While the Mayor does not have direct control over the LAUSD, some of the reform items I support include District-wide open enrollment, which is also described as school choice, the parent-trigger legislation (as I believe anything that provides an incentive for parents to become more involved in their schools is good for public education). I also support reform measures to deal directly with violence and drug use in our public schools. I met with LAUSD Superintendent Deasy a few weeks ago and confirmed my understanding that the District has the infrastructure in place to move such troubled students into other facilities -- known in the District as "special day," "option" and "continuation" facilities. Moving students into these "high-attention" facilities serves two very important objectives -- (1) the student is transferred to an environment better suited for their individual needs, and (2) the classroom is able to function much more effectively without the distraction of the troubled student. The problem we face District-wide is the requirement that if the student is moved into the alternative facility, the Average Daily Attendance funds attached to the student go with the student to the alternative facility. Thus, teachers and administrators have an incentive to keep the troubled student in the original school even though the troubled student and the classmates around them would be better served by the transfer.
By failing to move these troubled students into available "high-attention" facilities, the District is giving up on them thereby setting them up for the school-to-prison pipeline. Under my proposed reform measure, students transferred to "high-attention" facilities can work their way back into the main stream school through good grades, good attendance and good citizenship.
I would also invite all stakeholders, particularly parents, to have a voice in the reform measures to improve the LAUSD by holding town hall meetings throughout the City in order to inspire, inform, motivate and empower parents and community members to become a more integral part of the education process to bring about these needed reforms.
Given the size and complexity of the LAUSD, I will create within the Mayor's office an Education Information Officer that will serve as a sounding board for parents, students, teachers and administrators. This office will be part of the Mayor's office and completely independent of the LAUSD. In the face of recent LAUSD scandals, including the Miramonte scandal, allegations of the misuse of funds, and fading confidence in our school district, Angelenos need to know that there is a safe place to go outside of the LAUSD to bring their issues and concerns.
The Mayor's office will also create an education liaison that will attend all LAUSD board meetings and will also serve as an education advisor in the Mayor's office. The Mayor's education office will create and operate a user-friendly resource website the will be a one-stop-shop for providing easy access to policies, municipal codes, and state and federal laws that directly relate to school facilities, rules, guidelines, and funds. This resource will also provide information about, and links to, organizations that cover education-related matters such as bullying, gangs, special education needs, drug use, school violence, school safety, and construction and land-use issues.
I will utilize the influence of the Mayor's office, including the power of the podium, to fight cuts to Adult Education Programs, which are critical in providing the training and skills necessary for many of our students to find jobs in today's workforce and to become productive members of society. Additionally, our public schools should reinstate vocational training at the middle school and high school levels. Partnerships with private business and industries will contribute to the cost of these reforms, and provide internships and job placement opportunities.
Unfortunately, the solution is not as simple as either protecting teacher seniority or laying off teachers based on who is the lowest-performing. Teachers do not get to pick their students. What we need is a full and comprehensive evaluation system that takes into account certain contributing factors, including class size, language barriers, socio-economic factors, and special needs circumstances of students. Such an evaluation system should also include peer evaluations. We must compare apples to apples in the implementation of the teacher evaluation process. Some students start out at a lower performance level than others and teachers should not be penalized simply because they were assigned a steeper hill to climb based on the student-related factors described above.
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