Locke High School in the Watts area of Los Angeles is making news not because of poor performance or school violence, but because the school’s teachers have voted to secede from L.A.’s Unified School District.
Says the LA Times:
Three cheers for its courageous teachers and stalwart principal, who have chosen to break with the dithering Los Angeles Unified School District and a hidebound teachers union to become a Green Dot charter school.
Three cheers for the fed-up parents who showed up at Locke on Thursday morning to lob the first volleys in a revolution that only begins with the school’s emancipation.
By signing petitions to become the first school to secede from L.A. Unified, teachers at long-suffering Locke have jeopardized their own livelihoods and careers. They have no guarantee of employment under Green Dot, but they are putting the needs of their students first.
Principal Frank Wells has already paid the price for demanding change. He was escorted off the Locke campus Tuesday as punishment for working to create a bright future for his students. His crime? Allegedly permitting teachers to use class time to sign the charter petitions. He denies this impropriety happened. Helping students sounds so simple, but look what it’s taken: a rogue school, secret petitions, a career damaged.
Wells’ punishment at the hands of district administrators is the classic, kill-the-messenger approach to bureaucratic management that they must teach in Education Administration 101. Even if he did exactly what he’s accused of – which Wells denies – so what?
Education is supposed to be about getting results, not bickering over who administers the school or who controls the teachers’ pension fund. It’s so simple and yet so difficult to get through the heads of this country’s educators.
To the bureaucrats I say, “It’s not about you!”. Not in any way. Period.
Green Dot had been negotiating with the school district over converting Locke, but a major sticking point was the charter organization’s refusal to have teachers remain district employees, covered by the teachers union contract.
The time to quibble and negotiate is not while the house is on fire. And no rational observer disputes the fact that the LAUSD is fully engulfed. There can’t be a timetable. Teachers want action. They would rather have better, merit-based pay with Green Dot than the end-of-career benefits provided by their current contract. They want support, order, real input on how to teach and enforced standards of behavior. They want, in fact, the same things that parents and students want. But they’re stymied by the same foe: a district bureaucracy that pledges allegiance to reform and then locks out a principal who pursues it.
The truth is that neither the district nor the teacher’s union want real progress. Merit pay is the death knell for a union’s control over its membership because it so cleanly divides the excellent from the incompetent and allows teachers to seek their own level based on their achievements rather than their union’s negotiating strategy.
3 cheers, I say, for teachers who are willing to try to better themselves and their students by trying a new, undoubtedly scary approach to solving the problem of inner-city education.
Way to go! Now, prove it!
The Times concludes brilliantly:
The events at Locke give clarity to the real struggle for Los Angeles public schools. On one side are devoted teachers, brave administrators and long-suffering students and parents. On the other are narrow and defensive interests, dedicated to protecting a failed system. There should be no doubt about who deserves to win.