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
BURTON:I definitely don't agree that LEARN is dead. Have there been some changes that have re-centralized some key things? Yes. But I think we have to look at what some of the causes for those things are. One missing piece is that when we started LEARN, the district didn't have any standards. Now it's up to the district to hold schools accountable.
MITCHELL:We keep talking about decentralization versus centralization, as if it's one or the other, but the answer has to be a combination. In places where decision making is responsible, those school communities should be given the reins to choose to invest in Project GRAD, as Dick's schools have done, or in another program that is suited to the community. But there is a role for a central authority, and it is policing, to use a harsh term. They need to be policing the equity issue and policing the performance issue.
WEEKLY:Say the parent of a child in a failing school says, "I've waited years for our schools to get better, and it hasn't happened. My child's youth is finite. I can't wait any longer. Tell my why I can't have a voucher to send my child to a private school?" How do you answer that question?
TOKOFSKY:If you look at the research that has looked at all market solutions, from magnet schools to charter schools to vouchers, the conclusion comes up that, in terms of educational outcome, there was no noticeable difference.
BURTON:Two things. First, we have to recognize that private schools have a selective body of students that they serve. They can dismiss students on a whim. You can't really compare that with a public school that is required to serve every child. The other thing is that a voucher is not going to pay for every kid's education, unless the parents have additional personal money to go along with it. So what does that do for the South-Central kid whose parents don't have the balance of the money to pay for this high-quality education?
OAKES:For a given individual kid and an individual family, it might well be better for them to get a voucher and go to a better school. But we don't make public policy about one kid and one family. And looking at the whole, we're in no position to promise anybody anything better with a voucher system than what we have now.
WEEKLY:Let's talk about the current turmoil downtown, with the board voting to install Howard Miller as CEO. Is this good or bad for school reform?
TOKOFSKY:This governance and management struggle is going to detract from a focus on instruction. And right now is a very crucial time. Annenberg is phasing out. Reform organizations are trying to cohere. It's hard to believe that people are going to be able to spare much thought for instruction.
MITCHELL:We've talked today a lot about centralization and decentralization. I hope David is wrong about what he just said, because if disturbance at the level of the board can create disarray in classrooms serving 750,000 students, then we have a system that is way beyond centralization. I do worry that there are several substantive things that are likely to be compromised by the disarray, and the biggest one for me is $900 million of bond money that is sitting there waiting for us to bid and spend, to not just rebuild schools, but build schools that can be community centers.
WEEKLY:So is this causing disturbances and interruptions at the school level?
LAPPIN:At my school, it really hasn't at this point. I think it may, though, and we worry about it. We had a Parent Advisory Council meeting where we talked a little bit about it, and talked about trying to maintain the focus on the instructional program, and let the people downtown do whatever the people downtown do.
BURTON:The one alarming thing I do hear coming from the schools -- now that we have a lot of instructional policies and programs that we're implementing -- is that people are starting to sit back and ask, "I wonder if we really have to do this?"
OAKES:I think part of what's happening right now is so clearly about race. We â have a Latino community that has fought and struggled, fairly unsuccessfully, for their children to gain the teaching and resources and the opportunities they deserve. We have an African-American community that, over a number of years, struggled very hard to win positions of power in the school district and city government, largely because there were not other avenues open to them. We have a white minority that's retained the majority of the economic power in the city. And then we have a lot of Asian immigrants who are really throwing monkey wrenches into our old stereotypes about immigrants and people of color. And we're not talking about this.
CASILLAS:You have a Latino community that feels disenfranchised. Out in the streets, they're second-class citizens. In the schools, we tell them that they're first-class citizens, that we want them to become involved, that we want their voices. They have believed us. And if they haven't understood everything about the schools, the one thing they do understand is that they've had a Latino superintendent who has been very popular over 30 or 40 years. Then all of a sudden, the president of the Board of Education appears to disrespect him and to disrespect the only Latina member of the board. Now, I'm an outsider as well, but I am looking at this and I'm saying, "Do not underestimate that this thing could become a very big deal."
Find everything you're looking for in your city
Find the best happy hour deals in your city
Get today's exclusive deals at savings of anywhere from 50-90%
Check out the hottest list of places and things to do around your city