Friday, July 10, 2009

Public School Choice

Ten days ago, I introduced a resolution for the LAUSD School Board to consider. This resolution, called Public School Choice: A New Way for LAUSD is up for a vote on Tuesday July 14, 2009.

I introduced this resolution after two years of observing very little reform taking place. Despite my efforts and those of my colleagues on the Board and our Superintendent, Ray Cortines, too little progress has been made. The majority of our time has been spent on institutional problems, not problems related to the education of our students: the payroll fiasco, the Rooney case, and most recently, the budget. The distractions are real, but no excuse for not attending to our students.

Further, the reform-minded resolutions I have introduced (small schools, world languages, teacher quality) have paid little dividends to date. It became very clear that something different needed to be done to shake things up.

My Public School Choice resolution attempts to do that. I believe that choice is a strong lever for change. My proposal is that we develop a process that invites internal (LAUSD) and external (partnerships, charters) stakeholders to submit proposals to run our newly constructed schools that will open up, starting September 2010. In a period of four years, we will have over 50 schools.

The centerpiece of my resolution, however, is that parents and students will weigh in on the decision of which plan to approve. They will play an important role in determining WHO should run their neighborhood school and HOW.

This proposal is the perfect opportunity for LAUSD and UTLA (our teacher's union) to step up and deliver better schools for our kids. We have a handful of extremely effective models that we can replicate. And if we don't, then we should give others the opportunity to deliver a better educational model for our students. Anything less is immoral and unacceptable.

We must stop pretending that we own the educational choices for our kids. Especially when we haven't delivered a proper education to close to 50%. The truth is, we shouldn't own these choices, but we can make them available.

The true choice must be that of the parents and the students. Engaging them, providing choice, and putting kids first is the new name of the game.