LA School Board Bait n’ Switch was Insulting and Sneaky

ALPERN AT LARGE--In my last CityWatch article, I expressed concerns of why our city or school district wants "input" when the political leadership and bureaucracy have NO interest in actually listening or taking that "input" seriously. 

Folks, the parents and children of the LAUSD just got the worst bait-and-switch this last and current school year--the parents and school board agreed to a compromise of starting school the week before Labor Day, and then at the last moment went right back to the awful, mid-August starting date.  

Maybe the timing of this bait-and-switch happened before and after the voters passed a school funding initiative...and maybe not.  But it was insulting and doggone sneaky. 

So allow me to speak for many families when I suggest that the timing of this new survey--and without a mention of the recent sequence of events for the 2017-18 school year--is deeply insulting and downright obnoxious. 

Seriously ... why should ANYONE take this survey seriously, when the LAUSD school board has such a history of blowing off its student/parent population? 

And if Sacramento wants to show it cares about students and their parents, perhaps a mandate of now allowing school to begin until the week before Labor Day, and a mandate of a 10-11 week summer vacation, should be considered by our "caring" politicians in Sacramento. 

(This has been done in other states, by the way.) 

There ARE some good reasons to not let the school year begin too late, and for the summer to not be allowed to be too long: 

1) Most critical is the need to end the fall semester by the winter break. 

2) If the summer break is too long, it takes virtually an entire month to bring the students back to speed when they return. 

3) There are academic performance tests, including Advanced Placement and SAT tests, but even tests for elementary school students, that require face-to-face time which cannot be replaced by a summer "reading list" or "to-do list". 

That said, August is HOT, and if the LAUSD promises to turn off its air conditioning in its downtown headquarters in sympathy with the students in their own non-air-conditioned school rooms, then they can start school in mid-August.

But there is NO reason for a full week off for Thanksgiving--I doubt I'm the only "conspiracy theorist" who believes that that week off is a "benefit" for certain educators and/or administrators who've become used to getting a week off when two days has been the norm for decades. 

Similarly, a good explanation is needed as to why we need three weeks off for winter vacation, when we only have a single week off for spring vacation.  

It's understood that high school students in Advanced Placement classes need to work hard and strong and early to be prepared for that dreadful examination in May...so be it.   

But these are the independent types who will do whatever is needed during the summer, the winter, and the spring breaks, and will do whatever is assigned. 

So why should elementary school and middle students lose out on the ability to go to camp? 

And allow me to make it perfectly clear that I am a grueling slave driver when it comes to demanding my kids keep up with their studies, and to not let their mind grow fallow during the summer. 

And allow me also to make it perfectly clear that schools, especially charter schools, should demand that students and their families check in with assigned reading, math, and other small exercises during the summer to make sure that the students haven't suffered complete amnesia of their past school year's education when the next school year begins. 

However, childhood, and vacations, and family memories, are NOT mutually exclusive to the goals and high standards of a proper education.  We can chew gum and walk at the same time, can we not? 

Let's see if the LAUSD school board gets parental "input" and actually acts on it this time.

My single, isolated vote?   

A school year no earlier than the week before Labor Day.  Two days off for Thanksgiving, if needed, to allow the fall semester to end by Winter break.  A more defined summer education/learning requirement for each grade and class. 

And a summer break that is no less than 10-11 weeks...unless, of course, all LAUSD bureaucratic offices are forced to turn off their air conditioning until Labor Day in unity with all other LAUSD educational facilities.


(Kenneth S. Alpern, M.D. is a dermatologist who has served in clinics in Los Angeles, Orange, and Riverside Counties, and is a proud father and husband to two cherished children and a wonderful wife. He is also a Westside Village Zone Director and Board member of the Mar Vista Community Council (MVCC), previously co-chaired its Planning and Outreach Committees, and currently is Co-Chair of its MVCC Transportation/Infrastructure Committee. He was co-chair of the CD11 Transportation Advisory Committee and chaired the nonprofit Transit Coalition, and can be reached at [email protected]. He also co-chairs the grassroots Friends of the Green Line at www.fogl.us. The views expressed in this article are solely those of Dr. Alpern.)