Friday, November 06, 2009

It's Not the Refrom Plan That's at Risk, It's the Kids! — Professor Ralph E. Shaffer

"If this study shows anything, it shows that we've got a two-to-one margin of bad charters to good charters, that's a red flag." -- Margaret E. Raymond (Director Stanford Center for Research on Education Outcomes CREDO 2009)

Support Parents and UTLA against LAUSD and Green Dot's corporate charter cash cowsHow long does it take the Times editorial board to realize that not all change is reform?

For several years the Times has been the major exponent of charterizing the Los Angeles Unified School District. Whether Mesmerized by the charismatic leader of Green Dot or influenced by the strong pro-charter stance of a local billionaire who may someday own the Times, the paper has become the most outspoken cheerleader for turning dozen, or hundreds, of LAUSD schools over to the charter privateers.

Even though unacceptable acts by charter activists were so egregious that Times editorial writers had to scold them, the editorial board continues to support the dismantling of LAUSD by giving new schools to charter entrepreneurs and turning over existing schools to them as well.

Readers of Monday's editorial, "Policy skirmishing puts LAUSD reform at risk," [1] would have applauded had its concern about the potential scuttling of the misnamed Flores Aguilar "School Choice" plan led to an editorial conclusion that the plan was ill-advised in the first place. But the editorial betrayed LAUSD students and parents by continuing to support a phony reform that lines the pockets of charter privateers with taxpayer dollars.

More important, there is nothing about "School Choice" in the plan the board and superintendent are moving with unacceptable speed to implement. As noted by the paper's own education writer, Howard Blume, this is really a "School Control:" scam. The only "choice" is which school goes to which charter. As it now stands, Flores Aguilar will place a hundred thousand or more of the district's students under the indoctrinating control of ideologically-oriented entrepreneurs.

The Times worries that the plan is "at risk." The paper's editors ought to be worried that the kids are at risk. The editors, the op-ed staff, and the LAUSD board knew that the charter under which Locke High was turned over to Green Dot required that every Locke student would be required to DEMONSTRATE A BELIEF in capitalism. The editors knew that one charter operator requires students to stand each morning and give an oral pledge to capitalism. At that school they don't have to pledge to the flag, however.

This is the wonderful world of charter schools. The two instances cited occurred at schools run by privateers who are frequently cited by charter advocates, including the Times, as outstanding examples of what can happen under charter operation. If the teachers union formed a charter school and required the students to recite a daily homage to the working class can you imagine the outrage that would quickly grace the editorial pages of the Times?

So who is responsible for endangering the Flores Aguilar con? Those favored charter operators themselves. Why? Because they don't like a requirement that makes them enroll all the students living in the attendance area of each of the schools they are about to pilfer. And why don't charters want all those kids? The Times editorial recognized, for the first time, what the reason is. Charters want "students whose parents are informed and involved enough to enter the lotteries in the first place -- which also means that these schools attract a motivated population of students and families. Left out are many students, such as foster children, who most need well-run schools."

If charters took all the students, as a traditional LAUSD school must do, those questionable but highly touted charter test scores would plummet. Attendance problems would suddenly appear. Discipline would be comparable to the problems that existed before the charters moved in and weeded out trouble making kids.

Face it, editorial board, you've ignored the realistic criticism raised by concerned citizens - not the teachers union - for several years now. Even when in your own editorial you recognize what is wrong with the charter movement and why it cannot replicate the unsubstantiated claims that charter advocates put forth, you stand firm in your naive belief that charters, not genuine reform within the LAUSD, is the answer to the district's problems.

Ralph E. Shaffer, long-time charter critic whose op-eds are shuffled off to [the Los Angeles Times'] Blowback or Dust Up, is Professor Emeritus of History at Cal Poly Pomona.



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