Parental Engagement

By Carl J. Petersen

Education issues as seen from a father's eyes.

The LAUSD Superintendent's Web of Deceit

Test Two may be more daunting — namely, explaining why [Austin Beutner] put a scandal-plagued and #MeToo-accused former State Assemblymember on the district payroll as a lobbyist.

-Bill Raden, Capital & Main

Instead of meeting with United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) in the days leading up to the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) strike, Superintendent Austin Beutner and Board President Monica Garcia were in Sacramento in an effort to “drum up lawmaker opposition to the teachers strike.” They were accompanied on this trip by Sebastian Ridley-Thomas (SRT), the son of “powerful L.A. County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas (MRT)”. While not publicly disclosed at the time, SRT was there as a paid lobbyist for the District.

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An LAUSD Star is Born

This Governing Board is held accountable to traditional public schools first.

- Tyler Okeke

In a system where money is considered speech, those who cannot afford to buy a microphone are at a disadvantage. As the teachers’ union and the charter school industry spend millions influencing LAUSD elections, the students the District is supposed to serve struggle to have their voice heard. Fortunately for them, their lone representative on the School Board, Tyler Okeke, spoke for them at last Tuesday’s Board meeting in a voice that could not be ignored.

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Los Angeles Asks For a Charter School Pause

This resolution does not impact a single LAUSD charter school or charter school student. It does not create a cap...and it doesn’t create a ban.

- LAUSD Board Member Scott Schmerelson

Vote NO on the charter ban!  #NoCharterBan

- California Charter School Association

The resolution before the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) School Board was relatively benign. Its passage would not actually change any policy. Instead, it would ask the state to impose a temporary moratorium on new charter schools within the District while state education leaders “conduct a comprehensive study to inform future policy considerations for charter authorization reform.”

The California Charter School Association (CCSA) described the resolution in completely different terms. According to them, this resolution was an all-out assault on their publicly funded private schools. Instead of attending class, hundreds of charter school students took buses to protest in front of the LAUSD headquarters on Beaudry. Some students cried as they pleaded with the Board to not shut down their schools.

Although the Board meeting was not set to begin until 1:00 PM, the line curved around the building and halfway up 4th Street by 8:20 AM in the morning. By some reports, the charter industry supporters had been lining up as early as 6:30 AM in order to ensure access to the meeting. After waiting for almost five hours, I gained access to the meeting and a chance to speak:

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Granada Hills Charter High School and the Case for a Moratorium

Resolved further, That the Members of the Board of Education request the Governor, the California State Board of Education and the California Department of Education conduct a comprehensive study to inform future policy considerations for charter authorization reform;

- Proposed LAUSD Resolution

Granada Hills Charter High School is the poster child for why a moratorium on new charter schools is needed in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD). This single school is currently larger than 86% of all school districts nationwide and under its recently approved expansion, it will add another 1,425 students. Lacking the manpower, funding, and willpower to provide adequate oversight, the District stands by while this publicly funded private school underserves the special-needs community, pushes students into an independent learning program against their will, constructs projects that endanger the health and safety of students and staff, and spends public money without adequate controls.

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The Winners and Losers of the LAUSD Strike

The strike that nobody wanted is now behind us

- Austin Beutner

For six days Los Angeles teachers and an overwhelming majority of students stayed out of LAUSD schools. Instead, many walked picket lines in front of the schools where supportive parents honked their horns and donated coffee. Tens of thousands attended rallies downtown, sometimes in the pouring rain. The resulting contract was approved by teachers, but not without some vocal apprehension as both teachers and parents wondered if enough was won for the sacrifice that was made. Who actually came out ahead in the final agreement and who lost?

Winners:

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We Interrupt This Strike For a Regularly Scheduled Day Off

Students and families are counting on our schools to stay open

- Austin Beutner

By making the decision to keep schools open during the strike last week, Superintendent Austin Beutner and the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) School Board lost over $125 million in revenue from the state. This decision was made despite the LAUSD’s own admission that they could not keep all students safe during a strike and a warning from the union representing principals that the situation in the schools had become “dire.”

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Austin Beutner Must Go

I'd have to fail him.

- LAUSD Board Member Scott Schmerelson

On Beutner’s handling of the labor dispute

Either Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) Superintendent, Austin Buetner, is a pathological liar or he is utterly clueless. He began last week by telling the press “that about 3,500 people were taking part in pickets at the schools”. Meanwhile, tens of thousands gathered in the pouring rain to march from City Hall to the District headquarters. He has insisted that “students [were] safe and learning,” during the strike while the union representing his principals stated that “Everything is not copacetic at all of our schools. Some schools have over 200 students with [just] one credentialed person.” His statement that “the safety and wellbeing of our students, families, and employees is our top priority” is eclipsed by the fact that District lawyers told a court that the health and safety of students with special education needs would be jeopardized if the teachers who serve them were allowed to strike.

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Who "Taught" Your LAUSD Student Last Week?

The messages we are required to send [home to parents] are inaccurate and untruthful. Everything is not copacetic at all of our schools. Some schools have over 200 students with [just] one credentialed person.

- Juan A. Flecha, President
Associated Administrators of Los Angeles

The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) could have shut down the schools when their teachers walked off the job and then made up the missing days after the strike was over. Instead, they kept the schools open and encouraged parents to send their children into an environment where they admitted they might not be safe. To make matters worse, the School Board weakened the rules regarding background checks for volunteers just as the strike was about to begin.

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Kids First?

“[If there is a strike] these students’ health and safety would be in jeopardy. They could get hurt, hurt themselves, or hurt others.”

- Exhibit A in LAUSD Court Filing

With their teachers set to walk out of their classrooms, the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) needs bodies. In order to get the upper hand in a strike, the District will need to keep their schools open and to do that they only need to meet one requirement - they must keep the adult to student ratio below legal limits. The students do not actually have to be learning anything, they just have to be in the school collecting ADA (Average Daily Attendance) revenue from the state.

Unfortunately for the LAUSD School Board, District officials have not been able to hire enough substitutes who are willing to cross the picket line. Therefore, they used a long-running complaint about the onerous process that parents face when offering to volunteer on campus to force a vote to make it easier to get bodies on campus during the strike. While the Board at first rejected the change, Superintendent Beutner convinced them to take another vote. Before they did, I made public comment on this issue:

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A Charter School Pawn

If I asked my teachers in my old school for help, they wouldn’t worry about it. They worried more about their pay.”

- 4th Grade Charter School Student

Jose, a fourth-grade student at a charter school, was so nervous as he spoke before the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) School Board that he was fighting back tears. The tension in the gallery was thick as the audience held its breath for the young boy. Board President Monica Garcia intervened and suggested that he take a deep breath. The founder of his charter school gave him a reassuring hand on his shoulder. She also had an ear to ear smile on her face.

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