Guest post by Karen Wolfe, a parent and public education advocate who lives in Los Angeles.
Parents and public school advocates are very concerned following the LA Times article about Mayor Garcetti weighing in on Superintendent Deasy’s waning support.
I hope the mayor will keep in mind that voters value their right to elect an independent school board, a right to which the Los Angeles City Charter entitles them and which has been reaffirmed in the courts. This power struggle is inevitable with a superintendent who very publicly opposed the election of several board members. The voters have spoken. They do not support Deasy’s policies–nor his abuse of power in usurping the board’s role in setting policies at all. As LA Times columnist Steve Lopez wrote earlier this month, “So, yeah, do some micromanaging. Hold people accountable. Ask questions.” The board is doing its job.
The only thing new about this dynamic is Deasy’s precipitous decline in support. The superintendent has declared that board policies are unfunded mandates. That’s absurd. The board has passed several resolutions in the last year that have not been implemented. Examples include a resolution to establish a core arts program, a resolution to help neighborhood schools boost enrollment rather than accept as an operating assumption that enrollment will continue to decline, a resolution to revamp Prop 39 implementation to balance support for neighborhood schools, and a campus greening initiative. Those are POLICIES but no implementation has been forthcoming since the publicly elected board passed them.
The support for policies like these is evident by the election or re-election of board members who proposed them. The public expects its democratically elected representatives to do the job they were elected to do. If Deasy does not agree with the new board’s policies, he should move on to a school district that’s more closely aligned with his policy agenda. He cannot, by sheer force of will, push the independent school board which is accountable to voters, to behave as if they are his implementers. LAUSD’s school board represents a public which has rejected the corporate privatization and deregulation of education pushed by Deasy, Broad, Melendez, the United Way and the other astroturf “community groups” now clamoring at the doors of Beaudry.
Los Angeles is at the epicenter of the defeat of the failed privatization agenda. Indeed, parents across the country overwhelmingly support improvement and investment in neighborhood schools over increased choice through charter and other voucher programs. These power shifts are playing out in cities across the nation that are transitioning, like Los Angeles, from dictatorial “education reform mayors.” New York’s next likely mayor is setting an agenda to realign public education policy with the will of the people, even campaigning on such a platform to his city’s business elites. But in Los Angeles, prominent nonprofits are receiving letters asking their leaders to publicly state their support for the superintendent in an effort to quash the voice of voters.
Are we sure that we can count on Mayor Garcetti’s support for an independent school board representing voters? I certainly hope so.