OPINION: A field report from the Public School Choice 2.0 Advisory Vote

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

As a tax-payer and teacher who has taught at Rosemont Elementary School, I decided to make my voice heard Saturday, January 29 at about 2:30 p.m., for the Advisory Vote for Central Region Elementary School #14. The question: to hand the school over to charter operators, or a group known as United Teachers Los Angeles/Echo Park Community Partners.

For the uninitiated, Public School Choice is the latest gimmick marketed as reform by our current Los angeles Unified School district board of education, board member Marguerite LaMotte excepted. The board doesn’t actually have to follow the Advisory Vote, so, in essence, the voting process is designed to give you the impression that the board is doing something meaningful to improve education. They’re actually doing quite the opposite.

There were probably about a dozen people on the sidewalk handing out pamphlets, and I couldn’t tell which side had more numbers. When I got out of my car, a woman introduced herself, said she was a teacher at Rosemont Elementary, wanted to talk to me about the vote, and handed me a piece of paper. The small black-and white pamphlet listed some charter school scandals, their focus on refusing services to disabled students, those who don’t speak English, and a desire to pay teachers half what we make now. It also listed how the UTLA/Community plan would offer the opportunity to learn two languages (the opposing plan would only offer multi-lingual curriculum after being open for five years), adherence to Board of Education guidelines and oversight, Special Education programs, weekly field trips, and partnerships with museums, concert halls, universities and local businesses.

imageI listened as this teacher passionately described how a group of unproven business people were coming into a community in which she has worked for years, cares so much about, and has given so much of her life to. I had heard about people being bused in to vote the last time this charade known as reform took place, and asked if she had seen any buses. She said that the charter operators had brought several busloads.

I walked towards the entrance to the actual polling site, and a smiling woman handed me two large double-sided color glossy flyers with “Camino Nuevo” written on it. We briefly spoke in Spanish, before the language barrier finally caught up. Another woman intervened, said she lives in the community, and that Camino Nuevo is a community-based organization of parents interested in operating the school.

I asked if anyone had been bused in to vote because that’s what the teacher had told me.

“They’ll tell you anything. They just care about their jobs,” she responded.

When I repeated my question, she said there was in fact a bus, one bus, with about five people. Surely no one would bring a bus with only five people, I asked. Yes, she insisted, that was the case.

I asked about their funding, and she said it came from the school board. I asked what other funding sources they had. She said she did not know. I gently pressed, and she reiterated that she did not know. She brought over a young gentleman she described as a current high school and former Rosemont student. He didn’t know where their funding sources came from either. I asked how they expected me to consider voting for their proposal if they could not even tell me where their funding came from. Neither had an answer.

Voting was simple. I didn’t have to provide any documentation to prove that I had any connection to the community whatsoever.

In less than 30 seconds of research online, I discovered what neither of these two charter school advocates could tell me: who they were working for. Camino Nuevo’s Donor list reads like a “Who’s Who” of charter school proponents, including The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Who else but a billionaire with a $147 million-dollar mega-mansion overlooking Lake Washington and zero public school classroom teaching experience whatsoever is better qualified to reform education? Gates wants to increase class sizes and videotape teachers so a panel of six-figure bureaucrats can scrutinize every twitch and tell teachers what they already know. He’s also a strong proponent of value-added teacher evaluations, and his beloved foundation hasn’t even bothered to respond to phone calls and email seeking comment after it was revealed that they’ve been intentionally withholding data from researchers.

Our current school board majority is hoping you’re not smart enough to realize that by simply offering a “choice,” we’re not all of a sudden going to magically skip down gumdrop lane to 100 percent literacy and graduation rates. Their best idea is to give more of your tax-dollars to some of their friends, people who already have so much money and time on their hands that they don’t even know what to do with themselves.

Please vote March 8 in the Los Angeles Board of Education election for Marguerite LaMotte in District 1, a candidate sincerely interested in doing what our current board majority has refused to do for years: address the achievement gap.

Read more from David Lyell at davidlyell.blogspot.com.

Read David Lyell’s other opinion pieces on Intersections South LA:
Value-add assessments: has the data been cooked

The school board election: what LA Unified doesn’t want you to know

John Deasy announced as new lausd superintendent

Photo courtesy of Robert D. Skeels