Los Angeles Department of Monopoly and Power

Educating students is far from the #1 priority of the school board and the teachers union in LA.

On February 11th, LA School Report released an internal Los Angeles Unified School District document which stated that just 54 percent of seniors in LA are on track to graduate. The drop off from 74 percent last year was immediately attributed to the new “A through G” requirements, which ensure that graduating students are ready for acceptance into California public universities.

The rather lame, “This is the first year of the plan, so we are just getting the kinks out” excuse does not hold water. The A-G plan was initially formulated in 2005, but the LAUSD school board didn’t pay much attention to it. So instead of ramping up the rigor, they decided that in 2017 students could pass with a grade of “D,” instead of the “C” as was in the original plan. (This year’s class had been green-lighted for a “D” passing grade all along.)

Oh but wait, there is some “good” news. Due to the district’s “credit recovery plan” – allowing students to take crash courses on weekends, holidays etc. – the graduation rate has just been upgraded to a less cataclysmic 63 percent. Yeah, 63 is better than 54, but it still stinks. And the demise of the California High School Exit Examination (CAHSEE) has been left out of the equation. The test was killed a few months ago by the California legislature and, worse, the legislators chose to give diplomas retroactively (going back to 2006) to students who passed their coursework but failed the test.

The exam was hardly rigorous. According to the California Department of Education website, the English–language component addressed state content standards through tenth grade and the math part of the test addressed state standards in only grades six and seven and Algebra I. Hence, whatever the graduate rate actually turns out to be in 2016, it would have been lower had the state not knocked out a test that every high school grad should be able to easily pass.

So what’s a school board to do? Simply divert attention away from the problem.

The LAUSD school board’s major agenda item of late has been to slow charter school growth. According to Sarah Angel, managing director of advocacy for the California Charter Schools Association, “We are seeing an unprecedented uptick in the recommendation of denials of charter schools.” She pointed out that the LA school board approved 89 percent of the charter school applications it received in 2013, but that rate has been cut in half this year. The anti-charter push came about when the board went bananas over philanthropist Eli Broad’s plan to turn half the schools in LA into charters. Nothing will invigorate monopolists like a little old-fashioned competition.

Not to be outdone by the school board’s turf-protection moves, the United Teachers of Los Angeles has swung into action, joining a union-led national demonstration of support for traditional public school districts. Dubbed “walk ins,” these events were led in Los Angeles by UTLA and involved parents walking into schools with their kids at the beginning of the school day on February 17th. What this was supposed to accomplish is anyone’s guess.

The union also just raised its dues 30 percent, claiming more money is needed to “battle foes of traditional public education.”

Then, UTLA boss and class warfare expert Alex Caputo-Pearl began beating the tax-the-rich drum at a fever pitch. In an obvious reference to Eli Broad and some other philanthropists, he recently averred, “If billionaires want to be involved, they should not undermine programs, they should contribute their fair share in taxes.” Wondering how he knew what taxes certain individuals paid, I sent an email to Mr. Caputo-Pearl and UTLA’s communication director, inquiring which billionaires he was referring to and how much they paid in taxes. They have not deigned to respond to my query thus far. (Note to AC-P: The rich pay plenty of taxes, but 44 percent of Americans don’t pay any, and rest assured, there are no billionaires in that group.)

As if the school board and teachers union’s effort to damage charters wasn’t enough, there is a plan afoot to get an initiative on the ballot this year that would make charter schools illegal. Why? Because, according to the “Voices Against Privatizing Education” website, charters are “racist… cherry pick students, falsify records, commit enrollment fraud, close down community schools, destroy jobs, bust up unions and segregate students.” Not surprisingly this bundle of outright lies has the backing of several teachers unions and individual union leaders.

You see, charter schools are not being singled out for demolition because they haven’t worked; they are on the radar of the school board and the union precisely because they have been successful. At the same time that so many students in LA’s traditional schools are failing to meet graduation standards, students from the same demographic groups are thriving in charter schools. By the time they’ve graduated, students at charter schools are over three times more likely to have completed courses needed for college admission than students at traditional public schools.

