It's school time again, and even those without children are reminded of that by the big yellow buses back on the street and the increase in traffic. It's all part of the excitement--and anxiety--that a new school year in Los Angeles brings.
Los Angeles Unified School District, still feeling the effects of crippling budget problems and a bitter labor dispute, has openings for 650 teachers. Many teachers left the district after a 10% pay cut. The "brain drain" of experienced teachers is to be lamented, but lamenting won't bring them back; the vacancies also are creating some interesting opportunities for the district.
Take, for example, Maria Schneider, who decided to give up hopes of teaching college for now to teach second-graders instead. Or the former airlines operation manager or the laid-off engineer, all attracted to public school teaching by the promise of a sure salary and benefits.
Risky? Yes. Not everyone was meant to be a teacher, and the important profession of teaching ought not to become a dumping ground for those who can't find any other job. That said, the reality is that the school district has vacancies that must be filled and some of the people stepping forward to take the jobs have assets--valuable workplace experience and, perhaps most important, a fresh and enthusiastic outlook.
Unfortunately, even the brightest outlook can't take anything good from another tragic shooting on a public school campus. A 15-year-old boy, an innocent bystander to an argument, was shot and critically wounded as classes resumed Tuesday at Dorsey High School in southwest Los Angeles. Metal detectors were available but apparently not being used in the registration area where the shooting occurred; school officials must examine whether that decision was appropriate.
The fear that grips parents and students over campus violence is palpable. That fear is surely one of the reasons that some parents want out of public schools, and one of the reasons that a school voucher initiative is on the November ballot.
The initiative would give parents of California students a $2,600 voucher to spend at public or private schools, including those that are religiously based. But the voucher initiative, like the proposal to break up the LAUSD, is a meat-cleaver approach born of understandable frustration. While it may be emotionally satisfying to put a blowtorch to the state's educational system, that doesn't make it wise or constructive. What is constructive is real reform of the type offered by LEARN (Los Angeles Educational Alliance for Restructuring Now), which bases its ideas on reforms that have worked elsewhere. That's food for thought as this new school year commences.