dunk to pass because of the influence of Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa whose influence on the school board is huge and who has been an outspoken critic of the LAUSD and advocate for massive reform of the district which has nearly 700,000 students.
LaMotte wrote a resolution that require for access and equity for all students in the LAUSD in light of the alleged incident a Watts school and other incidents that have brought to light the disturbing reality that racism and social injustice continue to exist in the educational community.
LaMotte passionately stated that she wants members in the new collaborative partnership to not just be accountable, but if they violate to be sanctioned.Â