THE GLARING FAILURE OF THE LAUSD by Charles L. Freeman

I’m a 54 year-old man who returned to school in February of this year to prepare myself for a new career in healthcare management. After weeks of careful research which included visiting several of the popular “for profit schools”, I enrolled at Los Angeles Trade Technical College. Because I had attended Los Angeles City and West LA colleges in the late 1970s after serving in the Air Force, I felt that I had a pretty good idea of what to expect from my fellow students, particularly those who had recently graduated from high school (June 2009).

Boy, was I wrong!

With few exceptions, and I mean a precious few, these young people simply can’t read and write, do math or comprehend what the instructors are saying above an 8th grade level. And frankly, that’s stretching the truth for some of them. I was absolutely stunned and saddened by their lack of basic educational skills and knowledge of things I took for granted at the same age. Believe me when I tell you that our tax dollars are being wasted by the people running the Los Angeles Unified School District.

I was educated in the public schools of two completely different cities – segregated Memphis, Tennessee for grades 1-3 and San Diego, California for grades 4-12 – and I can say without any doubt whatsoever, the average student was better prepared for life (and college) upon graduating from high school in 1973 than these kids are today.

What good is served by building the most expensive public school in history – the Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools for $578 million – if the students attending it aren’t prepared for life when they “graduate” from it? Oh sure, school superintendent Ramon Cortines will proudly and loudly proclaim that “test scores are rising” but, trust me when I tell you that these students are not being EDUCATED and isn’t that the main reason for attending school?

Now before you say, “Wait a minute, there are plenty of kids getting great educations in LAUSD schools”, let me say that I’ll bet you dollars to donuts that those schools are primarily located west of Crenshaw Blvd, are in upper-middle class and above neighborhoods or are charter schools. The fact of the matter is the majority of students attending LAUSD schools are people of color and the sad truth is that our public school system is creating a class of citizens that are undereducated and who, for the most part, will never rise above their current economical level. And, it’s not because these kids are dumb or don’t want to learn – watch them navigate the Internet, work their smart phones or sing/rap the lyrics to their favorite songs – it’s that the system is failing them in a spectacular manner.

And, it’s not just me who sees this. I have friends who have children attending LAUSD schools and they’re frustrated as hell. Many have done whatever it takes to get their children into a charter school and if that’s not possible, transferring them to better schools on the other side of town. Many of my instructors at Trade Tech are frustrated too as they’ve seen the quality of their students fall over the years. Ask them how difficult it is to try and teach college-level courses to students who simply can’t comprehend the textbook for their class.

THE LAUSD must be blown up and rebuilt from the ground up. Get the high-paid administrators out of their offices and back into the schools. Recruit the best and the brightest college graduates and make it worth their while to become educators. Stop wasting money on an inefficient system that doesn’t work for the students. Fund the schools equally across the board and make sure that instead of teaching our children how to pass standardized tests, we are educating them and preparing them for the 21st century world in which they will live and compete in.

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