By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
By fits and starts, Horton has inched toward the cause of educational reform -- all too often to back off, however, before real change could be achieved. He has, to his credit, been a constant champion of the LEARN process, and, with David Tokofsky, a proponent of testing and other accountability measures. He created a policy that links top administrators' pay to seven criteria of district improvement -- though these criteria are so lenient that no administrator has had to suffer consequences for the district's lack of improvement. He was very slow and plainly reluctant to endorse Tokofsky's proposal for a district inspector general, which should have been a no-brainer. He has never warmed to LAUSD's excellent magnet program, conveying the impression that it offends his sense of egalitarianism. The fact that magnets are one of the very few demonstrable ways of keeping middle- and upper-middle-class kids in district schools these days has barely dented his antipathy to them. Never mind, as the state of public transportation in L.A. clearly demonstrates, that any public system devoted chiefly to a working-class clientele is not likely to be nearly so well funded or maintained as a system with cross-class patronage.
But having to recognize the ongoing hemorrhage of middle-class Angelenos from the district would require Horton to recognize that the district is in crisis -- something he resolutely refuses to do. Increasingly, he sees progress where others can see only stasis, incremental movement where others see bureaucratic inertia. This onetime '60s radical sounds like nothing so much as those Johnson Administration officials reporting back hopefully on the state of the Vietnam War: He, like they, can always see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Squint though we may, things still look pretty dark to us. Sadly, we've reached the conclusion that this talented and conscientious progressive is no longer the right person for this job.
HORTON'S CHALLENGER IS A CENTRIST, intelligent, Yale-educated numbers cruncher. At age 33, Caprice Young is already a veteran of budgetary battles and high-tech skirmishes. At age 23, she was acting budget director for the Los Angeles County Transportation Commission. Shortly after that, she became assistant to MTA director Franklin White, whose pessimistic budgetary projections may have helped lose him his job, but surely proved accurate. From 1994 to 1997, Young worked in Mayor Riordan's office on the city budget and infrastructure technology -- where independent observers gave her rave reviews. Since then, she's been a project manager for IBM Global Services.
One thing Young is not is an education expert. She has no background in the field; the closest she comes is her tenure on the board of a Hollywood home for abused children, her authorship of the state Democratic Party's platform plank on children and families -- and the fact that she is herself the product of LAUSD schools and magnet programs. She argues, though, that the board has at least one education-policy expert -- David Tokofsky -- whose judgment she respects. What it lacks, she asserts, is someone with an understanding of public finance and technology. "My skills complement [Tokofsky's]," she says. With some circumspection, we believe she's right.
Crucially, she understands two political realities that her opponent understands either imperfectly or not at all: First, that the massive increase in funding needed to improve public education will not be forthcoming until the public is convinced that administrators and teachers are held accountable for educational outcomes. Second, that the near consensus that there is a crisis in public education creates the political space for reform and innovation.
That said, we have major reservations about the process by which Young became a candidate. The mayor, corraling his usual gang of 30 rich friends, decided to fund a slate of candidates to take over the school board. His perception that the current board is dysfunctional was certainly correct, but his solution -- rich boys to the rescue -- is hardly a bright moment in the chronicles of democracy. And yet, the mayor settled on two sterling progressive candidates already in the race (Hayes and Tokofsky) and recruited a third (Mike Lansing) with first-rate educational credentials. The only candidate on his slate whom he plucked from the ether is Caprice Young. Yet even here, the mayor's lack of a specific education agenda of his own suggests that he won't be pulling her strings -- nor is there any evidence that Young is the kind of person who comes with strings to pull.
In short, while we're dubious about the process of her selection, we're far less dubious about the result. Caprice Young is a bit of a crapshoot, but we think she will bring to the LAUSD a belief in the need for comprehensive reform and the organizational expertise to help push it through. We urge her election to the board.
5th District -- David Tokofsky
Confronted with a board and a bureaucracy as brain-dead as he is brilliant, David Tokofsky has had a sometimes rocky first term. Happily, though, he's been there to stand in opposition to an entrenched bureaucracy on issues from Whole Language to testing and accountability.
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