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    LAUSD – Student Centered Funding, School Choice and Racism

    By Larry Sand

    When the Los Angeles school board met last week, one of the items on its agenda was voting on the new Student Centered Funding (SCF) plan. As California Policy Center’s Chantal Lovell explained several weeks ago, SCF authorizes school principals to make decisions as to how district-allocated funds are spent, with greater sums of money going to some groups of students – special needs kids, English language learners, etc. In the 2018-2019 school year, there were 27 school districts nationwide – predominantly large urban districts – that used this spending model with varying degrees of success. But at its September 14th meeting, the L.A. school board put a temporary hold on the vote. A district spokesperson told me the board was just not ready to proceed with the plan, but assured me it would be pursued in the near future.
    The response from the teachers union to implementing SCF in L.A. schools has been strident. The United Teachers of Los Angeles trotted out a massive digital ad-buy in August as part of an effort to kill the SCF measure. UTLA, of course, is threatened by the funding plan because the education dollars follow the child, which the union asserts reeks of school choice. UTLA insists that this model will “literally turn our students into blank checks for those that want to implement voucher schemes and turn public education from a public good to a private commodity.” High in the union’s pantheon of evildoers, the despised former Education Secretary Betsy DeVos gets cited as a conspirator. And the trite “siphon-off desperately needed funding to those that want to privatize our schools” meme also makes an appearance.
    Actually, SCF’s link to the school choice movement is scant; there is no private school voucher or educational savings account connection whatsoever. The only similarity is that the plan does not fund the huge, unaccountable systems that are often the foundations of today’s public schools, but rather takes into account the needs of individual students, and this drives the central planners crazy. But while the unions are adept at bullying a seven-member school board, it’s much more difficult to hold sway over thousands of school principals. As the socialist magazine Jacobin laments, “Wherever the student attends, their ‘backpack of cash’ would go with them.” To that extent, yes, SCF could possibly be a very small step in the direction of true parental choice. Speaking of which….
    Jon Hale, a professor of educational history at the University of Illinois and author of The Choice We Face, penned a piece for the Chicago Tribune which claims that “school choice was grounded in racism from the start.” The logical fallacies in the article are flagrant.

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