Through the eyes of urban Los Angeles...

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Through the Eyes of Urban Los Angeles

My blog is titled "Excellence versus Equity" after an educational theory by Rutgers University Professor Dr. Alan R. Sadovnik in his book Exploring Education: An Introduction to the Foundations of Education, which states society can not simultaneously strive for both excellence and equity in education. If we want excellence we will have to undermine equity, for one can only be excellent if deemed better than someone else. If everyone was exactly equal, the concept of excellence could not exist since there would be no room for being considered superior to anyone else. I chose to title my blog after this concept because problems facing urban communities are a result of apathy and neglect by those in power in order to conserve their status of dominance and distinction, which parallels Sadovnik's theory. The opportunity to take a stance on issues that impact the urban community and act as a voice of authority and persuasiveness on cyberspace has been extremely empowering. Everyone is entitled to an opinion but the weight of an individual’s words are often dependent on the influence, socio-economic status, or level of education one possesses. Blogging helps blur these lines by allowing everyone to voice their opinion and develop a platform based on their rationale, conviction, and supporting facts. It is amazing to see that the background of bloggers does not limit personal exposure; everyone is free to give their opinion and receive feedback from people they probably would never have the opportunity or desire to interact with in person.

I am first-generation college student from East Los Angeles majoring in Finance and minoring in Education at the University of Southern California. When I first discovered that I could blog about anything I wanted I decided to write posts about matters affecting the urban community, rather than focusing on finance-related topics. I interned on Wall Street for 3 months this past summer so I decided to try something completely different. Often times the voices of the inner-city are written-off due to their lower position in society. I felt that it was my responsibility to act as the representative of my community in an educational setting in order to articulate their silenced voices and concerns. All my blogs touch on issues disturbing urban neighborhoods- failing education systems, leveling the playing field, voicing opposition against those who undermine problems of lower socio-economic classes, improving race relations, and highlighting phenomenal efforts aimed at progress for the inner-city.

After reviewing my blog, I am glad to see that I have been able to keep education as the underlying theme of every article. My life thus far has made me a firm believer in the power of education. Education is the key to social mobility, as demonstrated by my journey as kid in East LA to an unbelievable summer as an analyst on Wall Street. My writing has been passionate, for I believe strongly in my arguments due to first-hand accounts that served as my inspiration. Despite these satisfactory accomplishments, I wish I could have done a better job at looking at both sides of the dilemmas I explored. Although it is important to take a firm stance on a topic, I could have established more credibility with the reader by being as unbiased as possible. Regardless of this shortcoming, I am proud of my work as a first-time blogger and look forward to using this medium as a way to voice my opinion and formulate my thoughts about any controversial issues of substance.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

East L.A.'s Most Wanted: Honoring G-Dog

According to the University of Southern California website its core is "the development of human beings and society as a whole through the cultivation and enrichment of the human mind and spirit," and its code of ethics "is predicated on two main pillars: a commitment to discharging our obligations to others in a fair and honest manner, and a commitment to respecting the rights and dignity of all persons." When looking at these quotes one must stop to think about the social responsibilities we are called to fulfill as educated young men and women. Often times as students we absent-mindedly earn our degrees and go on to lead comfortable lives as professionals, researchers, or educators without fully realizing how we fit into the big picture. As human beings we must seek out vocations rather than pointless jobs. A vocation does not necessarily mean our role has to be religious in context; it simply means we are going outside of our individual desires and fulfilling our duty to society at large while earning a living. This is exactly what Father Greg J. Boyle, S.J. has done in Boyle Heights, especially the Pico Gardens and Aliso Village area, known as the "The Projects." Pico Gardens and Aliso Village are the largest tract of subsidized housing west of the Mississippi. Within the 16 square miles that make up Pico Gardens and Aliso Village, 60 gangs claim 10,000 Black and Latino members. Father Greg's selfless contributions have acted as a catalyst to rid the Boyle Heights community of overwhelming gang violence and poverty. USC, the premier institution of higher education in Southern California, should award Father Greg Boyle with a Honorary Doctorate in Humane Letters for his work and contributions to the City of Los Angeles.

