Education LAUSD

Latest Los Angeles Education Wars: Follow the Money


In that I was teaching all day yesterday,
education’s on my mind. So while the presidential primary and caucus dramas rage on, take a look at this:

On Thursday, Los Angeles gazillionaire philanthropist, Eli Broad
, gave another big chunk of bucks, $23.3 million to be exact, that is to go toward opening seventeen new charter schools in Los Angeles County. Broad has already given over $10 million to the Green Dot Charter schools, and another $6.5 million to another respected charter group. This latest grant brings Broad’s donations to charters to nearly $60 million.

This morning’s LA Times editorial suggests
that this newest pile of Broad money is a sign that the loss of faith in the Los Angeles Unified School District’s ability to reform itself has reached a tipping point, and that now LA’s main education reformers are putting their money and efforts elsewhere:

[Broad’s newest money grant] signals
to the Los Angeles Unified School District that local education leaders have changed their thinking about the floundering public schools. They’re tired of saying that the time for change is now. Instead, they’re saying the time for change has passed. Having run out of hope for swift reform within L.A. Unified, they’ll make it happen without L.A. Unified.


….L.A. Unified’s efforts have been so small, and so slow to get going, that the big money has largely been betting elsewhere. Years of ineffective leadership by the school board stymied innovations. The board then fended off Villaraigosa’s effort to govern the schools and hasten the pace of reform. The new, mayor-backed board majority has not yet been the force for reform the district so badly needs. The pace continues to plod.

The union role in this cannot be ignored. Green Dot earlier negotiated with the district on a plan to operate Locke High School as an L.A. Unified charter. Talks fell apart when United Teachers Los Angeles was unwilling to liberalize its work and tenure rules. So, with the support of a teachers’ petition, Green Dot simply took over the school, and now the union loses those positions altogether

PS: On that last point, lets hope that in the upcoming union elections the smart,
progressive candidate for UTLA president, Linda Guthrie, is able to wrest the control of the union away from A. J. Duffy and his faction.


  • This site makes me glad that I don’t live in L.A. There’s nothing but bad news and incompetence there.

    I presume that you don’t run your articles by the Chamber of Commerce before you publish them.

  • Again, I will repeat what everyone knows. This is a LAUSD problem. PPeople who live in the surrounding suburbs and cities – like Long Beach, like Pasadena, like Glendale-Burbank and Beverly Hills – are, by and large very happy with their schools and support bond measures to improve them. Down here behind the Orange Curtin places like Irvine see their property values bolstered by the reputation of the public schools.

  • rlc, the kids who live in Long Beach through Beverly Hills have a few more brains than the kids who can’t even make it to class in parts of L.A. That’s common with many large central city schools versus those in the suburbs.

    You can’t compare the systems, because one has a bigger challenge, but the one with the bigger challenge is more concerned with the welfare of administrators and teachers than the kids, and no amount of money will fix that and may only make that worse as the bureaucrats look for more power through money. People will be griping about the LAUSD for the next thirty years and longer.

  • Anybody know of where you can find real hard-hitting reporting on these charter schools? Every now and then somebody unearths a set of schools that is primarily a scam (the for-profit charter model has been pretty much discredited), but we really don’t know very much about even the legit charter school orgs. One Green Dot school Principal admitted that besides sharing of admin costs and some very basic principles, Green Dot schools don’t have that much in common with one another. And parents are flocking to the Green Dot schools not because they agree with the educational philosophy or know about the educational outcomes but because they’ve heard that the schools are good (a claim for which we have very limited evidence) and that they’re safer (which is understandable but incredibly depressing). I’m as critical of LAUSD as anybody, but I think we need some better information about the panacea of charter schools.

  • The LAUSD needs to be down-sized. The LAUSD has about 200 high schools under its thumb. Most L.A. suburbs have 1-5 high schools in their district. All the outlying areas such as San Fernando, Hollywood, Westside, Venice and etc. should have broken off from the LAUSD years ago.

    Now to Eli Broad, he should be donating millions into the city of Los Angeles in return for all the sneaky tax concessions which he has been given to build in the Los Angeles downtown area.

  • Kids who live in LA have less brains than the kids in ‘burbs? Huh?

    Won’t even ask for proof since you obviously had a brain fart.

  • The Times article describes the schools Broad is supporting as more than rigorous: they require kids to put in 10hr days, plus about 3 hrs. of homework AND go to school on Saturdays AND during the summer. So far their tests scores are under 800 anyway. Apparently and not surprisingly, some kids quit, while others “wake up crying” at the thought of school until they get used to it. Teachers expect military-style precision, obedience and speed in lining up in the halls, etc.

    This extreme approach may be effective for the most at-risk kids who have no discipline or inherent love of learning, and a home life which isn’t a positive role model — but it sure sounds grim to me. More a punitive, stick approach to learning that the carrot/creative which “smart” kids need.

