Teacher Insanity

A Blog for an Insane Teacher to Complain About the Insanity of The Education World Today

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Villaraigosa's LAUSD Changes: Follow the Money

Here's a brief history of our school board elections in the past decade or so. Now, this might come off as a biased history, but I'm a teacher, and so I am biased in favor of teachers. Now, a lot of people in these elections have been blasting teacher-unions as being similarly biased in favor of teachers, and that's a problem. Now, I want to begin by addressing this problem. What we should be asking when we talk about a teacher bias is what is it a bias towards? Well, I can tell you. There are two things teachers want: a) they want to have good lives and b) they want the children to learn. Now, don't we all want a)? Yes, teachers prefer to make more money, but don't you? What would happen, you might ask, if teachers got all the money they wanted and made as much as doctors or lawyers? Well, like those professions, there would be a glut of people entering the field and schools would be able to choose the wisest and most qualified people to fill their teaching positions and children would get the best education possible! Oh no! Who could imagine such a horrible thing!

Now, what is not asked enough when the media carries all these fears of teacher bias is: Who is on the other side and what's their bias? For most of our school board elections of recent times in LA (and I bet your district is no different), the other side has been represented by building magnates. Each school board election (or almost each one) has had one person who was backed by teacher unions and one person who was backed by building magnates. The media always gets up in arms about how the person backed by the teaching union is biased...biased in favor of teachers, in favor of education, and (Gasp!) in favor of children learning...

But no one tends to ask what the heck is the bias of the people backed by building magnates?

Well, LAUSD had a perfectly good building just ten years ago, with a decent location. Then we bought a much worse building in a much worse location, where we are no longer allowed to park in the parking lot and things are falling apart everywhere. But we paid a fortune for this "new" building -- a building so new that no one else would buy it.

I wonder what the building magnate candidates are biased towards...

But recently, the union candidates have been winning in LAUSD. This has really frightened the other side. And now, Villaraigosa's new proposal.

And notice, I don't think our unions are without blame. Just last year they tried to turn down a raise to get even more money with the pure greed you'd expect from a union. But what happened? Did you hear about a strike to turn down a 3% raise to get a 5% one? NO! Because although our union can be greedy, we teachers are not interested in losing school days until we really have to. So, the unions back this proposal, but are they asking what it is really about?

There's some provisions in it that are sneaky (The Mayor's council is in charge of the 36 failing schools. Are they in charge of just those 36 schools or any school that's failing? I don't know, but I'd bet the latter. But, if you know anything about NCLB, you know that number is just going to grow exponentially, so Villaraigosa secretly did get complete control like he wanted, he just has to wait...), but there is one way to know what this compromise is really about...Follow the money.

Here's the key provision: the school board loses its power to make decisions that cost LAUSD more than $25,000. I had to read that twice. I thought it might have said less than, but I teach first grade, so I know the difference. Why the heck would we want the power to spend so much money to go from a small group to a single person (the Superintendent, the choice of whom the mayor will now have veto-power)?

Here's an obvious explanation: the union candidates are beginning to take over the school board. That means they'll want to spend more money on (gasp!) education. They might start turning down purchase for much more needed decrepit (gasp!) buildings! They might prioritizing student learning over building-magnate pocket-books (double-gasp!)!

But with one person, and the mayor able to veto anyone he doesn't like, making the decision for spending over $25,000, look-out world, LAUSD is about to over-pay for some more falling-apart and falling-down buildings!

Thank you, Mayor Villaraigosa. For a second there, I was worried about who the building-magnates would rip off if the money started being spent on the children learning...

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Another Cutie