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Bid for Full-Time L.A. School Board

December 22, 1990

I am writing in response to your recent editorial discussing whether the Los Angeles school board should be a full-time position ("Goldberg Tries an Old Variation," Nov. 13). You are right, the board should not micro-manage and should not tie up the superintendent and senior staff in constant meetings. The question is whether in the absence of these inappropriate activities there is a role for a full-time board? I would argue that there is.

We are elected to provide leadership and set policy, not to approve field trips or routine expenditures. Moreover, as schools assume far greater autonomy under school-based management, there is less of a need to have controlling central policy. I have led efforts to delegate matters of routine administration to the superintendent and his staff. Another proposal to delegate additional items will come before the board in a few weeks.

Whatever the level of day-to-day involvement, the board is held accountable to govern a $4-billion public agency. This budget is larger than that of the City of Los Angeles. Board member districts are larger than those represented by a member of Congress. It is appropriate that the board be well-informed to serve as a check or balance against the unelected bureaucracy. This can not be done effectively on a part-time basis.

The people I represent should accept no less. The public wants schools that work for their children. They want a system that is open and responsible to their involvement. They elect a school board member to serve as their advocate. They expect that board member to be accessible to them. They expect that board member to visit schools and see first-hand the conditions our children and their teachers are experiencing. They expect board members to go to Sacramento and press for adequate funding.

To suggest that the schools are better served by a part-time board is to suggest that education is less deserving of leadership than other functions of government. Our frustration with the activities of the current board should not be used to conclude that a part-time board would be better.



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