    There is a total lack of emphasis on the needs of bright/ highly gifted kids in the system who aren’t being served.

    Woody, when Alabama is nationally known for the creative, intellectual students and adults it graduates, maybe we’ll care about your generalizations about L A. In the meantime, I’d love to send you some of our non-English speaking illegals to where they’re 75% of the Birmingham school district, and see how you fare in educating them while preventing black-brown-white redneck ethnic tensions.

    (Actually, I’ll grant you this: there wouldn’t be the PC nonsense we have here, so it would indeed by an interesting social experiment to see how Alabama handles our problem. Which, as I’ve said, is a result of fed failure to curb illegal immigration — and you can’t lay that all on Dems, since Bush is more intent than anyone on opening our borders to Mexican trucking companies, NAFTA and doing nothing to curb illegal immigration, which agribusiness needs.)

  • The problem with immigration control started with the Democrats, who have promoted themselves as favoring giving benefits and citizenship to illegals, which forces the Republicans to say “me, too.” That’s like all the problems and spending programs.

    If the government spent money to control the borders, it could pay for that with the money that it saves from schools and other social resources.

  • The New Yorker had a very interesting article several months ago that looked at education and examined the KIPP schools. I’m all for innovative approaches but I do question any school that eliminates the arts curriculum. We’ll have to wait and see. Though my request was really aimed at info about some of the more local charter groups like Green Dot and Aspire, though I think they are in the Bay Area too.

    Woody’s a Georgia boy and I compared the national report cards for the states. Georgia has a very similar level of poverty to California, but far fewer English language learners. They have a teacher/pupil rate of 14.7 to our 20.8 and the spend a couple hundred dollars more per pupil and since cost of living is cheaper in Georgia, I imagine that difference is really more than that. And their scores are typically between five and ten points higher and they have a much higher percentage of students meeting the national profficency standard. So the correlation between class size and per-pupil spending and test scores does play out. Of course with the way NCLB incentivizes schools to inflate scores, it’s hard to trust the data.

  • All legitimate questions, Mavis. I know less about Aspire than I do Green Dot, as it’s primarily based in the Bay area, but I do know that it’s founder, Don Shalvey is a highly regarded guru of the California charter school movement, and the mentor/inspiration for Steve Barr and Green Dot.

    As we all know, I’ve done a lot on Green Dot here at WitnessLA and have pretty much given them a free pass in portraying Green Dot/Barr as the noble David taking on Goliath.

    Yet, over the past three years, I’ve observed their organization and several of their schools at very close range and, while the system and it’s leaders aren’t perfect (I’ve observed enough and talked to most of their serious detractors enough to know their main flaws), their hearts are in the right place and their results are hard to dismiss. Green Dot schools have far higher test scores, lower drop out rates and more of their graduates going on to college than the schools around them with the same demographic. Some of the Green Dot schools are doing better than others, and some of the better numbers can be attributed to the fact that these are all basically boutique schools operating in low income areas. This means that the parents who have it together enough to apply to a Green Dot school are, by definition a self-selecting group that is more likely to succeed, no matter how at risk or disadvantaged the demographic. Yet even with all that factored in, the schools still do measurable better than their LAUSD counterparts simply because their approach to education (small schools, smaller class size, individual attention and assessment, all kids on a college track)is simply smarter and more functional. There’s no magic. It’s not rocket science. In a Green Dot school if a kid goes off the rails (which they do), the adults notice and take appropriate action. It doesn’t always work, but more often than not it does.

    Plus Green Dot has the ability to attract teachers to are still impassioned about teaching—and that’s a huge help. The phoning-it-in burn outs simply aren’t hired.

    I’ve been on four of their campuses multiple times, and each is different than the other, true. But they all function within certain core principles, which are pretty good ones.

    I also know piles of anecdotal stories from kids and/or parents where the kids were just drowning in their big, bad LAUSD school, then a transfer to a Green Dot school was little short of life-saving. (And these are stories I’ve gathered myself, not tales told to me by Green Dot people.)

    You walk into a Green Dot school and it’s often on a strange looking campus, in some building that was made for something else, and yet it feels like an genuinely okay, emotionally healthy place to be. Just going there and observing is the most persuasive experience when judging the system’s worth. Yet, as I said earlier; it’s by no means without problems. Taking over Locke is going to be a bear.

    But, even knowing the downsides the teachers and the parents went for the charter conversion based on the ABTT principle: Anything’s Better Than This.

  • Well that is because – since Prop 13 – we’ve been settin’ our sights on Missisissippi!

  • thanks. I certainly value your opinon on these issues. I just worry that an ABTT approach maybe doesn’t set our sights high enough.

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