Wednesday, October 14, 2009

An Open Letter to Los Angeles Times Editorial Page Editor Jim Newton from Professor Ralph E. Shaffer

Greetings, Jim:

First a quotation from Sunday's editorial:

"Check out the Los Angeles Unified School District's website and you can track its encouraging progress on the new policy allowing charter operators and other outside organizations to submit competing proposals to run certain schools. When the policy was approved in August, district leaders vowed a transparent and objective process, and so far they're making good on that vow, posting updates on the website. Given L.A. Unified's history of broken promises and political motives, we're pleasantly surprised."

privatization = segregation"Encouraging progress?" "Transparent?" (Surely the next list of most overused words that Mankato State puts out will include "transparent" at the top). I guess it is "encouraging progress" if you consider railroading the dismantlement of LAUSD to be progress. Remember that the Times was upset that the board delayed the vote on the Flores Aguilar plan for a month. You couldn't wait for real transparency and a genuine public discussion. You suppressed the opposition to the plan by refusing to run opposition opinion pieces. Instead you shoved them off to the online Dust Up space where they are seen by only those readers who look specifically for them. One purpose of op-ed is to enlighten the casual reader who otherwise might not be aware of a critical issue facing the community. Readers of the Times think that only UTLA and Duffy oppose this charter grab of billions of dollars worth of property and tens of thousands of our kids.

"History of broken promises?" The promise that charters will be the answer to LAUSD's problems will in the end be the biggest of those problems. White flight from integration was the first proverbial nail in the coffin of public education in LA. Charterization will seal it.

Charterization is one reform that when undertaken cannot be reversed. I don't think you have thought of that. When the public gets fed up with the power of Steve Barr, Green Dot and Eli Broad, it will be too late to reverse the "encouraging progress." Contractual arrangements will be virtually unbreakable, except perhaps at great financial cost to the taxpayers. By then, those at LAUSD who brought on the disaster and the editorial staff at the LA Times who backed it will be gone. And the next degeneration's of Times' editors will be left to wonder how in the world decent, intelligent journalists let this happen.

Enjoy your victory, Jim. But think of what you are doing to the kids of LA by joining forces with the vultures of charterization rather than fighting for real reform in LAUSD.

Ralph E. Shaffer
Professor Emeritus, History
Cal Poly Pomona


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