Shaking Up the Status Quo in L.A. Schools

Monday, November 7, 2011

Six million, give or take. That's how many children are in public school in California.

Arguably, we won't have a strong economic future if they don't get a good education.

But boy, do the grown-ups love to muck things up for the kids.

Politics, ego, endless skirmishes between school districts and teacher unions — it all gets in the way of the kids' best interests. And California spends less per pupil than all but a few states when you adjust for regional cost-of-living differences, leading to an annual ritual of laying off thousands of teachers and other staffers.

But in Los Angeles, the status quo is under attack.

Parents and education advocates are suing L.A. Unified in an effort to enforce an overlooked state law that requires teacher and principal evaluations to be linked to student achievement.

Meanwhile, a phalanx of parents, advocates and organizations, including the United Way, is demanding that L.A. Unified and United Teachers Los Angeles lay down their weapons in current contract negotiations and hammer out some big-ticket reforms. Doing so, of course, would require changes UTLA has militantly resisted.

The movement is calling itself Don't Hold Us Back, suggesting it's ready for a fight. And because it includes organizations and people who have seldom been fans of unions, critics say it's all a conspiracy to privatize public schools for personal gain.

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