Finally, after 30 years of failure to achieve a record of success and a can-do classroom culture, LAUSD surrendered Tuesday and took the leap toward real reform.
The school board voted 6-1 to open 50 new schools and those that are failing to competition by independent operators, charter organizations and LAUSD staff..
The teacher, administrator and classified unions backed by ACORN, civil rights and community organizations complained about the process being too hasty and warned that charters are not the answer.
They threatened to sue and retaliate against board members who supported Yolie Flores Aguilar’s resolution entitled “Public School Choice: A New Way at LAUSD.”
Former Assemblywoman and school board many Jackie Goldberg, who many have blamed for turning LAUSD into an ideological battleground, passionately made the case against the plan, accusing the district of giving into the right-wing and abandoning their responsibilities.
Thousands of demonstrators chanting “We want change” gathered at LAUSD headquarters in support of the resolution which has the backing of Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, the LA Chamber of Commerce, Superintendent Ramon Cortines, the Parent Revolution, MALDEF, United Way and a number of educational, civic and community groups.
Aguilar acknowledged the district is making slow improvements in test scores but noted only a third of third-graders are reading at grade level and it will take as long as 20 years to make substantial progress at the current pace.
“Slow and steady gains are not enough…we need rapid large-scale student-centered reform,” she said.
Tamar Galatzan, a candidate for City Council District 2, said she too was “fed up” with the slow pace of progress.
“I’m going to vote for this resolution,” she said. “We have a chance to succeed right now beyond the capabilites and limitations of our district…we are expanding our district in order to save it.”
Marguerite Lamotte was the only board member who voted against the reform effort but union backer Steve Zimmer eventually came out in support of the reform after stalling the vote for three hours with resolutions that sought to protect existing teacher union contracts and enhance the union’s ability to throw roadblocks in the way of independent operators.
Zimmer said he was “hurt and angry” that he had to “shatter the trust” of either the union or many of his constituents with his vote.
He insisted the process was flawed and failed to put the interests of children first but he believes in the role of families involvement in education. “I’m voting yes because I want to make sure I’m part of the next step of this process.”
LaMotte said it was enough to be a board member to be part of the process and cast the lone no vote.
Passage of the change was a foregone conclusion despite the rallying of forces with the city’s most powerful labor leader, Maria Elena Durazo, tilting in favor of the plan and agreeing to head the committee which will work out details of a 10-step process designed by Cortines who will ultimately recommend who runs the schools under a four-year implementation program.