Born into a third generation, Irish-American middle-class family in Los Angeles, Boyle was ordained a Jesuit priest in 1984 after receiving his B.A. in English from Gonzaga University, an M.A. in English from Loyola Marymount University, a Master of Divinity from the Weston School of Theology, and an S.T.M. degree from the Jesuit School of Theology. In 1986 he was assigned to be the pastor of Dolores Mission, the poorest parish in the gang-infested community of Boyle Heights, a neighborhood most middle-class Americans neglect and fear. In 1992, in response to intense gang violence throughout the city of Los Angeles, Father Boyle formed Homeboy Industries, a non-profit organization that creates jobs which allow gang members to obtain training, work experience, and above all, a way out of gangs, drugs, and death. Father Boyle explained in a special interview to St. Anthony Messenger, "Jobs For a Future and Homeboy Industries are intervention programs aimed at youth, and I want these programs to be as symbolic as they are actual; I want to send a message to legislators and government officials that we either have to deal with the problem of urban violence or we're going to end up warehousing the consequences". Rather than locking up individuals for years at a time and ignoring the problem, we must begin to attack the root of the problem- poverty. Father Boyle’s work in the Boyle Heights area has affected the lives of thousands of ex-gang members throughout the Los Angeles area since its creation in 1992. His undying commitment to the community and its residents fulfills the Honorary Degree ideal aiming "[...] to honor alumni and other individuals who have made outstanding contributions to the welfare and development of USC or the communities of which they are a part."

Father Boyle’s work goes beyond simply contributing to a community, for he has taken a fatherly approach of unconditional love to some of the most feared and outcast members of society. Instead of giving up on them as human beings, as society has systematically, Father Boyle has fought to find them jobs. Law enforcement believes the best method for ending gang violence is jail time; Father Boyle strongly disagrees. When founding Homeboy Industries he stated, "Nothing stops a bullet like a job," which eventually became a significant motto for the non-profit. USC strives to honor individuals who have performed "exceptional acts of philanthropy to the university and/or on the national or world scene." Father Boyle’s "full employment strategy" has initiated tremendous change in the lives of thousands of gang members, a sharp contrast from the LAPD's "full-incarceration method." He has revolutionized a neighborhood. "We are prone as a society to demonize and reject these kids and not want to help them," laments Father Greg in his interview with St. Anthony's Messanger. "What if we really were to deal with the problem rather than just resign ourselves to warehousing the consequences? [...] They've been through a lot. I've never met a victimizer who wasn't first victimized. So you have to deal with that compassionately as Jesus would." The results of Father Boyle's efforts are remarkable. Gang violence has dropped dramatically and a strong sense of community has developed now fourteen years after Homeboy Industries inception, as vividly portrayed in Celeste Fremon's book titled G-dog And The Homeboys: Father Greg Boyle And The Gangs of East LA (276).

In his book Meaningful Work: Rethinking Professional Ethics, Mike Martin, a professor of philosophy at Chapman University, stated that our motivations play a huge role in determining meaningful work. He defines meaningful work as one that includes "advanced expertise, social recognition, and service to clients and community" (22). "G-dog", as he is known in the neighborhood, aspired to become a Jesuit because the Order emphasized social activism, which parallels Martin's definition of completing something of significance. He desired to work with the poor in order to have a profound effect on their lives and offer hope (Fremon 22). Homeboy Industries and the Jobs for a Future project are premised on Father Boyle's belief in a future for each and every young person in the projects. At the end of the day it does not matter how much money or fame we achieve, for "we are defined through our relationships with others within communities"(Martin 17) . G-dog's ability to successfully works with kids whose homes are broken, whose parents are unemployed, who have dropped out of school, and who join gangs in order to gain a sense of belonging after realizing they have no future is unparalleled. Not only does Father Boyle help them visualize a future, he ensures that it materializes as well. Therefore according to Martin his work is not only noteworthy, but meaningful because of the impact it has on others. Father Boyle is certainly worthy of USC recognition since he has had a profound effect throughout the city of Los Angeles, the birth place of urban gang violence.

