Our children are not commodities

Scott Schmerelson, Steve Zimmer and George McKennaFebruary 1, 2016Scott SchmerelsonIn their first meeting of the new year, the Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education set a strong new direction for the district by adopting the “Excellent Public Education for Every Student” resolution. The board’s unanimous approval of this action made it clear that the district would no longer be doing business as usual and would stand together to counter efforts to move more than 250,000 students from LAUSD public schools to privately operated charter schools.
The new initiative by the Los Angeles Unified board “affirms and publicly commits to making every possible effort to attract and retain students and parents by engaging with all stakeholders to develop a framework for excellent public schools, and improved outcomes, for every student….” The board directed the new superintendent to analyze how a proposal to reduce the number of students in district schools would impact the district’s ability to provide an outstanding public education for all students.
Steve ZimmerThe unanimous adoption of the new initiative demonstrated the ability of the board members to work together on their shared mission. The resolution was crafted over several months, attracted significant public input and had the collaborative support of all board members.
Board members clearly stated their opposition to internal and external initiatives that view our communities as a public education marketplace and our children as commodities; it is a strong rebuttal to the Great Public Schools Now plan commissioned and funded by the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation.
Over the past 20 years, the Los Angeles Unified board has clearly shown their support for charter schools. Los Angeles Unified has more charter schools than any other school district in the country. More than 236 privately operated charter schools have been approved and are in place. Board members have historically believed that charter schools provide options for parents and students and have looked favorably on this school model originally conceived to develop new approaches to education.
George McKennaBut charter proponents referring to our community as an educational marketplace and using the terms of battle, weapons and war when promoting the benefits of competition is inappropriate when referring to the universal right of every child to a public education. The constant banter of the claimed failure of the teachers, school site staff, and students who attend Los Angeles Unified neighborhood schools is demoralizing to those who have devoted their lives to benefit the children of our community. All board members acknowledge that our schools should be constantly and consistently improving, but all also recognize the multitude of stellar and successful schools and programs within the district.
In our role as policymakers, this resolution also provides a roadmap – a plan that reiterates that we will not be satisfied until there is fair and equitable opportunity for all students, constantly improving instructional outcomes for all students, and adequate resources for all schools. We want to better support our teachers and continue to nurture extraordinary school leadership. We are committed to growing early education, restoring music and the arts, pursuing new strategies for parent engagement and tirelessly promoting community schools until we reach zero dropouts and 100 percent of our students are graduating career- and college-ready and prepared for productive roles in the civic life of our local communities.
With a unified board, we have a once-in-a-generation moment to invest in transforming educational outcomes for students in every community and to galvanize support for our children and our schools. All those who care deeply about the future of Los Angeles are urged to join us in our shared mission, in the spirit of collaboration and partnership, to provide the best possible education for all students, not just some students.
Scott Schmerelson is a member of the Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education and author of the “Excellent Public Education for Every Student” resolution. Steve Zimmer is president of the LAUSD board. George McKenna is vice president of the LAUSD board.
The opinions expressed in this commentary represent those of the authors. EdSource welcomes commentaries representing diverse points of view. If you would like to submit a commentary, please review our guidelines and contact us.
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