With guest, Louder Than a Bomb poet Nate Marshall

Monday, October 12, 2009

Riordan on choice resolution--No vote for teachers

"They can't be objective when their jobs are at stake..."

Richard Riordan is the former Republican mayor of Los Angeles. He is a wealthy, conservative, venture capitalist who never met a privatization project he didn't like.

Riordan has a column in today's L.A. Times advising the school board on implementation of its latest Public School Choice Resolution, which allows charter school operators, unions, universities and other nonprofit companies to submit proposals to take over low-performing schools -- as well as some of the district's expensive real estate. Writes Riordan, "any school that's below par should be fair game for takeover."

But he's "skeptical as to whether the LAUSD will take full advantage of this window for change." And who wouldn't be. So he calls on the board to do some things to ensure success.

First, he calls on them to emulate cities like Chicago and hire a "strong leader" to execute this effort. But that leader in Chicago he's referring to, Josh Edelman, was just fired by CEO Ron Huberman after researchers found that the city's new Renaissance 2010 privately-managed charter schools were performing no better than the "low-performing" schools they were supposed to replace.

Next Riordan sets out quite a busy schedule for the new start-up schools czar's team. He demands that they "spend every minute of every day on the project." Wow, that's a lot of minutes. For those lacking calculators, it rounds off to 1,440 minutes each day, 10,080 minutes each week, and 524,160 minutes each year. Big OT bills for a school system that's broke.

Not to worry says Riordan.
If the LAUSD cannot afford additional salaries right now, it should reach out to private foundations for help.
Now that he's solved that problem, Riordan says, the district needs to ensure that proposals are "judged on merit, not politics." (Stop it Richard, you're killing me). "Special interests," he warns, "cannot be allowed to block progress."

Example: "Last week, the superintendent revealed plans to ask teachers at the lowest-performing schools to vote on restructuring proposals for their own campuses."

Riordan is stunned by even this little symbolic gesture towards democracy.
Although well-intentioned, this is a flawed idea. How can the district expect teachers to cast "objective" votes when their jobs may be at risk?
I agree. How about banning all workers from voting? Since their jobs hang in the balance in every election these days, there's no way they (we) could be ever be "objective."

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