(Saving) face time

Aphorist Dorothy Parker once observed, "Los Angeles is 72 suburbs
in search of a city." Similarly diffuse and divided is Mayor Antonio
Villaraigosa's latest plan to take over L.A. Unified. His wheeling and
dealing with teachers unions to save his flailing bid
to become education boss threatens to undermine the entire project.
Re-read that sentence and you can understand why; after all, the most
compelling argument for mayoral control is to diminish the
Politburo-like power that urban teacher unions exert over elected school
boards. The details coming out of Sacramento are troubling. One
reported compromise, for example, would allow each campus to set its own
curriculum. As departing L.A. Superintendent (and former Colorado
governor) Roy Romer rightly points out, "It sounds great until you learn
that about one in four of our students change schools in any given
year." Another part of Villaraigosa's original vision lost in his
deal-making is a clear line of accountability for schools. Under the new
plan, L.A.'s superintendent would report to both the Board of Education
and the new "Council of Mayors." Who's in charge? Everyone, which means
no one, sort of like the District of Columbia, a fine model of urban
education success. In L.A., as we understand it, the latest version of
the Mayor's plan would have the superintendent set the school budget,
the mayor review it, and the board set overall budget categories. All
the while, principals and teachers are developing 72 different
curriculum sets. Angelina and Brad must be wondering: how are Namibia's
schools?

"Roy Romer: The mayor's bad deal," by  Roy Romer, Los Angeles Times, June 25, 2006

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