Politics & Policy

Anti-Trump Derangement in Los Angeles Schools

Students at Venice High School in Los Angeles, 2015. (Reuters file photo: Jonathan Alcorn)
The education establishment there is apoplectic over the election of Donald Trump.

As Inauguration Day nears, “Post-Traumatic Trump Disorder” is ubiquitous. Many of the president-elect’s supporters “suffer” from excessive jubilance, bordering on ecstasy, while many of his detractors are wallowing in angst, panic, and rage, and the latter, PTTD group is making life miserable for children across the country. Los Angeles may be ground zero for the disorder.

The United Teachers of Los Angeles — or, more aptly, the United Trump-Loathers Association — led by its radical, agenda-driven president, Alex Caputo-Pearl, is planning a major demonstration before school on January 19, the day before the new president is sworn in. The demonstrators are being instructed to launch a tweetstorm to Trump (#schooltrump) and hold symbolic shields at school sites, to show that “educators are united with our students and our communities against Trump’s racially charged and anti-immigrant proposals and that we will continue to fight attempts to privatize public education.” The union is urging the public to join “tens of thousands of students, parents, educators, school staff, and community members . . . to shield our public schools from the Trump/DeVos/Broad agenda.” (Betsy DeVos, Trump’s pick for education secretary, is a voucher proponent, while billionaire Eli Broad has donated millions to charter schools. Union involvement in both private and charter schools is minimal.)

Nothing like an early-morning dose of union-led political indoctrination for the kids to digest along with their Froot Loops.

Actually, the early-morning festivities on the 19th are just a kick-off for what Caputo-Pearl sees as a two-year offensive. (“Offensive” in both senses of the word.) The issues that are paramount to the union boss are “green spaces on a campus” and “a plan to achieve strike readiness by February 2018,” as well as fighting charter co-location (in which charter schools occupy space in public-school buildings) and getting union-friendly school-board members elected in March of this year.

The pre–Inauguration Day merrymaking is not limited to Los Angeles, or even California. The Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools, a national network composed mostly of teachers’ unions and groups they fund, is planning a “National Day of Action” on the 19th. AROS insists that the “best way to ensure each and every child has the opportunity to pursue a rich and productive life is through a system of publicly funded, equitable and democratically controlled public schools.” In fact, one of their demands is “billions of dollars for public schools in black and brown communities.” I guess the $670 billion we currently spend nationally on “democratically controlled public schools” isn’t enough for the AROS crowd.

As the teachers’ union goes off the deep end, how have Los Angeles Unified School District officials responded to Trump’s election? Clearly suffering from advanced PTTD, the school board also is in a state of sheer panic. The mandarins who rule over the massive school district have set up a hotline to deal with students’ concerns, which, of course, have been exacerbated by the education establishment’s regnant hysteria. While Trump has indeed made some questionable comments about immigration, certain educators and a compliant mainstream media have blown things way out of proportion and worried many children needlessly. So school-board members should not be the ones counseling frightened children; let their parents do that, please.

Clearly suffering from advanced PTTD, the school board also is in a state of sheer panic.

The school-board members also spent time at a recent meeting passing resolutions as a hedge against actions that they expect the Trump administration to carry out. Consulting “social-emotional learning experts” and declaring its schools “safe zones” are of paramount importance to the board these days. Actually, if anyone needs a “safe zone” at this time, it’s students who dare to wear “Make America Great Again” hats.

Maybe instead of playing psychologist and engaging in dubious policymaking, the school board should focus on its mandate, which is to educate children and, at the same time, be judicious in spending taxpayers’ money.

As for the education component, LAUSD, not to put too fine a point on it, is doing a rotten job. While California students did not fare well on the recent standardized tests, L.A. kids’ scores were in the toilet. In fact, 56 percent of the district’s 85 ranked middle schools were assigned the lowest overall ranking of 1, based on the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress, a test taken by students this past spring. The “good news” is that just 20 percent of the district’s elementary schools received the lowest rank, as did 31 percent of its high schools. (The latter number would be higher, but many poor-performing eleventh-graders drop out of school before the test is given.)

#related#Fiscally, LAUSD is also failing. As explained in LA School Report earlier this month, the district may not be able to meet its financial obligations in the future because it faces a cumulative deficit of $1.46 billion through the 2018–19 school year. But LAUSD chief financial officer Megan Reilly, maintaining a smiley face, assures us that with just the right combination of smoke and mirrors, the district may be able to winnow the deficit down to a mere $252 million. Don’t bet the mortgage on that, however.

So let’s see, in Los Angeles we have a radical union leader, hell-bent on indoctrinating kids, and an inept school board whose actions are frightening them, even as the school board raids taxpayers’ wallets and does nothing to ameliorate its abysmal record of actually educating children.

School choice, anyone?

— Larry Sand, a former classroom teacher, is the president of the California Teachers Empowerment Network. The views presented here are his own.

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