The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

L.A. “school reform”:
A push for charter schools
– by Big Business and the mayor

Jan 8, 2007

A Los Angeles Supreme Court judge threw out a state law that would give Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa partial control over L.A. schools. The legal battle is not over, however, as the mayor has appealed the decision.

Villaraigosa has been running a big campaign to take control of L.A.’s schools. He says that the school district’s nearly 50% dropout rate between 9th grade and graduation is proof that the elected school board has utterly failed in its mission to educate the children – especially those living in working-class neighborhoods where the dropout rate is even higher.

There is no doubt that the public school system has been failing working-class children in L.A., as in every other big city in the country. But behind all such talk about “school reform” coming from politicians, both Republican and Democrat, what always rears its head is one and the same idea: to transfer students from public schools to so-called charter schools – privately run schools which are publicly funded but don’t have to adhere to state regulations and testing requirements as public schools do.

Contrary to the claims of the business circles that push for more charter schools, these schools have not improved student learning. As poor as the scores of public school students are on standardized tests, charter school students have actually done worse. Unlike public schools, charter schools don’t have to test every student and many don’t. In fact, there is only one thing in which the charter schools have clearly succeeded to this day: generating hefty profits for those who run them.

Which explains why, as in other cities, Big Business has been spearheading L.A.’s “school reform” campaign – and pouring money into it.

A prominent supporter of “school reform” is billionaire L.A. real estate developer Eli Broad, who is a big fan of charter schools. He has given more than 40 million dollars to charter companies –not to help educate the children, but to help boost their plans to open more charter schools in L.A.

Villaraigosa is careful not so say anything on the question of charter schools publicly. But Villaraigosa doesn’t have to say anything – his actions show exactly where he stands. He just appointed Marshall Tuck, the president and CEO of a charter school company, to his five-member “reform team.” And the mayor’s chief of staff and his associate director for education are both former employees of ... Eli Broad!

In his successful run for mayor, Villaraigosa presented himself as a friend of working people. But as mayor of the second biggest city in the country, he is doing what every bosses’ politician does when in office: help the big bosses make more profit at the expense of working people – and their children.