Marguerite LaMotte takes steady lead in school board election

Los Angeles Board of Education candidate Marguerite LaMotte is from New Orleans, and as one of her supporters said, the fact that her reelection to the Los Angeles Board of Education fell on Mardi Gras was just “twice the reason to party.”

And party she did, Louisiana-style.

Watch an audio slideshow from LaMotte’s campaign party:

OPINION: The School Board Election: What L.A Unified doesn’t want you to know

imageBy David Lyell (left), L.A. Unified Teacher

Please vote March 8 for UTLA-endorsed Los Angeles Board of Education candidate Marguerite LaMotte in District 1.

Unlike her opponent, LaMotte, has opposed abdicating responsibilities to charter school companies.

Current school board member LaMotte wants to spend money where it should be: the classroom. LaMotte grew up in the Deep South under segregation, was involved in Civil Rights struggles and believes that a quality education for all children is the cornerstone of democracy and that equal access to education is how we begin to start to level the playing field.

For years, the current board—LaMotte excepted–hasn’t been addressing the real impediments to reform:

  • the lack of student and faculty safety at schools
  • the lack of enforcement of effective student discipline policies
  • the high drop-out rates, the grade inflation and social promotion
  • the lack of support for teachers and support professionals
  • the ineffective administrators
  • the bloated bureaucracy
  • the unhealthy food choices
  • the lack of support for physical education programs
  • the lack of parental involvement
  • the lack of support for Adult Education programs so parents can improve their own lives
  • the lack of an emphasis on the importance of reading with and to children, especially during the first three years of life.

What they don’t want you to know is that charters started as a way to explore innovative teaching practices, that fewer than one in seven charters produce better results, and while they should be explored, charters should not be promoted as the “be all end all” to the problems facing our schools that the politicians – school board members and the Superintendent – have refused to address for years.

What they also don’t want you to know is that there’s an incestuous relationship between current and former board members, district employees, and many in the charter school industry. We need to follow the money trail.

Our incoming superintendent, John Deasy, negotiated an $80,000 salary bump despite recent layoffs, pay cuts, and firings – all done because the district supposedly doesn’t have enough cash. The board didn’t even bother to consider any other candidates. Deasy has worked for the Gates Foundation, embracing their push for value-added assessments, despite that, at best, value-added has a margin of error of plus or minus 45 points, and even worse, the foundation has been withholding data from researchers.

Aside from his regular six figures, Superintendent Cortines was earning $150,000 a year from Scholastic books for who knows how many years. He also owns or owned at least $100,000 in Scholastic stock, a company with $16 million in contracts with L.A. Unified, yet Board Member Monica Garcia reportedly doesn’t see that as a conflict of interest.

School Board Member Yolie Flores recently took a part-time job making $144,000 per year working to help Bill Gates in his effort to privatize education.

Parker Hudnet, head of L.A. Unified’s Charter and Innovation department, has the power to recommend or deny charter school applications. He was the CEO of Judy Burton’s charter chain, Alliance for College Ready Schools.

Ted Mitchell, head of L.A. Unified’s Teacher Effectiveness Taskforce, is also the CEO of the New Schools Venture Fund, a non-profit that actually makes quite a lot of profit – enough to pay Mitchell $572,856. Mitchell is currently on Alliance’s board, and Alliance was recently awarded a contract after Cortines decided he needed to cement his status as a reformer by reconstituting Jordan High School.

According to the 2009-2010 L.A. County District Salary Survey of unified school districts, L.A. Unified is ranked last in teacher pay. Thirty-eight percent of our students live in poverty, and they need plenty of instructional time in small class sizes. Yet, Cortines wants to reduce instructional time by having teachers take another pay cut in the 2011-2012 school year, in the form of more furlough days.

L.A. Unified has an insane ratio of administrators to teachers, roughly 8 to 1, and spends 61 percent of its budget at school sites, as compared to the 90 percent that other districts, on average, spend in the classroom. We need leaders who value teachers, celebrate their efforts, and want to spend money where it should be: the classroom.

On March 8, please vote for Marguerite LaMotte. Thank you for your consideration.

Read more from David Lyell at

Map image courtesy of L.A. Unified

Settlement changes teacher layoffs

By: Albert Sabate

Listen to the audio story here:


Read the script here:

A new agreement by the Los Angeles Board of Education and the American Civil Liberties Union changes the usual practice of laying off the most recently hired teachers first. Now, some teachers will retain their jobs over teachers who have been teaching longer. Some teachers say this is especially important for South Los Angeles.

Teacher:: “I think in any other school community, a policy that continually lays off more than half of the teachers at one school site, year after year, and places substitute after substitute in front of the students, would be an outrage, and it would be deemed criminal. Today, this settlement says to us that this policy will no longer be tolerated by the schools of South Central Los Angeles.”

The American Civil Liberties Union, and others, filed a lawsuit against the Los Angeles Unified School District in February. The lawsuit accuses the Los Angeles Unified School District of denying students equal access to public education.

Mark Rosenbaum from American Civil Liberties Union:

Rosenbaum: “The American dream must be open and accessible to all children. Poverty and race shall not disadvantage any child.”

Until now, layoffs have been based on seniority. More often than not, new instructors teach at poor or low-achieving schools. But because these teachers are at the bottom of the totem-pole, they are the first to go. That means that those schools lose a larger proportion of their teachers.

Speaker:: “At all costs, we must retain and support those teachers who are making the most differences in the lives of our students.”

Plaintiffs found a loophole in the education code that said seniority could be used in determining layoffs, but only if it does not interfere with the students’ education.

Here is Kenneth Aubrey, a teacher at Gompers Middle School:

Aubrey: “Why should I be punished, and other teachers be punished, for making a social decision to go where they are most needed, where they can be the most effective?”

The unanimously approved settlement would spare 45 struggling schools from layoffs. Los Angeles mayor Antonio Villraigosa says these reforms were just a start.

Villaraigosa: “This isn’t just about fixing the dance of the lemons. It’s about cutting down the trees. The system where decisions are based solely on seniority has created a system of inequality. And a system where decisions are made to protect the adults has only served to hurt the children.”

The settlement still has to be approved by a judge, but is widely expected to be approved.