In addition to honoring Father Boyle’s accomplishments, awarding him an honorary degree can help USC advertise itself, as James O. Freedman, the fifteenth president of Dartmouth College, noted in his book Liberal Education and the Public Interest (125). Being one of the first institutions to honor such a well-respected figure can generate favorable publicity and "[...] elevate the university in the eyes of the world by honoring [an individual] who [is] widely known and highly regarded for achievements in [his] respective [field]". Honoring individuals that will help build the reputation of USC is one of the criteria used to determine who is granted an honorary degree on its website. The White House recognized Father Boyle's amazing work by inviting him to speak at their Helping America's Youth Conference last year. He has also been interviewed on gang issues for both radio and TV, having been featured on 60 Minutes and in People Weekly in the past. Celeste Fremon, an award winning journalist and regular contributor to the Los Angeles Times Magazine and LA Weekly, also wrote two well-publicized books about Father Boyle's efforts. Aside from TV appearances and publications, a fellow Jesuit priest, Bill Cain of Nothing Sacred Fame, has completed a screenplay about G-dog’s efforts for Columbia Pictures. Such accolades become a distraction for individuals at times, but Father Boyle stays grounded. He continues to serve as Executive Director of Jobs For A Future / Homeboy Industries and speaks at conferences for teachers, social workers, and criminal justice workers about the importance of adult attention, guidance and unconditional love in preventing youth from joining gangs, as noted on the non-profit's official website.

Although Father Boyle's work is admirable and noteworthy, not everyone agrees with his noble effort. The LAPD adamantly complains about Father Boyle and his work. The police department laments that G-dog harbors and supports criminals (Fremon 56). Many of the individuals who are given a second chance by Jobs For A Future/Homeboy Industries have criminal records and are sought after by our legal system. Father Boyle argues that incarcerating these lost young men and women will only lead the gang violence issues of Los Angeles to perpetuate (Fremon 52). By allowing gang members to become responsible citizens and boost their self-esteem, the problem can be effectively resolved. Only by looking at the reasons behind gang involvement can we begin to understand Father Boyle's rationale. He explains in the St. Anthony Messenger interview, "I believe that if they are given a chance, then they'll thrive and they'll begin to imagine a future for themselves. [...] As soon as they know that they're exactly what God had in mind when God made them, then they become that. Then they like who they are. Once they can do that—love themselves—they’re not inclined to shoot somebody or hurt somebody or be out there gang-banging." Police officers have even gone so far as to claim Father Boyle glorifies gang membership by allowing Church burials for these young people. On the other hand, Boyle sees a funeral as a great personal heartache and a significant teaching moment for those involved with gangs; it is a time when other homies might let down their defenses and listen to the harsh realities of gang life in hopes of escaping it with a job (Fremon 105). G-dog's presence and work offers hope, understanding, and concern for a group of individuals lamented by society. His altruistic work is simply unheard of today. USC must look to uphold Freedman's standards of selecting an Honorary Degree recipient by "[...] emphasiz[ing] intellectual distinction and public service" to our local communities in order to truly "celebrate distinguished and sublime achievement" (119).

Conservatives at an institution like USC may be quick to shut down such a socially radical figure but they must stop to look at the facts and implications of Father Boyle’s work. Father Boyle is taking criminals off the streets and making them productive contributors to our economy and society. More ex-gang members with jobs means less tax dollars used for prisons and welfare. Aside from being a selfless caregiver for individuals society fears and isolates, Father Boyle is doing the city of Los Angeles a favor by finding a solution that moves gang members from a life of crime to the workforce. Not only is Father Boyle a philanthropist, he is also an economic genius even though he chooses not to acknowledge it. As a highly integrated and innovative research institution in the city of Los Angeles, USC must recognize Father Boyle’s work as a model for relieving our city of gang violence. Rather than focusing on the fact that Father Boyle interacts with and supports ex-criminals and gang members, we should recognize his virtuous contributions and the unique commencement address he is capable of delivering.

