ELECTIONS: National Eyes on LA’s School Board Races…The Howls About Outsider Money…How to Choose a Mayor….PLUS Some Non-Election NewsMarch 5th, 2013 by Celeste Fremon
NATIONALLY, ALL EYES ARE ON LAUSD’S SCHOOL BOARD RACES
It’s big enough news that even the NY Times was driven to report on LA’s school board contests.
Here’s a clip from the NY Times’ Jennifer Medina’s story:
On Tuesday, voters in Los Angeles will go to the polls for a mayoral primary. But much of the attention will also be on the three races for the school board, a battle that involves the mayor, the teachers’ union and a host of advocates from across the country — including New York City’s billionaire mayor — who have poured millions of dollars into the races.
The outcome of the political fight for the school board seats will have a profound impact on the direction of the nation’s second-largest school district. But the clash has also become a sort of test case for those who want to overhaul public education, weakening the power of the teachers’ union, pushing for more charter schools and changing the way teachers are hired and fired.
After years of pressing to take power away from local school boards, some advocates have directed their money and attention directly to school boards in the hope that they will support their causes, as unions have done in the past.
Last month, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg of New York City donated $1 million to a coalition formed by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa of Los Angeles to help elect candidates who will support the current superintendent and the policy changes he has promoted. Students First, a national advocacy organization created by Michelle A. Rhee, the former schools chancellor in Washington, donated $250,000 to the same cause.
(As we mentioned last Friday, we generally support the reform candidates—especially Kate Anderson.)
TWO LAUSD BOARD MEMBERS TALK ABOUT THE INSIDERS V. OUTSIDERS DONATIONS FALLACY
In an Op Ed for the Daily News, LAUSD board members Marlene Canter and Yolie Flores about the controversy over the out-of-state money coming in for the school board race.
Canter and Flores make the point that, for years, UTLA—LA’s teachers’ union--poured big buk into school board races, where the union stood to gain specific to gain by having “their” people on the board . Now, they write, the playing field has been leveled (or even tilted the opposite direction) by school reform groups and the unions are crying foul.:
Here’s a clip from their Op Ed:
Recently, there has been much talk regarding the “outside groups” who are trying to influence the LAUSD school board elections. But, as former board members with a total of 12 combined years of service, we know first hand the pressures facing LAUSD board members and candidates for the board. Both of us fought for significant changes at LAUSD, and we felt firsthand the strength of the powerful forces that are out to preserve the status quo.
When people with no vested, personal interest in the outcome try to help elect reform-minded candidates, they are branded as “outsiders” who are trying to “buy elections.” This is perplexing. These individuals have a longstanding interest in closing the opportunity gap for poor kids and kids of color, and improving educational achievement for all students.
Personally, they stand to gain exactly nothing if the candidates they are supporting get elected. They’re willing to put their money where their mouth is when it comes to improving education, and their participation is critical for leveling the playing field and keeping these school board races competitive. Yet, when “insiders” who do have a vested, personal interest in the outcome contribute significant funding, this is somehow seen as more acceptable…
JIM NEWTON LISTS WHAT TO LOOK FOR WHEN VOTING FOR MAYOR
Book author, and LA Times’ roving columnist, Jim Newton, is a very smart cookie, and he’s written an interesting column about the field of candidates running for mayor that flies in the face of what has become conventional wisdom—namely that the front five—or front three, really, Wendy Greuel, Erick Garcetti, and Jan Perry—are basically tepid, light-middle weights who have inspired the public to doze off.
It’s a stronger field than conventional wisdom would have you believe, Newton writes.
Here are some clips from Newton’s story:
This is a stronger field than people tend to think. All five of the leading candidates are smart and committed. Three already hold public office and have accomplished some important things while serving; the other two bring new ideas and insights. And they all seem to be driven by the opportunity to lead rather than by the prospect of skimming or doling out jobs and contracts to friends.
Still, as usual, the minutiae of the campaign has tended to swallow up big ideas, leaving instead a pile of cliches that obscure more than they illuminate.
One reason the campaign has been so banal is that the leading contenders aren’t really all that far apart on the issues. So how should you make up your mind? Here are some suggestions for what qualities to look for in a mayor.
And then he lists qualities of courage, judgement and tenacity, creativity and personality—with examples of just exactly what he’s talking about.
A good read, and a good list of ideas to help you decide, if you haven’t already.
NEON TOMMY WILL HAVE LIVELY ELECTIONS COVERAGE ALL DAY!
Annenberg’s Neon Tommy will be bringing their own smart and energetic brand of coverage to Tuesday’s races all through the day. So, consider keeping NeonTommy open from morning on as we all wait for returns.
AND IN OTHER NEWS…..
THE NEWTON TRAGEDY BRINGS ON A SWING BACK TO ZERO TOLERANCE & STRING OF SILLY AND SAD SUSPENSIONS
Education News rounds up a spate of the new and sadly foolish suspensions.
Here’s a clip:
On Jan. 10, five-year-old Madison Guarna unwittingly committed a “terroristic threat” while waiting in line for the afternoon school bus.
During a discussion of butterflies, ladybugs and “kitty cats,” the kindergartner told her friends she was going to shoot them and herself with her Hello Kitty bubble gun, which was not in the girl’s possession at the time.
Since the Newtown tragedy, at least 15 students have been suspended from school – or threatened with suspension – for dubious reasons.
Just last week, a seven-year-old Baltimore student was given a two-day suspension for “biting his breakfast pastry into a shape that his teacher thought looked like a gun,” reports The Daily Mail.
Six of those suspensions were given to elementary students who made “gun gestures” with their fingers.
A Pennsylvania fifth-grader was “threatened with arrest after she mistakenly brought a ‘paper gun’ to school,” reports PrisonPlanet.com.
A 10-year-old Virginia boy was taken into police custody and fingerprinted after he showed “a toy gun with an orange tip” to a friend. He was charged with “brandishing a weapon,” and now he has “a juvenile record and a probation officer,” reports the Washington Post.
And in Colorado, seven-year-old Alex Evans was reportedly suspended from school for “throwing” an imaginary grenade into an imaginary box, which resulted in an imaginary explosion.
The Sandy Hook shootings may be the reason for school leaders’ heightened sensitivity to all things gun-related, but it’s the “zero tolerance” policies put in place by local school boards that often require administrators to hand down these absurd discipline decisions.
HOWEVER SOME NEW SCHOOL SAFETY MEASURES BEING INTRODUCED IN SACRAMENTO ARE STRANGELY…..SENSIBLE.
In the face of the vexing news about outbreaks of zero tolerance craziness, there is some good news. Michael Gardiner at the San Diego Union reports that school safety measures that, post-Newtown being introduced in Sacramento. Here’s a clip:
California lawmakers have introduced nearly two dozen school safety measures that have been largely overshadowed by the more divisive debate on gun control.
The emerging campus security bills involve: inside door locks, panic alarms, mental health services, school safety plans and funding for other prevention programs.
A similar story has unfolded in Washington where Congress remains in conflict over regulating assault weapons, background checks and the size of ammunition magazines. But there is movement on other proposals to secure schools.
“The bottom line is it’s got to get done and it’s got to get done right,” said Marc Egan, who tracks federal school safety issues for the National Education Association.
The general consensus on both coasts is it will take a comprehensive approach to prevent a repeat of the tragedy that occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. just days before Christmas….