Will wonders never cease!
The LAUSD school board voted 7-0 for a resolution that rebuffs Eli Broad’s plan to take control of half the students in the district and enroll them in privately managed charter schools. After a lively discussion, the board passed a resolution that made clear it would oppose any effort to weaken the LAUSD public schools. This is a startling development, since some of the members were elected with Eli Broad campaign funds.
The focus of the discussion was a resolution put forward by Scott Schmerelson, strongly in opposition to a corporate takeover of the public schools. Some of the members openly acknowledged that the expansion of charter schools put the public schools at risk by diminishing their resources and programs. The Los Angeles Times noted with surprise that the board had selected its new superintendent by unanimous vote, and now voted to support the public schools by unanimous vote. The resolution directed Superintendent Michelle King “to analyze how the outside plan, which was developed by the Broad Foundation, will “affect the district’s enrollment, fiscal viability and ability to provide an outstanding public education.”
The Times writes:
Board member Scott Schmerelson, who authored the resolution, agreed to make changes proposed by other board members to soften some of the language describing charter schools, such as removing the word strangulation from a sentence describing the plan.
Schmerelson said he struggled to understand why Eli Broad and others did not work to improve traditional public schools by investing in successful programs.
“The point is that we have thrown the glove down to big business and they know they’d better be very careful how they work with LAUSD,” he said. “We’ll accept their help in limited forms, but they will not take over our district.”
Sarah Angel, managing director of regional advocacy with the California Charter School Assn., told board members that the resolution was polarizing. But board discussion settled some of her concerns. (I had to laugh when I saw that she called the resolution “polarizing,” because that was the same comment that the CCSA wrote in response to an opinion piece I wrote for the Los Angeles Times in support of public schools. According to CCSA, if you support charter schools, you are “for the children.” But if you support public schools, you are “polarizing.”)
Board president Steve Zimmer deserves credit and high praise for uniting the board behind a resolution in support of the public schools. Member Scott Schmerelson deserves credit and high praise for boldly and clearly opposing privatization and for laying out the disastrous consequences if the Broad plan were allowed to move forward.
My observer in Los Angeles watched the school board meeting and reported:
There was some pontificating, but basically, not one board member would say they were against the resolution. Just before the vote, Steve Zimmer spoke eloquently and signaled what I hope is the dawn of a new day at LAUSD. I want to send you his statement. When it was declared to have passed unanimously, the audience went crazy. In fact, a rhythmic chant of extreme support for Schmerelson and the resolution followed. While the camera was focused on the whole board and not specifically on Schmerelson, you could see his reaction. His body language was unmistakable. It was as if an extreme burden had been lifted from him. There is little doubt that he must have suffered greatly from attacks by the charter industry. In fact, you will hear Zimmer complain bitterly about nasty public comment from charter advocates made during the morning session and apparently before the resolution came up for a vote in the afternoon (I wasn’t watching at that time).
I would say that Schmerelson provided the board with a jump start to take the battle against privatizing education to a higher level.
When the video is available, I will post it.