The Anaheim Union High School District wants Anaheim to part with money from its own budget to supplement the millions the school district already spends. Giving extra money to the bureaucracy that runs public education, however, only entrenches the status quo, which hurts the disadvantaged by forcing them to attend failing schools.
The city should take this opportunity to engage with Anaheim parents, whose children attend failing schools, about ways the city can assist them directly to improve public education for their children.
Of the 21 schools in the Anaheim Union High School District, 14 are failing. All of them are schools having high percentages of students identified as socio-economically disadvantaged.
According to California Policy Center, the AUHSD has one of the highest average compensation packages for its teachers, $115,437 a year in salary and benefits, but its average academic performance index for all schools is a meager 777, below what the state targets as the lowest acceptable limit of 800.
In the past few years, there has been more money for schools, but the people paid to run the schools at AUHSD have not improved things for the students who attend failing schools. In its most recent Local Education Agency Plan for failing schools, published in 2011, the AUHSD listed eight schools as failing. Since that time, the district has received millions in federal funding for programs to meet its specific needs, and it received money that voters were told was needed for education when Proposition 30 was enacted in 2012, and Measure H, a bond measure adopted in 2014, provided infrastructure funding specifically for the AUHSD.
Despite this additional funding, all eight schools listed as failing in the 2011 plan are still failing, and six more schools have been added to the list of failing schools.
Those who are paid to operate the AUHSD are accountable for this chronic failure of the public schools in their district. Yet the resolution presented by the AUHSD to the city blames underfunding, “State funding … continues to lag behind national averages,” and pats the bureaucracy on the back for being “dedicated … and committed.”
If you think about it, people employed by the government often blame problems on underfunding but almost never accept responsibility for the performance of their agencies. This is one reason why the status quo does not change, and public education continues to get worse.
For most who are disadvantaged, the status quo is terrible because they attend failing schools. If the city grants the AUHSD’s request for unrestricted funds, there is no reason to believe that the status quo will improve; by giving money, the city will only confirm the false narrative that underfunding, instead of poor performance, is responsible for failing schools. The city must not betray the disadvantaged students who desperately need a change in the failing schools they attend. Accordingly, the city must say no to the resolution and seek reform directly through the parents and students.
Parents at Palm Lane Elementary School, one of several failing schools within the Anaheim City School District, another district for which the Resolution seeks funding, took direct action to change the status quo last January. So far, they have been successful. An Orange County judge ordered the ACSD to allow them to turn Palm Lane Elementary into a charter school pursuant to the parent trigger provision of the Parent Empowerment Act.
The ACSD is spending $670,000 in legal fees and costs to appeal the order. Certainly, this behavior should not be rewarded with city funding that would, in effect, pay for the litigation to force Anaheim parents to send their children back to a failing school.
Palm Lane teaches that Parent Trigger should be used more broadly by Anaheim parents whose children attend failing schools. Instead of writing another check to be wasted by a failed bureaucracy, Anaheim should get involved directly with these parents to help them to understand their rights.
In the Palm Lane case, we learned that the school district will misuse the resources given to them by taxpayers to try to prevent parents from changing the status quo. The city should become the hero for Anaheim parents by leveling the playing field against the next school district that tries to bully parents out of their parent-trigger rights. Only when they know that Parent Trigger will be enforced can we expect school districts to find real solutions for chronically failing schools.
The city also has an opportunity to promote charter schools, something it has already begun to do. The Los Angeles Unified School District has a large number of charter schools created specifically for disadvantaged students, which are doing very well. Orange County lags behind in this area, but it should learn from the LAUSD model. Anaheim can and should lead the way. It should not go along with the funding charade proposed by the AUHSD’s resolution.
About Robert Loewen:
Robert W. Loewen, a partner in Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher’sOrange County office, joined the firm in 1977. He is a member of the firm’s Litigation Department.
Mr. Loewen focuses on general business litigation, with subspecialties that include toxic tort and cost recovery litigation.
Mr. Loewen received his bachelor of arts degree from Pomona College in 1970. He graduated first in his class with a law degree from the University of Southern California School of Law in 1975, where he served as Executive Editor of Lead Articles for the Southern California Law Review and was a member of the Order of the Coif. Prior to joining Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, Mr. Loewen served as a law clerk to Justice Byron R. White at the United States Supreme Court and for Judge Walter Ely at the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
A member of the American and California Bar Associations, Mr. Loewen has been admitted to practice before the U.S. District Courts for the Central, Southern, Northern and Eastern Districts of California, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and all California State Courts.