I have several news items to share that demonstrate the socio-political influences are at work on a regular basis in L.A.
Looking to the LAUSD and charter schools operations, there’s the question of the LAUSD producing administrative decisions that are absolutely at odds with any quality control standards, while an El Sereno charter school remains alive despite all indications point to ending this program:
Academia Semillas, a Failing School, Escapes Closure, by Hillel Aron, April 26, 2012, in L.A. Weekly, gives us the first sampling of how political influence can be the thumb-on-the-scale to shift decisions. Board President Monica Garcia and other LAUSD board members aligned with her as loyal Villaraigosa followers voted to renew the charter school instead of abiding by recommendations that clearly had this program headed for a termination.
It seems that politics is one of Garcia’s stronger concerns over getting the best educational opportunity in place for area students. And Garcia has inspired a recall movement to be launched against her.
Moving along the education path to the community college level, there’s L.A. Trade Tech working on getting some accountability by going with its own operations as apparent in Faculty group calls for L.A. Trade Tech president to resign, by Abby Sewell, Los Angeles Times, April 26, 2012.
It sure does look like there’s cause for concern, but the school's president has his own plans on staying until reaching a 2013 retirement. The story shows that this plan might have the president coming up with a need for "Plan B" to apply here.
And in some surprising news, the L.A. City Council approves the LAUSD redistricting maps but not the version that Mayor Villaraigosa approves: L.A. Board of Education’s new election boundaries approved, by Howard Blume, Los Angeles Times, April 26, 2012. The article’s subheading says it all: “The boundaries offer something to each sitting board member.”
This outcome is a turnabout in City Council modus operandi when compared to the much-maligned process that produced the City Council's own redistricting map a few weeks ago. That process, truly shameful by any measure of fairness, showed the heavy influence of Council President Herb Wesson as Jan Perry and Bernard Parks suffered some major changes to their district. Attorney Helen Kim, appointed by City Controller Wendy Greuel to the 21-member city Redistricting Commission, was a strong critic of the city process that differed widely from the way the state redistricting process was handled.
Perry and Parks were the only City Council members who did not vote on CM Herb Wesson's successful bid to become Council president. In a contrasting approach to redistricting outcomes, the LAUSD expected a political squeezing out, but that did not happen in District 5. The district maps that were finally approved were the ones showing little change and not the ones that were proposed with the major changes.
The Mayor's preferred maps had Benett Kayser's District 5 set for a total reshaping, moving away from any productive purpose for the change. And that would have been one of the "consequences" of not being on the Villaraigosa side of the table among the politicized members of the LAUSD board who are in tune with what the mayor decides.
Remember that in the District 5 election, Kayser defeated opponent Luis Sanchez, Monica Garcia's chief of staff, in a hotly contested action. This was the seat held previously by Yolie Flores.
Garcia's own position on the LAUSD board came after loyal service as José Huizar's chief of staff and thereafter receiving the support of Mayor Villaraigosa. This was part of the chain of events of the time, as Huizar was elected to fill the CM’s position in CD-14 that was abandoned by Villaraigosa as he chose to make the career ladder climb to become mayor.
Kayser spoke last week at the local meeting of the Historic Highland Park Neighborhood Council, where he voiced his views on local constituents’ concerns. Those concern were focused mainly on opposing the mandatory sharing of existing LAUSD schools with charter schools, namely as it affected Franklin High. At that meeting, Kayser spoke of that redistricting map that affected his district most adversely. More details found in the of April 23. No doubt the City Council's vote on the final mapping result surprised CMs Jan Perry and Bernard Parks who were not spared any of the wrath generated by Council President Herb Wesson during the City's turn at remapping Council districts based on the census changes.
So the idea that having friends in high places—or even just the right places—can produce some changes and surprises, both good and bad, depending on what side you choose to take.