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Commentary: Board & Deasy Both Over-Reached

Alexander Russo | June 25, 2013

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Keep Calm and Admit Your WrongWhile laid-off teachers and ardent school reform critics may be all aglow over LAUSD School Board member Steve Zimmer’s “Pacino-esque” speech on behalf of the proposed teacher hiring/ class size reduction resolution last week, perhaps it’s not quite yet time for anyone to declare victory.

Last Tuesday, the LAUSD Board debated and ultimately passed a resolution calling for a return to 2007 staffing levels — despite the fact that LAUSD has a budget deficit and has lost enrollment in the years since then.

According to folks like NYU school reform critic Diane Ravitch, the proposal is brilliant and its most impassioned defender — Zimmer — is to be greatly admired for his lengthy remarks on its behalf.

According to one observer, Zimmer’s performance was Pacino-esque.

Alas, not everyone would agree with such a kind view of the proposal, including the LA Times editorial page, which noted that the proposal Zimmer was advocating “made no sense” and LA Superintendent John Deasy, who mocked the teacher rehiring proposal as a “directive to hire every human being on the West Coast” (and in so doing committed an over-reach of his own).

Perhaps Deasy was a bit too caustic in his assessment , considering that the Board was already shooting itself in the foot on this one and the Superintendent is already facing a Board that isn’t going to be as amenable to his ideas as it was during his first two years.

Ever-impatient, Deasy has pulled rhetorical and procedural gambits like this before — remember his failed attempt to shove through the federal Race to the Top grant application earlier this year, or his maneuver to get Board members to vote to repeal the parent trigger at the most recent Board meeting?

Sometimes Deasy’s gambits work, and sometimes they don’t.  But the facts remain clear on the staffing / class size resolution itself: across the board re-staffing, which is what Zimmer et al have proposed, would bring back scads of positions and staff that schools don’t want or need any more.

Small-scale districtwide class size reductions like those being proposed by Kayser and Zimmer are also incredibly expensive and don’t show much academic benefit based on the research that’s out there.

If classroom discipline is the main concern, then perhaps folks should look back at Zimmer and Kayser’s votes on banning “willful defiance” suspensions without guaranteeing additional counselors and staff to deal with the costs of restorative justice and other suspension alternatives.

Put simply, LAUSD simply doesn’t need (and can’t afford) to hire all the laid-off teachers back.

Previous commentaries:  Why Teachers Might Leave a Triggered SchoolWhy Fixing Teacher Prep is So DifficultWhat Yesterday’s LAT Editorial Left Out

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