On Saturday, July 30, 2016, I presented at Charters, Privatization and the Defense of Public Education, a California Education/Action Conference at Richmond High School in Richmond, California. My speech asked “If the charter law was passed to improve education through competition, why isn’t the LAUSD School Board playing to win?” and is based on the following paper:
–Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis
In 1992, the California legislature gambled with our children’s futures and allowed “teachers, parents, pupils, and community members to establish and maintain schools that operate independently from the existing school district structure”. Freeing these charters “from many of the state statutes and regulations that apply to school districts”, was seen “as a method to accomplish” a series of outcomes. Specifically written into the legislation was that these privately run organizations would “provide vigorous competition within the public school system to stimulate continual improvements in all public schools”.
Examples of “vigorous competition” can be readily found in professional sports. Larry Bird and Magic Johnson were not “partners in basketball,” but rivals, even if they were friendly off of the court. When watching each other play against other teams they would hope “for the other’s success so that each could measure himself against the other and continue to improve as a player”, but going head to head was the ultimate goal. As expressed by Bird, “I couldn’t imagine going to the Lakers and playing with Magic Johnson. I’d rather try to beat him.”
The introduction of outside forces has a tendency to compromise competition. In the 1919 World Series, gamblers met with the players and resulted in charges that the games were fixed. Even though they were acquitted in criminal proceedings, eight players from the White Sox were still banned from baseball for their part in the scandal. This was seen as the only way to restore integrity to the game.
Today, the The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) School Board looks a lot like the players from the infamous Black Sox team. Charter supporters have replaced gamblers, spending “nearly $2.3 million” in “the nation’s most expensive school board elections in Los Angeles last spring”. Instead of learning from the examples of Johnson and Bird and recognizing legally mandated competition, Board President Steve Zimmer refers to “charter partners” and complains that the “CCSA [California Charter School Association] has not been the partner that I had hoped.” Superintendent Michelle King has “called for traditional public school [sic] and charters…to work together.” In the meantime, Eli Broad threatens the District with bankruptcy through his proposal to spend $490 million “to reach 50 percent charter market share”, charters operate within the District without proper oversight and Proposition 39 co-locations continue to disrupt school communities.
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