Wednesday, August 26, 2009

LAUSD Board of Education Stands up for Kids

After weeks of discussion and robust public debate, this past Tuesday the LAUSD School Board voted 6-1 to approve my
Public School Choice Resolution. Outside of the board room, thousands and thousands of parents came out in support, demanding better education for their children. The Board responded.

This motion stemmed from my growing frustration at the seemingly casual approach to what should be a “911” emergency response, given the numbers of children’s lives and futures that are at stake. It is also a response to the chorus of parents and communities who are demanding better schools, more options, and a voice in how their schools are run.

Indeed, because LAUSD continues to make slow, steady achievement gains, there is no sense of urgency or collective outrage about the crisis in our schools, where only one third of our third-graders can read at grade level, where far too many students drop out of school, and a dismal number are prepared for a decent job or to go on to college. Our current growth path could require at least 20 years before our elementary kids are 100% proficient in reading and math, and many years beyond that for our high school students. At this rate, entire generations will be lost… lost to poverty, the streets, or jail.

What we desperately need is rapid, large-scale, student-centered reform – not business as usual. And the time could not be more opportune. We have the best Superintendent in the nation, a reform-minded board, and a host of civic and community leaders that continue to challenge the status quo.

My Public School Choice resolution – co-sponsored by Board President Monica Garcia and Dr. Richard Vladovic – opens the door for us to act with conviction and courage to transform an archaic school system that has not served all children well. Specifically, it targets new schools opening up over the next four years as well as underperforming schools, and is based on four main ideas: 1) choice and competition; 2) replication and expansion of successful school models; 3) parent engagement and input; and 4) collaboration and partnerships.

By opening up the process and inviting proposals from internal and external organizations – including LAUSD, charter operators, unions, teacher collaboratives, and other public, non-profit entities – we create the pressure to offer something better to parents and their children. We open up opportunities for partnerships and collaboration. And we invite innovation and creativity where students and teachers and learning are the center of gravity.

While I am a supporter of high-functioning charters, the resolution challenges LAUSD to replicate successful models that it currently offers to only some students. These include our magnets, the pilot schools, and our small schools. At the same time, it encourages a network of other partners to introduce and offer new ideas that respond to the learning needs of all children. And it establishes a process by which parents then have a voice (and a choice) in identifying what they want from their local neighborhood school.

Clearly this resolution ruffled the feathers of those that fear change or benefit from business as usual. But our children deserve that we stand up to those defenders of the status quo.

On this historic day, the Board of Education responded to the 911 emergency, took a stand, and made a commitment to focus on the needs of students and brings excellence to all of our schools. On August 25, 2009, we, acted as the school reform leaders that we were elected to be and genuinely put the interests of children first.


  1. I'm following this issue as a public-school parent, advocate and blogger in San Francisco. It's really sad to watch school board members sell out to the privatization interests. Charter schools have had 15+ years to prove themselves superior, and that has not happened, as study after study confirms resoundingly.

    In addition, charter schools harm public schools (charters are NOT public schools but are private schools run with public money) by siphoning away resources, support and often the higher-functioning, more-motivated students. Charter schools often shun disabled students and English-language learners, leaving those higher-need students in public schools. And despite that, charter schools do not overall outperform public schools.

    This "miracle" fad will be gone in a few years, and lots of energy and resources will have been diverted to this magical thinking rather than to truly making genuine reforms in public schools. It's very bad judgment for school board members to buy into the hype.

  2. As a supporter and a product of LAUSD schools, I applaud your efforts and look forward to engaging the community to make meaningful change at our local schools. I look forward to a time in the near future when I will no longer have to argue with my wife over keeping my children in schools within the district - as she would rather them attend local private or charter schools. I am confident that your resolution WILL ensure that we won't continue to lose our best students to other charters or private schools because by offering choice and competition it will demand that our district schools look at successful school models for replication and in essence force positive change. Thank you for affording us faith here in East LA.

  3. Dear Yolie,

    I just came from the LAUSD Board meeting in which the Public School Choice resolution was approved with a 6-1 vote. I am a young person working in education and a citizen committed to social change. I wanted to share with you three comments from my experience with your resolution.

    First, thank you for your creativity and wisdom in introducing this resolution. We do have a "911 emergency" situation in education, and thinking out of the box is essential to change that. Incremental improvements across the district have been great, but we also need to change our system's century-old outdated structure to enable reform that can scale.

    Second, you stuck by your resolution through thick and thin. Watching from the audience, I saw that many attacks were made that were personal rather than resolution-focused, and could see that you have withstood a high amount of pressure. Yet you continued to stand your ground, while remaining open to the voices of others. This strength in the face of adversity alone is commendable in a leader.

    Third and most deeply moving to me, it was evident that what helped you through the face of adversity was your principles, moral conviction and absolute belief that we need to move reform faster for our students. In your voice, we could hear that this was not about political posturing or self-interest. Your genuine moral strength in doing right for our students inspired me and those sitting around me. It occurred to me that this is politics at its best, this is what politics should be. I grew up in an immigrant family who was politically weary and encouraged me to avoid politics. But today, you inspired me. I walked away feeling empowered. Today you showed us that politics is deeply meaningful, that it can drive toward an end that is life-changing rather than only appeasing to the status quo (mistaking means for ends), and that small people who usually don't have a voice (parents, students) can win on this battlefield.

    Thank you. I hope you get some well-deserved rest.

    Quang Tran


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