LAUSD'S Latest Pyrrhic Victory

I thought by waiting over a week before addressing the furlough deal between LAUSD and UTLA that I might feel differently, but time -- when dealing with anything rotten -- has only made it stink more. I had a dream last night where Ramon Cortines had replaced Monty Hall as MC of the once popular Let's Make A Deal, with always stylish A.J. Duffy bringing that Jimmy Cagneyesque charm to assisting Ray the same way Vanna White brought it to make Monty shine. In my dream/nightmare, instead of having three doors to choose from, teachers had only two.

Behind door number one, close to 6300 teachers, counselors and other employees would lose their jobs and the remaining staff would have to pick up the slack by increasing their class size and work load, which was already way beyond what anyone could reasonable expect teachers to cope with: 43 plus students in many classes and students dramatically behind grade level in terms of academic skills necessary to be engaged.

Behind door number two are furlough days that put already economically stressed educators under even greater stress in an economy that still has close to 4 million homes tittering on the edge of foreclosure. While UTLA President A.J. Duffy says, "This is a huge victory" and "The victory is for our students - because we're bringing all those teachers back and keeping class sizes down as well" or Ramon Cortines saying, "I am very pleased and I appreciate the understanding of the district's teachers and the sacrifices they are making in instructional time and salary," there is no discussion by either UTLA or LAUSD about the untenable and failing education with already too large classes and students who not so long ago Superintendent Roy Romer was saying LAUSD had to extend the school year to realistically be able to help:

Extending the School Year

Concept 6 under Romer in 2003 -- READ HERE

"Mr. Liechty presented the Superintendent's proposal for extended school year and intersession program for Concept 6 calendar and quarter system calendar schools as a conceptual design in response to the motion. He discussed the process and reviewed the recommendations. Due to the budget situation this coming year, staff is recommending a phase-in approach to the Extended Year program. Funding sources include Title 1 and the State Hourly Replacement Program funds. Mr. Liechty reviewed the budget details."

When LAUSD was flush with money, it proposed many programs like Beyond the Bell, Concept 6, and Learning Academies that were supposed to address student deficits, but in reality had more to do with everyone involved tapping into what at the time was an endless source of state and federal monies that were spent with little or nothing to show for it.

In my time with LAUSD, I have never heard either an LAUSD Superintendent or a UTLA President do anything but bullshit me as if I was stupid. How can this district go from proposing extending the school year to deal with the gross deficits that LAUSD students continue to have in 2003-2005 and then do a 180 degree turn because the economy is bad and propose cutting the school year, while all the time talking the talk about how everybody is going to college? Now that the state budget is bad, the objective reality of where the majority of LAUSD students are at has not changed. Under what circumstances, if any, would Superintendent Cortines or UTLA President A.J. Duffy ever stand up and say, "It is not possible to do what we are being asked to do with the financial and people assets we have." Imagine the two of them joining together and tell the State of California that a situation where a 2/3rds majority is required to pass any new taxes is not acceptable in light of the crisis that public education is in and that tax cuts for the rich are inconsistent with viable public education.

To say that this furlough "is also expected to prevent the district from needing to increase class sizes" is a distortion of reality, since class sizes are already too large and not appropriately staffed for the remediation that needs to be done if one hopes to salvage any reasonable number of the students presently in the system. Cutting class time, while saving $140 million does nothing to address the even more costly needs that these students will have in terms of welfare and criminal justice costs if they are allowed to move through school unscathed by knowledge.

And what about the remaining $500 million shortfall? Ramon and A.J. maintain their mock adversarial relationship, which always gets resolved the way LAUSD says, unless the superintendent happens to cross middle class White parents with the social capital and political clout that can get Ramon to rescind his earlier decision to not allow permits out of the District. I can remember when furlough meant R & R with pay.

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