Once Again, the Children Will Lose

We need to be prudent and not dig ourselves back into a bigger deficit.”

-LAUSD Superintendent Ramon Cortines

When good teachers are put in Teacher Jail, students lose. Without a coach, they lose ability to compete. Weeks before their AP test they lose valuable study time with an experienced instructor. As their teacher sits at home, they lose access to an award winning music program. With an extracurricular coordinator denied access to school grounds, they lose a popular talent show. They lose a chance to fall in love with the Shakespeare and the ability to take potentially life changing trips.

Teacher Jail is also draining scarce resources from the classroom.  The program is a financial black hole that pays teachers not to teach while also paying substitutes to take their place in the classroom. The district does not even let the two coordinate to reduce the harm done to the students and their education. Now facing a pending lawsuit against Teacher Jail, the students will lose again when money that would be better spent on education is spent to defend the viability and legality of Teacher Jail. The district has already hired an outside law firm to mount a defense. Instead of shutting down Teacher Jail, they are conducting a costly investigation (perhaps “witch hunt” is a better description) in an attempt to find anything that could justify their removing an award-winning teacher from the classroom. Meanwhile the LAUSD is laying off teachers, has staff to student ratios that are too high and school libraries that remain closed.

This will not be the first time that students are forced to pay for the mistakes of LAUSD leadership. Fixing the $13.5 million MiSiS program has cost at least $98 million, and it still does not work. The district settled the Miramonte civil cases at a cost of $139 million. Scot Graham’s lawsuit against the district is also still pending. This resulted in part from the LAUSD rehiring Superintendent Ramon Cortines without putting to rest the harassment claims left over from his previous stint in the Los Angeles schools. Unless this hemorrhaging of wasted money is stopped, the students of the LAUSD will continue to be deprived of a meaningful education system. This will only exacerbate the ever decreasing enrollment numbers as students (at least those who do not need intensive special education services) enroll in charter schools where the grass is said to be greener.

Could this be the plan? After all, the California Charter School Association must expect something from the millions of dollars they spend influencing our public school elections. I have shown in the past how their participation in elections has brought less accountability for charter schools. If they bankrupt the district, then they can turn Los Angeles into another New Orleans where every school is a charter school. That does not seem like “school choice” to me.

The best thing that happened to the education system in New Orleans was Hurricane Katrina.”

-Arne Duncan