Also, Stanford University’s Center for Research on Educational Outcomes (CREDO) conducted an analysis of charter schools in LAUSD in 2014 and found that its students gain significantly more learning time than their peers in traditional public schools. Among its findings:

  • Charter school students gain 79 more days of learning than their traditional school peers in math, as well as 50 additional days of learning in reading.
  • Latino students gain 72 more days of learning in math and 43 extra days in reading.
  • Latino students living in poverty gain 115 additional days of learning in math and 58 additional days in reading.
  • African American students gain 14 extra days of learning in both reading and math.
  • African American students living in poverty gain 58 additional days of learning in math and 36 additional days in reading.

Evelyn Macias, mother of Julia Macias, one of nine student plaintiffs behind the Vergara lawsuit, recently penned an op-ed for LA School Report, in which she wrote,

We need to look at state policies, legislation and labor agreements that have, over the course of decades, eroded and diminished the rights of children, low-income working families, and ALL families, by claiming the higher moral ground for employees, while much of our leadership remains silent.

Our children are falling through the cracks, while we stand and watch. Who besides their parents and student advocacy groups will step up?

Who besides parents and certain advocacy groups? Who, indeed? Certainly not the obstructionist school board and teachers union. They are intent on protecting turf and maintaining their monopoly. Educating children is far down on their to-do list. Shame on them.

Larry Sand, a former classroom teacher, is the president of the non-profit California Teachers Empowerment Network – a non-partisan, non-political group dedicated to providing teachers and the general public with reliable and balanced information about professional affiliations and positions on educational issues. The views presented here are strictly his own.

8 replies
  1. Avatar
    Dawn Urbanek says:

    You cannot provide a basic education to any student when the State funds schools at 2007-08 levels plus inflation. In 2007-08 the state revenues were $103 billion- today they are $123 billion. The State has the money to adequately fund a quality education for every student… but, is choosing not to. I live in the Capistrano Unified School District- a wealthy district- our

    A-G Completion Rate: 52.5%

    Source: http://data1.cde.ca.gov/dataquest/DistGrad.asp?cSelect=30664640106765–Capistrano+Connections+Academy+Charter&cChoice=DstGrdEth&cYear=2013-14&cLevel=District&cTopic=Graduates&myTimeFrame=S&submit1=Submit

    EAP College Ready:
    English: 42%
    Algebra II: 3% * Required to go well on college entrance exams and is required to get into a 4 year selective university.
    Summative Math: 27%
    Math Total: 20%

    The Continued Lack of Adequate Funding has Resulted in a Notable Decline in Academic Performance of Students Across all Demographics in CUSD

  2. Avatar
    Dawn Urbanek says:

    And the final insult to all taxpayers and their students is the latest from CDE-

    CDE: Under LCFF – California School Districts Are No Longer Required To Follow State Content Standards an Curriculum Frameworks – subject content and Instructional time is now left to the individual classroom teacher- the Principal and District Administration- (notice how the Trustees just lost all control with the stroke of a pen)


  3. Avatar
    Larry Sand says:

    According to California Department of Finance data, over the last five years our education spending has actually increased about 40 percent. See http://unionwatch.org/more/

    Also, how would you explain that charters do a better job of educating than traditional public schools even though they receive less funding?

  4. Avatar
    Dawn Urbanek says:

    Larry- Overall education spending may be up- but it did not get to the classroom- per pupil spending in CUSD will have been flat around $7,500 per student for 14 years by 2021. The big increase in education spending increase went to public employee salaries, pensions and benefits. If you look deeper- rather than provide districts with an adequate base funding grant – Jerry Brown has been giving Districts one-time money to keep them barely on life support. I have documented everything at http://www.peopleforstudentrights.com – see the Federal Complaint. You are going to see a bunch of insolvent school districts in the near future.

  5. Avatar
    Larry Sand says:

    Fair points here. For years, Union Watch has been reporting that increased funding goes to pensions, etc. And yes, school districts will be going under. The estimate for LAUSD’s BK is 2019.

  6. Avatar
    Dawn Urbanek says:

    If it will help us all understand the truth- I have documented everything and have actually drafted a complaint to be filed in Federal Court. I am not an attorney- but as a parent I have had to pull my child from public education and pay for private school – money that should be used for college. But my children are on track to enter a selective 4- year university – something than will not longer be easily assessible to any student who remains in CUSD. I have documented that the State of CA has stolen $1.56 billion from students in my district alone. I intend to get that money back before another recession- I will take any help from any person because I truly believe that we are hurting the academic potential of $6 million students and I have documented everything. http://peopleforstudentrights.com/index.php/complaint/claim-1

    Follow the money and everything becomes really clear-

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