LA School Chief Calls Philanthropist Eli Broad “Ill Advised” on Charter Fix

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December 10, 2015; Los Angeles Times

NPQ has long been following the course of billionaire philanthropic interventions in public school systems, and this article fits right into that storyline.

We don’t know why Los Angeles schools chief Ramon C. Cortines waited until he was leaving office to critique the massive plan to remake the L.A. school system proposed by philanthropist Eli Broad. But he did speak his mind a bit on Wednesday, December 9th, at a public forum in front of a crowd of 300.

“I think he was ill advised,” Cortines said of Broad’s controversial proposal to remake the school system by flooding it with charter schools. “I think somebody brought him an elixir without having it be tested to see if it will really do what it is promised to do.”

A few weeks ago, NPQ reported that three other foundations sent a letter to Cortines about that plan:

The California Community Foundation, the California Endowment, and Weingart Foundation have invested in efforts to educate and inform parents and to build their leadership skills to become stronger advocates for their children and communities. In some cases, we have supported programs and projects related to the LAUSD, while in other instances we have supported the development of charter schools, pilot schools and partnership schools. Our priority has and will always be to ensure poor and vulnerable communities have access to high quality educational options and are informed about what makes for a good school. Recently, the Broad Foundation released a provocative proposal to significantly increase charter schools in communities that have high concentrations of underperforming schools. In the midst of the controversy surrounding this proposal, we must remember that our priorities are families and children. Superintendent Cortines has consistently reminded us that the schools belong to the community, but it takes community, with parents at the forefront, to make the schools great.

The three went on to express concern about the public’s voice in, among other things, the selection of the next superintendent. Additionally, we reported a few days ago that the L.A. school board was preparing to voice its opposition to “market driven” education reforms. You can read more about those issues here.

Cortines said that the district has been plagued by a mentality of “Fix it quickly, give me a silver bullet, use it politically to get my next job. […] That’s what’s gotten this district in trouble, not just recently but time and time again.”

And making that worse, “We have the educational hucksters out there at universities, in schools, etc.” who want the district’s money and also want to say, “L.A. Unified bought this, so you should buy it also.”—Ruth McCambridge