Outsource It! Privatize It! LA School Reform in the Age of Obama

Acting on the ideological position that teachers are the root of all evil, and with the full support of the city’s Latino mayor, the LA school board has voted to transfer one-third of its schools to private, charter management – including 50 brand new campuses. Corporate outsourcing now passes as education policy.

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

“The LA schools handover may represent the biggest one-shot giveaway of public school property in history.”

The Los Angeles Board of Education has voted overwhelmingly to outsource the operations of about one-third of the district’s schools, a huge blow to the very concept of public education in the nation’s second largest city. The scheme would allow private charter operators to take control of over 250 schools, including 50 brand new, multi-million dollar campuses. The great giveaway to private contractors was approved by a six-to-one vote, with the enthusiastic support of Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

Two hundred of the schools to be placed on the auction block are classified as “underperforming.” The 50 new school campuses that are up for grabs were paid for by the public through construction bonds. The purpose was to relieve overcrowding, but now the spanking new buildings are to be put up for bids by private charter companies. That’s an illegal giveaway of public resources, say opponents of the turnover. The teachers union agrees, and is exploring legal strategies to block the outsourcing. Under California state law, charter schools don’t have to hire union workers.

If it goes through, the LA schools handover may represent the biggest one-shot giveaway of public school property in history. The 50 recently constructed schools alone are the equivalent of a big city school district, all brand new and just out of the box, giving the charter operators a huge, built-in physical plant advantage over the city’s traditional public schools.

The transfer of one-third of LA’s public schools to charter operation means the city will no longer be able to claim to have a truly city-wide public school system. In this, LA will come to resemble New Orleans, where charter privateers now dominate the school infrastructure, and accountability for the system as a whole is non-existent. Veteran teachers have been replaced, wholesale, by young, non-union novices.

“LA will come to resemble New Orleans, where charter privateers now dominate the school infrastructure.”

In New Orleans, Hurricane Katrina blew in the charter school takeover. In Chicago, the driving force was corporate elements of the Democratic Party. Massive imposition of charter schools has led to grossly disproportionate terminations of Chicago’s Black teachers, replaced mostly by white youngsters from outside the city.

The corporate world, which cares a great deal about the salaries of its executives and consultants, blames unionized teachers for the decline in big city public schools – an ideological position with no basis in measurable reality. Suburban teachers are just as likely to be unionized as inner city teachers, but we don’t see suburban communities describing teachers as the root of all evil. And we can’t even imagine a white, suburban district hundreds millions of dollars to build a whole generation of brand new schools – and then turning the buildings over to private contractors to do with as they please. That’s inconceivable.

Outsourcing of public education only occurs in overwhelmingly Black and brown school districts, places where, like in Los Angeles, public property and public responsibility to students is put on the private auction block.

For Black Agenda Radio, I’m Glen Ford. On the web, go to www.BlackAgendaReport.com.
BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.

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