Wednesday, May 20, 2015

School Board Elections vs Mayoral Control? Time to Dig Deeper

With today's 3 year renewal of mayoral control, here are some thoughts.
Now that de Blasio has backed off so much of the resistance to ed deform he promised, there is more willingness to give him this extension. But he is still hated by the deformers. Lots of people are thinking he is a one-term mayor - imagine Eva in charge - deformers would extent that for life.

Some of our allies (our friends in Chicago and some here pushing a "People's Board") have seized upon school board elections as the alternative to handing total control over to a mayor/czar. I'm not so sure it is worth investing resources into citywide school board elections that turn into battlegrounds between charter/privatization interests loaded with bucks and the teacher unions have to put their precious resources into countering them - see the Ravitch piece below on the LA elections.

I believe a better solution is to decentralize the system to the greatest possible extent - down to the smallest community built on 1 neighborhood HS, a few middle schools and the elementary schools that feed them-- roughly a 15 unit cluster in terms of governance and basic decision making, especially on the hiring of principals. The deformers want to destroy the neighborhood school concept so as to break fealty to that idea and the local public schools so they can take over these institutions. Even the old k-8 32 district community control system, with all its bosses and corruption issues, would never have allowed Eva and other charters into the door. So the destruction of that system - and the use of negative propaganda to assist -- was an essential first step in the privatization scheme. Even if there were bosses and dictators, at least they were confined to small areas - and more centralized oversight would address those issues. I still think those basic district political units are still useful - and they still exist.

Though anti-deformers have been holding their own in races around the nation, we should question if that is the model we want to push. Even an elected school board is still central control. As Diane points out, the turn-out is low because the local communities don't have a stake -- just like UFT election turnout is low because most people don't have a stake. I realize the turnout for our old local school board elections was also very low -- but there were some extenuating reasons. I say, let's look at what was right and wrong with the pre-Bloomberg system and fix it.

The Los Angeles School Board Race: Charters 1, Public Schools 1

As early returns indicated, Bennett Kayer lost his seat on the Los Angeles school board to charter founder Ref Rodriguez and charter supporter Tamar Galatzan lost her seat to retired public school educator Scott Schmerelson. It was a very low turnout election, as usual (sadly). The president of the school board, Dr. Richard Vladovic, was re-elected. The board will remain divided over the continued privatization of the public schools. Los Angeles already has more students in charter schools than any other city. The charter industry had hoped to gain decisive control of the board to continue its expansion.
The battle continues. The billionaires dropped a few million into the L.A. race, principally to defeat Kayser. They succeeded. They probably didn't count on losing Galatzan or they would have spent a few more million to shore up that seat.

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