Monday, April 18, 2011

Community activist priorities for LAUSD versus those of Food Revolution

"Let Jamie chase our Senators through the halls of the Capitol Building and insist that they eat the kind of school lunch served to millions of children every day. Then he can shove a microphone in their faces and demand they tell the viewers why it is that Congress was only able to squeeze out a paltry 6 cents increase to the per-meal budget for school lunch, to take effect in late 2012, and why they thought that taking that 6 cents from the budget for food stamps (now called SNAP) was going to help improve nutrition for the kids whose families rely on both SNAP and school meals to literally keep from starving. Now that would be a Food Revolution!" — Dana Woldow

Community activist priorities for LAUSD versus those of Food Revolution
Journalist Caroline Grannan wrote me asking what I saw as the top ten priorities for LAUSD since certain opportunistic celebrities are trying to shift the dialog away from more pressing problems. Her friend Dana Woldow recently wrote a piece He can cook, but can he fix education?, and there has been a rash of people insisting that all of LAUSD's problems could be solved by letting celebrity chefs run the proverbial show. I responded with a few more than ten priorities, all from the perspective of a community activist supporting public education.

I feel it's both arrogant and overbearing for this smug British celebrity-hipster to be dictating terms to a district that's already under attack by the Broad/Gates/Walton Triumvirate. We are facing the utter collapse of our district and public schools in general right now and this guy is trying to socially blackmail the district into letting him get some more publicity? For shame. I'm not opposed to healthy food, but the timing on this couldn't be more cynical or inappropriate. Certainly childhood obesity is an important issue, but I feel Jamie Oliver and his ilk, including The First Lady, are using it as a smoke an mirror campaign to distract us from the real issue — which is childhood poverty!

Community activist priorities for LAUSD

  • Find a way to begin the process of desegregation now in both public and charter schools
  • Finding a way to prevent the massive Reduction in Force (RIF) notices to teachers (layoffs)
  • Finding a way to prevent the massive RIF notices to school nurses, librarians, and other essential personnel
  • Keeping school libraries open, staffed, and funded (Dr. Krashen)
  • Returning to reasonable class sizes
  • Ensuring that charter schools stop violating the modified consent decree and begin educating special needs children
  • Implementing a wider curriculum and de-emphasizing of standardized testing
  • Jettisoning VAM/AGT and diverting the millions of dollars used implementing those discredited evaluation "methods" into the classrooms instead
  • Repairing unsafe and unhealthy campus infrastructure
  • Slim-lining LAUSD bureaucracy and using those funds to put teachers' aides in the classroom
  • Jettisoning the resource wasting privatization minded "Public" School Choice Resolution which gives public schools away to charters
  • Finding a way to stop public school classrooms from being stolen and occupied by charter-voucher schools under the Machiavellian Prop 39
  • Rededicating resources to ensure that any school in the district, public or charter is educating every child
  • Implementing more bilingual education programs and ensure wider availability of ethnic studies programs
  • Work more closely with communities to serve as a social justice nexus in which people are provided material support, education, and leadership training to combat the budget cuts in their own neighborhoods
  • Work to insure that all teachers are given adequate support and professional development to reach a goal that all teachers in the district are fully credentialed
  • Find a way to return to fully funded summer school programs



Budd said...

how about, find a way to get parents involved in the education of their kids. That alone would aide in a lot of the list.

Oliver's heart is in the right place. He is trying to help people and his expertise is food. Food in LAUSD is a problem. Obesity is a problem. He is asking questions that should be asked.

Robert D. Skeels * rdsathene said...

Agreed on all points for the most part. My one criticism of Oliver isn't his concern for childhood obesity or asking questions. It's for blaming the wrong people, people who have no power to change the systemic problems. Oliver has not suggested a menu that remotely fits into LAUSD's budget, and he is blaming them. It's part and parcel due to his class and his white privilege.

The astute follower of school food politics knows that it is congress that is the primary funder (if we can call them that), of school meals. Encouraging healthier diets is great, but unless Mr. Oliver can convince congress to tax the rich (himself included), then we're not going to see a fundamental change.

It's kinda like he trust-fund hipsters gentrifying Barrio Echo Parque telling working class people to avoid inexpensive processed foods and shop at Whole Foods and Trader Joes. It might be well intentioned, but until you experience the crushing effects of poverty, you don't know what it's like to have to shop exclusively at places like Food 4 Less looking for the cheapest sale items.