*The first round of Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) Public Choice Resolution was completed last week, where it was determined who would operate 30 new and existing school sites.
The Public Choice Resolution was a backdoor game from jump street, as several of the school board members passed the resolution to get more charter school operators in the district, particularly those who have LAUSD school board members on their board of directors. Inherent in the conflicts was the opportunity for communities to take control of their failing schools and the dismal test score outcomes.
Years of failing schools and increasing dropout rates plague the L.A. black community, yet there appeared to be enough frustration to turn the corner on the charter school discussion in the black community. However, when the board made its selections at its February 23rd board meeting, the choice LAUSD board members made most was itself. Only four of the 30 sites selected were charters, and three of them had board members that were also on the LAUSD school board.
The black community didn’t receive a single charter school site. NOT ONE. Schools in the black community were retained under district control through trickery and deceit. Most of the charter proposals were plagiarized and their ideas ended up in “parent-teacher” plan with no cultural and pedogological basis.
The effort in the black community was to save teachers, not children, under “save our schools” campaigns, run by the union that were essentially anti-charter school campaigns. So, while the Latino community made a commitment to take control of their children’s educational future, the black community was “hecklin’ and jecklin’” over educational philosophical rhetoric, gave their children’s future back to the same systematic compromise. I wouldn’t be a real truthteller if I didn’t talk about this compromise and the counterfeit process tied to it. So here goes…
Now I love Marguerite LaMotte, the only African American school board member. She is a soldier for our children and was the only vote against the public choice resolution proposal. When the proposal was passed, she sought to mitigate conflict around the very public discussion that was taking place around whether it was time to “steal away” from LAUSD’s educational plantation. She brought the various factions together under a “joint black educational task force” that met at her district office for the purpose of discussing and designing the best “education solutions” for “our” children. However, Ms. LaMotte’s district office was “Union Central.” The community that met at her district office every other week was not really “community.” They were district employees, principles and district superintendents with pen and pad sitting their listening to real community plans and ideas, taking them back to the schools they were trying to protect. Any charter proposer that didn’t agree to hire district teachers didn’t get selected.
Her chief of staff is an executive on loan from UTLA, who told me a month before the selection was made (at a Mark Ridley-Thomas fundraiser) that Barack Obama Academy, a new middle school to relieve overcrowding at Forshay Middle School and the only one close to being majority African American, “wasn’t going charter and I (she) don’t care who you tell.” I that point I knew the process fixed and turned our (100 Black Men of Los Angeles) attention to a collaboration at Hillcrest Elementary. We found out that process was fraudulent too and made a decision not to engage in any more counterfeit processes. One of our competitors, Inner City Educational Foundational (ICEF) went after both Obama Academy and Hillcrest, and walked into hostile community meetings organized by the unions that had met with teachers and parents in advance. None of the other proposers had direct access to parents, nor the chance to lobby or organize them in the ways that school site teachers and district administrators had. ICEF thought they could overcome the dysfunctional community politic because they played outside of LaMotte’s “unity play” and came in with a $3 million dollars commitment from the Gates Foundation, which raised Superintendent Cortines’ eyebrows and got his recommendation. They got PUNKED too. The point here is LaMotte protected both schools, turned her head to the union’s tactics and made herself conveniently “unavailable” when we sought to address it. This was an OLD war tactic, pull your opposition close so you can watch what they’re doing and react to it. So the black community didn’t just get played downtown. They got played by some of their own. The most egregious aspect of this was it was done with black civil rights leadership in the room. Not behind their backs, but IN THEIR FACE. SCLC was in the room. NAACP was in the room. CORE was in the room. PUNKED, just like everybody else. Every time you think the black community can’t be this unsophisticated, we prove to be even more unsophisticated. It’s more than frustrating. It’s damn embarrassing.
The public choice resolution is just the latest example of our community not understanding how the world is changing on them and how unprepared we are to respond to the change. Our children will suffer for our leaders’ ineptness. And we will continue to get PUNKED by any and everybody. Including our own.
Anthony Asadullah Samad, Ph.D., is a national columnist, managing director of the Urban Issues Forum (www.urbanissuesforum.com) and author of the upcoming book, REAL EYEZ: Race, Reality and Politics in 21 Century Popular Culture. He can be reached at www.AnthonySamad.com.