OPINION: The School Board Election: What L.A Unified doesn’t want you to know
By David Lyell, L.A. Unified Substitute Teacher
Please vote March 8 for UTLA-endorsed Los Angeles Board of Education candidate Marguerite LaMotte, District 1.
Unlike their opponent, LaMotte doesn't favor abdicating her responsibilities to charter school companies.
Current school board member LaMotte wants to spend money where it should be: the classroom. LaMotte grew up in the Deep South under segregation, was involved in Civil Rights struggles and believes that a quality education for all children is the cornerstone of democracy and that equal access to education is how we begin to start to level the playing field.
For years, the current board—LaMotte excepted–hasn’t been addressing the real impediments to reform:
What they don’t want you to know is that charters started as a way to explore innovative teaching practices, that fewer than one in seven charters produce better results, and while they should be explored, charters should not be promoted as the “be all end all” to the problems facing our schools that the politicians – school board members and the Superintendent – have refused to address for years.
What they also don’t want you to know is that there’s an incestuous relationship between current and former board members, district employees, and many in the charter school industry. We need to follow the money trail.
Our incoming superintendent, John Deasy, negotiated an $80,000 salary bump despite recent layoffs, pay cuts, and firings – all done because the district supposedly doesn’t have enough cash. The board didn’t even bother to consider any other candidates. Deasy has worked for the Gates Foundation, embracing their push for value-added assessments, despite that, at best, value-added has a margin of error of plus or minus 45 points, and even worse, the foundation has been withholding data from researchers.
Aside from his regular six figures, Superintendent Cortines was earning $150,000 a year from Scholastic books for who knows how many years. He also owns or owned at least $100,000 in Scholastic stock, a company with $16 million in contracts with L.A. Unified, yet Board Member Monica Garcia reportedly doesn’t see that as a conflict of interest.
School Board Member Yolie Flores recently took a part-time job making $144,000 per year working to help Bill Gates in his effort to privatize education.
Parker Hudnet, head of L.A. Unified’s Charter and Innovation department, has the power to recommend or deny charter school applications. He was the CEO of Judy Burton’s charter chain, Alliance for College Ready Schools.
Ted Mitchell, head of L.A. Unified’s Teacher Effectiveness Taskforce, is also the CEO of the New Schools Venture Fund, a non-profit that actually makes quite a lot of profit – enough to pay Mitchell $572,856. Mitchell is currently on Alliance’s board, and Alliance was recently awarded a contract after Cortines decided he needed to cement his status as a reformer by reconstituting Jordan High School.
According to the 2009-2010 L.A. County District Salary Survey of unified school districts, L.A. Unified is ranked last in teacher pay. Thirty-eight percent of our students live in poverty, and they need plenty of instructional time in small class sizes. Yet, Cortines wants to reduce instructional time by having teachers take another pay cut in the 2011-2012 school year, in the form of more furlough days.
L.A. Unified has an insane ratio of administrators to teachers, roughly 8 to 1, and spends 61 percent of its budget at school sites, as compared to the 90 percent that other districts, on average, spend in the classroom. We need leaders who value teachers, celebrate their efforts, and want to spend money where it should be: the classroom.
On March 8, please vote for Marguerite LaMotte. Thank you for your consideration.
This article was orginally published on intersectionsSouthLA.org.
Read more from David Lyell at davidlyell.blogspot.com.