Often times as students we lose sight of the simple yet essential things in life, like family, love, and our well-being. As we continue through our journey in life it is important to reflect. Having a genuine, Christ-like figure like Father Boyle speak to us at commencement is what the university needs, not a hypocrite politician or movie star. Father Boyle will be able to move the audience with his experiences, as I have witnessed while in mass with him and through interaction as a volunteer and member of the neighborhood. The desperate lives and stories of the individuals he works with will leave an indelible mark in the hearts of the USC graduates and families in attendance. Father Boyle spoke at Santa Clara University's commencement and had the audience on their feet when he stressed that graduates try to "[...] use their education to help people who are poor and powerless, 'people whose dignity has been denied and those whose burdens are more than they can bear'.'' Father Boyle’s middle-class upbringing combined with the harsh realities of poor, gang-infested neighborhoods will provide the audience with a perspective they can identify with while being exposed to some very humbling dialouge. Who better to touch on the values of life as we walk across the stage than a man who epitomizes what is noble in all religious traditions?

Monday, September 25, 2006

e-Tolerance: Education for The Real World

In recent years, differences in culture and race in Los Angeles County and throughout the nation have led to clashes between black and Latino high school students, the education system has fallen short of equally catering to the needs of different ethnic groups and cultures, and inner-city schools have been failing to prepare students of color for higher education. The dominant group often times unknowingly discriminates against minority groups because of racial differences and ignorance or intolerance of ethnic customs. In order to amend the problems mentioned and create a “colorless” society, teachers, parents, and students must place more emphasis on learning about different cultures and races. When people think about school usually history, geography, math, science, English, and physical education come to mind. However, passionate teachers, parents, and students who would like to eliminate racial tension and truly make fundamental change for our next generation of students should turn to the World Wide Web and incorporate lesson plans and school wide activities about tolerance since a traditional education does not prepare individuals for interactions with racially and ethnically diverse groups of people.

Tolerance.org, a WebAward nominee, can be utilized by e
ducators, parents, and students to pacify intolerance towards ethnic and racial diversity and bring a better understanding of “the other”. The Southern Poverty Law Center founded Tolerance.org in order to promote the ideals of the Civil Rights Movement by providing K-12 students, parents, and teachers, with resources fit to educate them about different races and cultures. In 2005, Tolerance.org was nominated for 2005 "Best Non-profit Website" by the WebAwards, a premier web site award competition the selects the best Websites in 96 different industries annually. Websites are often judged by various criteria, such as content, structure, visual design, functionality, and interactivity. The WebAwards do not provide public access to the variables they take into account while judging Website criteria, therefore, for the purpose of this evaluation the Webby Awards criteria will be used, for it closely parallels the standards used to assess Tolerance.org. The Webby Awards is "the leading international award honoring excellence on the Internet [...with] a 550-member body of leading Web experts, business figures, luminaries, visionaries and creative celebrities." Tolerance.org effectively delivers the elements worthy of an award winning Website to its audience through four different vehicles. In order to successfully inform and teach the wide-range audience accessing their information they created Teaching Tolerance for teachers and administrators, Parenting for Tolerance for parents, Mix It Up for teenagers, and Planet Tolerance for youth. Tolerance.org does an excellent job of providing useful resources, lesson plans, and school-wide activities aimed at building diverse communities of tolerance, but can be more effective by enhancing the user experience with more content and open dialogue about issues of race. The website should also consider revolutionizing its teen and kids sections of the site in order to be more effective in impacting their audience.

