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
Howard Blume's article "Reform on the Cheap" [September 2430] assumes LEARN is a good program for our schools, then begins a long lament over its lack of proper funding and direction. LEARN from the get-go was bad for schools. It was set up with the ultimate end of taking power away from those who actually do the work of education -- teachers and school staff -- and putting it in the hands of the "community." Well, who is this "community," anyway? Not the parents. Not the teachers. Don't be fooled: LEARN was not designed to serve the interests of students, but the interests of the business community, which conceived and supported the program.
If the business community is really committed to building a brighter future for our parents and students, maybe it can support a living wage and make a public push to encourage all companies doing business in L.A. to provide medical benefits and child care.
Howard Blume's recent article on the status of school-reform efforts in Los Angeles was right on the mark. Over the past few years, mixed messages have been sent to local school communities. In spite of official pronouncements in support of thoughtful decision making at the local school sites, a determined effort has been launched to reassert the authority of the central office, at the expense of the discretion and flexibility of local schools. This trend is also evident at the state level, where Governors Wilson and Davis have sought to earmark new state education dollars for their own priorities, further robbing local districts of the flexibility they need to meet local needs.
This battle over local control vs. top-down mandates is not a clear-cut issue. Some decisions, such as the adoption of standards as to what all students should learn, ought to be made at the central level. In addition, the governing board and superintendent must ensure that all schools receive the basic tools and resources needed to help students meet those standards. Finally, the creation of an effective system to hold schools accountable for results is also an essential central function.
Translating broad goals into specific actions in a school is a local matter. The district must give schools the authority to tailor plans to their local situation. Should individual schools prove they are unable to exercise responsible decision making, then the central office must intervene on behalf of those students. When local authority fails, the district must step in with a targeted solution. But in a district as massive as LAUSD, a "one size fits all" approach cannot meet the diverse needs of so many school communities.
The LEARN reform effort has worked hard to empower and train local school leaders to best serve their specific students. Clearly, access to discretionary funding is an essential ingredient. Without such budget flexibility, there is little left for schools to decide. If a school lacks dollars to purchase the instruction materials or staff needed to implement the community's vision, there is little left to discuss.
We urge the new Board of Education to set a clear policy on this question. It has recently instructed Superintendent Zacarias to develop a new strategic plan for the district. As Zacarias drafts this strategic plan, we hope he and the board will strike the right balance between the goals of the district and the local control needed for schools to best meet these goals.
--Maria A. Casillas, President
Mark Slavkin, Director
Public Engagement, Advocacy
POETRY -- NOT
I was disappointed to read Brendan Bernhard's article on whether or not poetry engages a significant reading public today ["Perhaps These Are Not Poetic Times at All," September 1723]. In explaining why I love to look at art but almost never read poetry, I told Mr. Bernhard that I was embarrassed to have little interest in the genre -- especially as I claim friendships with several poets. For me to assert, as Mr. Bernhard has me doing, that poetry itself is embarrassing would be absurd, especially when the failure is mine.
Re: Fred Moody's Tech piece "Black Hole Sonsabitches" [Oct. 814]. Black holes do "grow in the presence of matter," as David Melville says, but so do planets, via the same mechanism: gravitational attraction. If there were enough matter in New York state (the â location of the "dangerous" experiment) to create a stable black hole and suck in the rest of the Earth, it would have happened long ago, without any help from scientists. Moody stated, "This sounds so much like science fiction that I was tempted to dismiss it outright." He should have gone with his first instincts.
Thank you for the best Best of L.A. [October 17]! I've been reading your paper for, oh, about 20 years now, and this is the most comprehensive such issue yet. Also, kudos to Steven Leigh Morris for his concise and informative articles regarding the original Native Americans of Southern California. Keep up the great work.
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