Parents, politics and pawns

Phalanxes of Los Angeles parents of color — blue T-shirts support the mayor’s takeover of the school district and yellow T-shirts that back the district — are being “used as pawns” in Sacramento hearings writes Bob Sipchen, LA Times columnist and School Me blogger.

It was 2 1/2 hours before an important Senate committee would discuss the bill that Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa hoped would let him take control of Los Angeles’ sprawling school district. The yellow-shirted parents had arrived by bus the night before to stop him, and they weren’t pleased to march into the hearing room and find every seat taken. By parents and children in blue T-shirts — the color of the enemy.

Anyone who cares to understand why Los Angeles’ mayor will soon succeed in his public school power grab might consider that scene and ponder the touchingly naive slogan that the mayor’s opponents displayed on their LAUSD-issued yellow shirts: “Parents, not politics.”

As if.

Yellow shirts are parents who’ve been involved in their children’s schools, writes Sipchen.

Along the way, many have picked up official titles — “community rep,” “parent facilitator” — as well as tolerance for the bureaucracy’s devout commitment to “process.”

Yellow-shirt parents feel ignored by the mayor’s Sacramento power play. Blue-shirt parents don’t believe district leaders are capable of real change.

The blue shirts I met, on the other hand, are a more goal-oriented lot, eager to push full steam ahead for sweeping reform, and damn the details — including the fact that, behind closed doors, teachers unions made sure the mayor’s bill offers no encouragement for the sort of charter schools to which many of these rebellious parents send their kids.

Los Angeles Unified’s elementary schools are doing a better job, but improving middle and high schools remains very difficult. I’m dubious about the mayor’s takeover plan, which makes so many compromises that nobody will be accountable if schools fail to improve.

The state legislative counsel thinks the takeover bill is unconstitutional; lawsuits are inevitable.

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  1. What the LAUSD needs to do is split into smaller, local school districts built around no more than 3 or 4 high schools.

  2. Why stop at smaller school districts of 3 or 4 high schools? Why not carry the idea to its logical conclusion: one-school districts? If bigger districts are inevitably more wasteful, less responsive, produce lousier educational results and seem unable to change any of the above as they certainly seem to be, why not explore the other extreme of the spectrum? If bigger isn’t better and big isn’t any better then maybe small is better?