Teaching Tolerance was designed to provide teachers with lesson plans to expose students to recent news that deals with racism, like "Facebook becomes twisted tool for hate" an article by Will Nevin about online hate speech that includes discussion questions for class interaction. The site area also has a publication called ABCs (Anti-Bias Classrooms) that highlights cultural differences in order to promote open-mindedness. Last month's edition explored Latino Heritage month, which runs from September 15-October 15, and offers "essays and activities to help students gain a deeper understanding of past and present struggles for Latino civil rights." Although Teaching Tolerance grants access to great tolerance initiatives for the classroom, it falls short of fully engaging its user due to lack of content. According to Webby Awards criteria, “Content is the information provided on the site. It is not just text, but music, sound, animation, or video -- anything that communicates a sites body of knowledge.” Teaching Tolerance’s textual information supplies great insight and data but does not do a good job of using other mediums to generate appealing and relevant content. For example, video clips of historical events, sound bites of significant speeches, and pictures portraying the brutality of hate crimes are scarce on the sub-site. These sources would provide teachers with a better online experience and have them coming back to visit more often. However, the insightful information and educational classroom activities they offer educators can not be ignored. They make structured, untraditional activities available for teachers to utilize in the classroom for every grade level. These lessons expose students in racially homogenous high schools to other cultural and ethnic groups, which is now essential as our country becomes more and more diverse.

Parenting for Tolerance caters its well structured and organized site area to the needs of parents wishing to discuss tough issues with their kids, such as white privilege. Elizabeth Baucher, a Caucasian freelancer and mother from Ithaca, NY, wrote "Talk to Kids about White Privilege" which goes into white responsibility in dismantling racism and oppression.
For example, she goes on to tell her 7-year old son, "You have a lot of traditional privilege in this society, from your skin color and gender, due to the fact that your parents and grandparents are educated, and your family has some money." Controversial topics like this one can be difficult to discuss with innocent children and not knowing how to approach the situation is common. However, exposing children to controversial information, stories, and insight early on is vital to eliminating ignorance between cultural groups and establishing lasting change in our society. The parent section of the web site is filled with useful information that can be easily accessed, synthesized, and presented to children of all ages. The graphic on the left is an example of the site's basic structured, which makes finding a parent's desired information simple. According to the Webby Awards, "Sites with good structure and navigation are consistent, intuitive, and transparent[...] Good navigation gets you where you want to go quickly and offers easy access to the breadth and depth of the site's content." Once logged on, parents can effortlessly find information targeting every age group, which makes Web surfing less stressful for parents who are constantly on the move.

Mix It Up was created primarily to foster peer initiated interaction and tolerance between middle school and high school students.
Mix It Up offers useful information on how to start a school wide activity aimed at encouraging different ethnic, racial, and social groups to interact, as highlighted in Trevor G. Browne High School in Phoenix, AZ. Carrie Kilman of Tolerance.org reports that the school adopted the Mix It Up program and now holds a yearly event that brings students of all races and ethnic backgrounds together in order to "help students learn to see beyond boundaries of race, language, and national origin." The site area provides a short visual clip of the event in order to give students an idea of what the event encompasses. Even though empowering students to prompt change is a good idea, not everyone exploring the site will be bold enough to take initiative. According to a University of Kentucky Youth Internet Usage Study, over 77 million children and teenagers use the internet regularly. Rather than depending on courageous students to spark change, it is important to use the site to reach out to as many teens as possible, especially due to the possibility of exposing millions of users to this insightful information. Unlike the two other site areas mentioned, Mixing It Up does a poor job of educating and engaging the site user. It does not offer access to the informative and powerful stories, information, and activities offered in the teacher and parent sub-sites. Allowing students to explore and learn on their own can be very effective in enlightening teens who are not familiar with different races and cultures. Making recent stories and blog discussions on racism readily available are key for accomplishing Tolerance.org's mission on the teenage front.


