There was once a time when our schools were overflowing with oversized classes, overutilized school facilities, and over-the-top school schedules that required full-year schedules were a fact of life. No longer.
As reported by the Daily News, LAUSD enrollment has dropped 10% from its 2002 peak, in part as a result of demographic shifts that have affected other Southland school districts.
However, there is also the phenomenon of double-digit percentage gains to charter schools each year that almost entirely accounts for the drop in LAUSD enrollment. Charter schools, magnet schools and similar programs achieve a private school-like parent-teacher relationship outside LAUSD union rules but with public funds.
Looks like the concept of school choice is alive and well, despite the failed efforts that once were put towards school voucher programs, and which were demonized by the education unions and lobbies.
In particular, school choice with public tax dollars appears to be a first-rate alternative to the unaffordable private school path as our economic downturn forces most households to do more with less.
This is not to suggest that families won’t volunteer extra money and time to do the right thing for their kids and for their kids’ schools. Families, by and large, are extremely generous towards the schools and communities they want their children to thrive in.
Unfortunately, this generosity is not always extended towards the leadership of the LAUSD that still squanders untold fortunes into new schools when upgrading existing schools might be a better approach. Facilities still get fixed and maintained via a Byzantine system of delayed and arbitrary union contractor rules, pensions are still a nightmare, and “players” still can’t be blasted out of administrative fiefdoms with dynamite.
So while capitalism, love of learning and efficiency is alive and well among parents and their allies in the charter schools, the LAUSD political and union leadership are still “Waiting for Superman” to rescue them from themselves.
As a physician, however, who long ago recognized the need for my profession to look in the mirror and do more with less—but saw the inertia for such paradigm changing as almost ubiquitous—I’d have to suggest (as have many others, including our pro-union Mayor and President) that the same could and should be said for the education profession.
It’s a fun little “growth industry” to keep throwing tax and bond initiatives for more education funding in front of the taxpayers, but it’s anyone’s guess when enough taxpayers realize that movement has “jumped the shark” and that financial sustainability and better utilization of tax dollars is more important than just feeding the gigantic maw of our educational powers-that-be.
Teachers, both private and charter, have taken on more personal responsibilities and, at times, less money, just to be part of a system that works. Doing more with less is something that brings joy and satisfaction, not just feelings of drudgery and resentment, to those teachers.
We’re teaching children (and adults, too) that being sustainable with respect to our environment and with our personal health is the right way to go. Let’s see if being sustainable is something our teachers can teach their leaders to do as well.
(Ken Alpern is a former Boardmember of the Mar Vista Community Council (MVCC), previously co-chaired its Planning and Outreach Committees, and currently co-chairs its MVCC Transportation/Infrastructure Committee. He is co-chair of the CD11 Transportation Advisory Committee and chairs the nonprofit Transit Coalition.)
SOURCE: CityWatch, http://citywatchla.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=4175