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A wing and a prayer

Editorial

Industry money could save an aviation mechanics training program that LAUSD can't afford.

January 15, 2013
  • Students assemble an aircraft multi-disc brake at the aviation mechanics school at Van Nuys Airport. The 40-year-old school is in danger of closing or being forced to move to a cheaper, more cramped location because of LAUSD's tight financial situation.
Students assemble an aircraft multi-disc brake at the aviation mechanics… (Los Angeles Times )

The aviation mechanics school in a hangar at Van Nuys Airport does something that education reformers and the business community say they want from schools: It trains young people for careers — in this case for skilled, well-paid jobs. Though it's officially part of the adult education program of the Los Angeles Unified School District, a small number of high school students also attend after their regular school day for elective credit, a leg up on a career and an inside look at an interesting occupation that keeps them motivated to complete their studies.

So why isn't private money — from education foundations, aircraft manufacturers and other aerospace companies — being offered to help keep the North Valley Occupational Center-Aviation Center open?

The 40-year-old school, which has about 100 students at any given time, is in danger of closing or being forced to move to a cheaper, more cramped location because of the school district's tight financial situation. L.A. Unified has little choice. As successful as the aviation school is, the district's first priority has to be kindergarten-through-12th-grade education.

But there are many foundations that give generous amounts to start and maintain charter schools or fund nonprofit groups pressing for a reform agenda. "College and career ready" is the reform motto of the day, so an existing, well-regarded school that has already graduated thousands of people into a bright future would seem a natural for foundation largesse. And what about the many businesses that hire the program's graduates? According to a recent Times story on the school: "The situation has attracted the attention of the Van Nuys Airport Assn. and major organizations, such as the National Business Aviation Assn., the National Air Transportation Assn. and the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Assn. All have urged LAUSD Supt. John Deasy to keep the school at the airport."

Their interest is appreciated, but Deasy doesn't have the money to keep these groups or aerospace companies happy. Financial assistance would be more helpful than the industry's urgings. It would be cheaper for the aviation companies to lend a hand than to train their own mechanics.

Los Angeles World Airports, which operates Van Nuys Airport, also could help by reducing the rent on the hangar, which now costs the school $12,000 a month. But that wouldn't be enough to keep the program flying. This is the perfect time and place for aviation companies and proponents of high-achieving schools to get on board and show real support for a valuable educational experience.

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