Planet Tolerance enables child interaction through stories, games, and history lessons about racial tension and tolerance for children. According to the Webby Awards, "Good interactivity is more than a rollover or choosing what to click on next; it allows you, as a user, to give and receive. It insists you participate not spectate," which Plant Tolerance does effectively. The online history lessons allow children to explore historical sounds bites and images about building racial and ethnic tolerance. For example, anti-Semitism is a complex issue for young children to grasp if the concept of ethnic intolerance is unfamiliar to them. In order to help ease confusion, Tolerance.org posts stories like The People's Attorney about the first Jewish judge on the Supreme Court and the trials and tribulations he faced. Children begin to understand racial and ethnic intolerance after reading literature that caters to them. To balance the word content of history lessons and stories, Tolerance.org offers educational games to actively engage youth, but a clear message is not always conveyed. As a child, looking past the entertainment and fully understanding the underlying message may be hard to do. Children easily get caught up in the fun factor of video games and sometimes miss the educational substance. For example, VoteQuest's, a game about a journey for women’s rights, aims to inform kids about anti-feminism and the Women's Rights Movement. Although the is fundamental message may be easy to recognize for an adult, it may not be so obvious for those in their youth. Therefore, Tolerance.org needs to include more candid and insightful information for kids about the problems of discrimination in order to truly leave an indelible mark. Unlike the Teaching for Tolerance, which lacks technological content, Planet Tolerance should include more textual content for kids that can be easily synthesized and understood.


Overall, Tolerance.org goes above and beyond the required criteria of a website by providing exceptional content, simple structure, engaging technology, and different sub-Websites that effectively cater to four different audiences. Although a few blemishes exist, the site successfully caters to all three rhetorical appeals- to credibility by having scholarly, knowledgeable, and real life experiences to learn from; to reasoning by shedding light on controversial issues with facts, data, and rationale; and to emotion by revealing personal stories and situations that are extremely moving and thought provoking. Teachers should seriously consider promoting tolerance in their schools by integrating lesson plans from Tolerance.org in order initiate grass-root changes at the K-12 level. Tolerance.org has impacted the educational realm by encouraging tolerance through daily news about fighting hatred, guides to initiating open-mindedness for adult and youth activists, practical educational resources for parents and teachers, and entertaining and enlightening games for young children. Education should extend beyond the classroom and prepare individuals for the real world, where interaction with people of different racial and ethnic backgrounds will be constant and necessary.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Race, Poverty, and Education: Shedding Light On Institutional Discrimination

There has been a huge problem with race and institutional discrimination in education in recent years. The topic has been widely covered and scrutinized in politics, in the news, and throughout the blogsphere. Two blogs in particular touch on great points with regards to exploring and improving the current situation. Because of the nature of these posts and their implications on providing both EQUITY AND EXCELLENCE in public education, I chose not only to visit but also to comment on the blogs as well. The first blog posted by John Rosenberg, titled More Michigan “Civil Rights” Incompetence, ignores the effects of institutional discrimination and downplays affirmative action. I am bothered most by his ignorance of the issues leading to black and Latino students being "underqualified." The second blog I commented on by EdWonks, The L.A. Times On "Diversity" In Our Public Schools , explores forced integration of racial diversity and improving educational opportunities for the socio-economically disadvantaged.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Desperate Times, Desperate Measures:The Only Way to Truly Close the Educational Achievement Gap

The Boston Herald recently published an article titled, “Schools Behind the Times”, which argues that students should start school later, end later, and spend more hours in the classroom in order to increase attendance, lower crime, and increase college admission. The LAUSD should take a serious look at this proposition. According to Harvard’s Civil Rights Project, Los Angeles public schools need to revolutionize teaching structures since approximately 50 percent of high students are dropping out of school and only one of five graduates are actually prepared for college. Students attending inner-city schools have very little chance to match the educational development and preparation of more privileged students at better funded, less crowded schools.


Not only do failing schools need equitable resources, they also must work HARDER than more privileged schools in order to truly “level” the playing field. Although this proposition of making inner-city students work harder than other students violates “equal” rights, it is a necessary “evil”. Yes, inner-city students should attend the same amount of class time as other school students and be granted the same educational opportunity, but equal schooling will not be a reality for quite some time due to the bureaucracy of the California State Government, the Los Angeles City Government, and the LAUSD.

