Thursday, June 3, 2010

I'm Not Voting for It

E-mails are circulating, talking about it. Smiling little faces are asking for it on TV. Facebook is covered with posts asking people to support it (most come from members of the arts ed community, many of whom do not have children in the school system). A rally is planned for Saturday to get publicity for it. What is it? Measure E - a $100 parcel tax that should fill in $92 million of the $640 million deficit for LAUSD next year. The big promise? 1,200 jobs will be saved, school libraries will stay open, class sizes won’t increase and the arts will live on!

Do I believe it? Not for a minute.

When I started a nonprofit over 10 years ago, I hired a consultant to work with me on how to understand and navigate the school system. One of the best pieces of advice that I received from the first consultation was that whatever I did, I needed to follow through with my promises, because teachers and schools will have a hard time believing me, since they are so accustomed to LAUSD making and breaking promises to them over and over again. They had grown to expect it.

And now, ten years later, I can attest to that myself. Every time the district makes a promise, or comes out with a new, great plan, we just shake our heads. We’ll believe it when we see it. Well meaning district reps ask, “Where is the support?” They don’t get that the support they seek (usually around election time) doesn’t come, for one simple reason: they haven’t proven themselves to be worthy of our trust.

The school district is too big. I don’t think it will ever be able to right itself because too many (highly paid) adults benefit from the system being so dysfunctional. The district’s primary purpose is to manage liability – not to educate children like their mission statement says. We all know it and that’s why we get so irate whenever the district holds our children up and proclaims how much they care. Just like a dysfunctional family, kids are neglected or ignored until the adults in charge need something from them. This is one of those times. The truth is, our kids are just dollars and data to LAUSD and the lawmakers in Sacramento. Nobody really seems to care.

I’d rather donate $100 to my kid’s school for the next four years where I trust that every penny of it will go to good use. So I’m not voting for it. I’m not voting for it because I do not trust LAUSD.