It’s been a busy month for LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy.
Groups of education advocates have taken out full page ads and even threatened to sue the school district, amid contentious negotiations with the United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) over tying student achievement with teacher performance. The lawsuit would require teacher evaluations to be linked to student performance under the Stull Act, a law that was passed in 1971. Meanwhile a group called Don’t Hold Us Back is demanding the district and the teachers union hammer out reforms that UTLA has opposed in the past. How have the actions of such groups affected contract negotiations with UTLA?
And state officials say meeting federal requirements to obtain a waiver from the No Child Left Behind law would cost California at least $2 billion, but many school districts say the waiver would actually save money. Does LAUSD endorse seeking a waiver, and if so, why?
And finally, a report from several education think tanks and UC Berkeley finds students in elementary school are not receiving quality science classes. How is LAUSD addressing this issue? As part of our ongoing series Superintendent Deasy will be here to answer your questions and ours.
Here's what the superintendent had to say:
Negotiations with UTLA:
"In essence, what we've been proposing [...] is really quite simple, and that is we believe that parents have a relationship with the school, not LAUSD as some giant building, and that parents have relationships with their local teacher, not UTLA or LAUSD, and we trust our teachers. We believe our teachers and administrators are the smartest people at the site, and know the context of what's best for students. So what we've proposed is that nothing should be in a teacher's way or a school's way for them to be able to transform themselves and improve."
"The contract stays the way it is. If pieces of it are not working for you, you have the right to reshape them so they do work for you. You don't have the right to change the laws, and you don't have the right to have a different auditing system, and you don’t have the right to a different safety system or retirement system, but the way in how you teach, in the way you know how students learn best, we think that should be far more in the hands of our professional experts."
State budget cuts and their affect on L.A. public schools:
"I think we should stop using the words 'if this trigger kicks in.' The [Legislative Analyst’s Office] released today that the general fund for 2011-2012 fiscal year we're in is going to be $3.7 billion below the level assumed of the budget, and it was $2 billion which triggered the cut. So we are well over 'if' there will be triggers."
"For LAUSD, we have to think about this as approximately $150-175 million in reductions in the middle of the fiscal year. [...] It means [losing] 1,700 teachers, 11 less days of school. It would also mean [...] the end of public school transportation for the second half of the year."
"There would be no funding to run [school buses]. This disproportionally affects our youth of poverty and our youth in special education. Now I don't have solutions today. I will have to have solutions in front of the board within a month, but I don't have them today. But I can tell you what goes through my mind – we just won't do it. You simply cannot leave a child on a sidewalk in L.A. That's ridiculous."
"The very structure of what once supported students has been devastated. [...] It's how we're spending the dollars we have. So we continue to robustly fund prisons in the state of California, and criminally underfund education."
Money spent per pupil:
"California spends a third from the bottom of the 50 states per pupil, of the United States. [...] We fundamentally spend dramatically less than most states our size. If we take a look at New Jersey, for example, it's approximately $14,000 per student, and we're close to $7,000."
Potential program cuts:
"The notion that one program or another is 'on the chopping block' – I don't mean to be simplistic about this, but this is not a cut. We can't cut our way out of this, this is a revenue issue. And so we're going to have to come to grips, as a city, that if we wish to keep programs for which we're now seeing remarkable successes with LAUSD, the solution is not to absorb greater cuts. It is to find additional revenues."
John Deasy, LAUSD Superintendent