The
KIPP (Knowledge Is Power Program) schools were founded in 1994 by Teach for America teachers Dave Levin and Mike Feinberg who sought to prepare inner-city Houston students for college. KIPP has taken classroom rigor and intellectual stimulation to another level. There are now 52 KIPP schools educating and successfully preparing over 11,000 underrepresented, low-income students for college in 16 states and the District of Columbia. KIPP students spend 62 percent more time in class than other neighborhood students, and the results are remarkable. The Washington Post reported, "While the average fifth-grader enters KIPP in the bottom third of test-takers nationwide (28th percentile), the average KIPP eighth-grader outperforms nearly three out of four of test-takers nationwide (74th percentile) on norm-referenced reading and math assessments." More notably, "In the fifth-grade year, approximately 40 percent of KIPP schools outperform their respective districts on state reading exams, and just over 60 percent do so in math. By the eighth grade, 100 percent of KIPP schools outperform their districts in both subjects."

Longer work hours, combined with great teachers, better facilities, and a structured learning environment allow students living in failing school districts to shine academically and compete with the best and brightest for spots on some of the most prestigious college campuses in the
United States. Therefore, better facilities and resources are not the only solutions. Extra work consisting of longer school days and challenging curriculum will surely help shrink the achievement gap between inner-city youth and their more privileged peers. Of course it is not fair to have inner-city students attend longer school days than their white counterparts, but it is necessary in order to level out the playing field.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Villariagosa, The Kids, and Rat Poop: A Look at Politicians Fighting for the Wrong Cause

The LAUSD and the State of California has failed my generation. Approximately 50% of 418,000 future contributors to our Los Angeles neighborhoods, state, and nation will not graduate high school by the year 2010. Mayor Antonio Villariagosa, also a high school drop-out, has been given the opportunity to improve schooling and help our failing generation with the California Assembly’s approval of Bill AB 1381. Sadly, it seems like we are in for another round of political muscle flexing, lawsuits, and loss sight of the true issues at hand.

Villariagosa’s top priorities include improving lagging student achievement in middle schools and high schools and lowering the drop out rate, according to the
LA Times. The implications for the future of public schooling in Los Angeles are significant given this historic policy change. If Villariagosa and the LAUSD board of directors cooperate there will be progress in urban education. Unfortunately, recent head butting between the two entities and history are making the future look a bit grim.

Although Villriagosa's bill has passed, he will not be granted clear authority over the LAUSD, which leaves room for much conflict and litigation between the school board, superintendent, and the newly created council of mayors. These lawsuits will drain money from our schools in order to determine who controls LA public schools. As it stands, these supposed leaders of our community are trying to gain political power rather than litigate over pertinent issues that will help improve our local schools. Why can they not fight for equality like
Serrano v. Priest, which “[…]held that educational opportunity is a fundamental interest that cannot be permitted to vary on the basis of wealth”, or Daniel v. State of California, which highlighted the state's failure to offer adequate Advanced Placement (AP) courses at low-income predominately Latino and black schools, as highlighted in Equity Beyond Dollars??

Bill AB1381 simply requests for mayoral power over schools. Ironically, it does not lay out any specific ways of accomplishing the momentous tasks of improving lagging achievement and lowering the drop-out rate, which is the most common theme of California’s and Villariagosa’s “fight” to level the playing field. The focus always tends to fall more on political gain and ego boosting than on the best interest of the school system, as demonstrated not too long ago in
Williams v. State of California, which sought equal protection and due process based on disparities between rich and poor public schools. Former-Governor Gray Davis aggressively fought the Williams case, hiring top law firms whose uncompromising litigation tactics sometimes resulted in embarrassment. Equity Beyond Dollars highlights the abusdity of it all: “In a now-infamous example, the state’s lawyers insisted on deposing middle-school children and demanded that the children explain why rat feces in their classroom restricted their educational opportunities.”

Although the rat poop example may be a little extreme, do not be surprised when the school board and Antonio use millions of scarce educational funding dollars to battle over who has the largest bicep.

Now that I stop and think about it, I will take rat poop at the foot of my desk over stealing millions of needed dollars from our failing
inner city youth any day of the week.