Passage of the Public School Choice Resolution
No organization in America has a stronger historic voice in advocating for quality education, equal educational opportunities, adequate funding and resources, better teachers, and parental involvement in education than the NAACP. Since our founding 100 years ago individual civil rights, and individual equal educational opportunities have been the cornerstone of our mission and purpose.
Brown v. Board of Education, was many years in the making, and was preceded by previous lawsuits, legislative initiatives and protests by African-Americans that understood generations ago that civil rights without the doors for a quality education being open to the poor, disadvantaged, urban dwellers, the children of first and second generation illiterates, minorities and women would and could not survive.
Quality education opportunities, which involve a high level of educational resources, excellent academic teaching, and administrative stability have always been NAACP’s goal. Throughout the years we have proven it, by being willing to suffer loss of life, mental, emotional and physical abuse and punishment, jailing and imprisonment, loss of jobs and the ridicule of the masses. We have never waived in our belief and conviction that our children deserve the very best education, and the same education as the most privileged in our society.
So, when the NAACP takes a stand against the Los Angeles Unified School District’s Board of Education Public School Choice Resolution it should not be taken lightly, or as some fringe group attempting to protect or perpetuate the status quo, or a failed education system that has failed African-American children miserably.
The Los Angeles NAACP is for any change in the LAUSD system that helps, improve, or achieve improvement in education for our children. However, the resolution passed by the Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education on a six to one vote August 25, 2009, titled the Public School Choice Resolution, among other things, provide that 250 public schools, including 50 newly built schools will be given to charter, non-profit and public organizations in an attempt to improve the quality and performance of chronically under-performing schools. The Resolution in its present form leaves too many unanswered questions, and warrants to be revisited to give our children the best chance for success. We must understand that if we do not get it right this time our 7th graders within the five year “fix-it-period” will be the victims
It should be noted that the Los Angeles NAACP does not object to the entire Public School Choice Resolution. However, the areas that incur the NAACP’s objections are not minor, and without redress severely limit the document in its present form to provide the type of success the authors’ envision with our children being the ultimate victims.
The resolution as passed does not address what happens to the students, the external organizations, i.e., charters, non-profits, and public organizations, deemed “unteachables’ or “neglected” the initial rejected, the special needs students, the juvenile offenders, the hard to teach, hard to reach students, the mild but chronic disciplinary students, the chronic absentees, the hard to fit-in students, the parents of disinterested and uninvolved students, and of course the under-performing, and slow-learning students.
Public schools are required by law to take all students, regardless of whether they are slow learners, special needs, have disciplinary issues, have non-interested parents, the chronic absentees, and all others until they reach the age of 17-18. This Resolution alters the “who” can attend these 250 public schools, notwithstanding their designation. They are publicly funded, and are loosely controlled by LAUSD. The Resolution does not put the same restrictions on admission and retention of all students regardless of personal issues on charter, non-profits and public organizations schools that are placed by law on public schools.
This single ability of charters, non-profits and public organizations schools to exclude or reject students, who are unwanted, unpreferred, slow learners, hard-to-fit-in, juvenile offenders, students of disinterested parents and others is a form of discrimination. It perpetuates a system that denies the best education opportunity for a whole class of students that must by law be placed into some public school. In this case, it would be the same low performing schools LAUSD is trying to close, but can’t because by law there must be some public school available to accept them. The Resolution does not address this issue, yet without doing so the plan is destined for failure.
The remaining two-thirds of the public schools cannot be made into a refuge camp for the rejected, the unwanted, the neglected, the unteachables, and the future juvenile and adult felons. Further, the issue of our public school failure is too complex to simply blame the lack of progress, or the slow pace of progress on the teachers or the unions. Finger pointing and emotional outrage does not produce constructive solution, nor does it allow the easy acceptance of constructive criticism.
The Resolution suffers from other significant issues that may delay its implementation unless all parties, who have a stake in providing quality education to our children rethink the primary purpose of our mission, which is to provide the very best education opportunities for our children within the frame work of a public education. The Los Angeles NAACP attended the August 25, 2009, LAUSD Board meeting where the Public School Choice Resolution passed. The voices for the Resolution and against the Resolution were about equally divided, but the disturbing thing about the meeting/hearing was the comments and the outcome. There was no give or take, or attempt to compromise even on simple issues concerning the wording on things the Board could agree on. The winning side (the side with the majority vote) insisted on its version of the language, though the minority voice language was almost identical on the subject matter.
The atmosphere at the meeting/hearing was more like that of a football game, where there had to be a clear winner, (the team with the majority vote), and a loser, (the lone voice of dissent) when it did not have to be that way, because in the end it is about the children. When the Board left an equally divided public, one rejoicing in a victory, and the other grimacing in defeat as if this was some type of competitive game, and not about our children. It left itself open for possible legal consequences that could delay or defeat a Resolution that if both sides were honest in their motives, and negotiated in good faith could have presented to the Los Angeles community a public school plan that provide the best opportunities for our children to get a quality education, instead of lawsuits that challenges whether the LAUSD can legally cede control and possession of newly built schools to a charter, non-profit or public organization. Or, whether the passage of recent propositions restricts the amount LAUSD can spend on charter, non-profit or public organization schools. We all lose.
There are also conflicting statutory laws and regulations governing successor interests in honoring union contracts that have not been explored. These are just some of the possible impediments that may affect the implementation of the Resolution.
The Los Angeles NAACP did speak at the August 25, 2009 meeting/hearing, and we did not take a position for the Resolution, or in opposition to the Resolution, but urged the Board to grant a moratorium before they voted on the Resolution to allow further discussion and community input on the issues that the Los Angeles NAACP and other community groups believed were not addressed in the Resolution. However, the “win the game crowd” believed it was more important to “win” than produce a plan that would galvanize the community with one voice in support of the Resolution.
The LAUSD missed a golden opportunity to put our children, and their education first. However, all is not lost, we have a second chance to bring all parties together to submit Mr. Cortines’ plan to the Board for the implementation of the Resolution’s goals and plan. Though 60 days may not be long enough for coalition building, it is no excuse not to try, and if it is not, the Los Angeles NAACP will with the community support ask for more time to get it right, for the sake of our children.