The LAUSD’s goal of “parent and community engagement” is stated in black and white on the District’s website. Unfortunately, the District’s actions often speak louder than those words. As an example, when the parents of children with severe special education needs lost the first round of a court case against the District, a press release stated that it was “a civil rights victory for our students”, as if these children needed to be protected from their parents. A higher court overruled this decision, but last June Mónica García and the rest of the LAUSD School Board voted to continue the court fight. Sitting across from each other in a courtroom does not count as “engagement.”
The decision to continue this litigation was made behind closed doors by a School Board that does not include any parents with children enrolled in the District. Teachers, school administrators, and even charter school operators are represented, but not the people who entrust their children’s education to the District. Recently the Board added a student representative to its ranks. Her vote is only advisory, but at least she has a voice in the discussion. Parents are relegated to public comment at LAUSD meetings where they are allowed to speak in front of Board members who are often distracted by other matters and are prohibited from interacting with speakers.
Having a parent on the Board would also help to ensure that someone who has a personal stake in the results is looking out for the safety and well-being of the students. In the same way that a parent would be unlikely to leave a hazard uncorrected on the neighborhood playground, it is impossible to think that a parent would have allowed “aging pipes and fountains made of lead” to continue “leaching tiny particles of the toxic metal directly into water” as the LAUSD did for seven years after a television news report initially highlighted the situation. A parent whose children were directly affected by the MiSiS Crisis would not have waited for a judge to rule that students “continue to suffer severe and pervasive educational deprivations” before getting help to resolve the debacle. The LAUSD unbelievably rehired a lawyer who argued “that an 8th grader who has...sex with a teacher learns maturity from the experience”. A parent with daughters enrolled in the District would have had an incentive to make sure the district employees responsible for re-hiring him were fired along with the lawyer.
The lack of a parent to advocate for the District’s students has also caused policy missteps. Charters have been allowed to expand without regard to the effect on LAUSD students. Co-locations are forced into District schools against the will of parents. Board meetings are scheduled at times when working parents cannot attend. The school schedule was shifted without consideration of how it would affect families.
It has been reported that the LAUSD is facing severe deficits that are being fueled by declining enrollment. If the District is going to survive, it needs to end the steady stream of negative headlines and convince parents that their concerns are being heard. It is, therefore, imperative that a parent is elected to the LAUSD School Board on March 7, 2017.