Academic journal article Education

Restructuring the Los Angeles School System

Academic journal article Education

Restructuring the Los Angeles School System

Article excerpt

Educational reform is on the public agenda in many communities across the United States. As educational leaders are instituting site-based management, decentralizing bureaucratic organizations, and giving autonomy to local schools accountability and governance systems are changing to meet the needs of the child. Parents, teachers, and community are joining forces to seek solutions to educational issues as citizens recognize that public officials alone can not solve the crisis in public schools. Citizens, business, government, and education are forming partnerships to address educational reform.

This article examines the experience of The Los Angeles Educational Alliance for Restructuring Now (LEARN) in marshaling the Los Angeles community to develop an educational reform plan. Working toward a common goal of improved education for every child, LEARN's 625 trustees, a coalition of civic leaders and representatives of Los Angeles' education, ethnic, business, labor, academic, religious and social advocacy constituencies have reached consensus on a community agenda for restructuring education in Los Angeles. The article describes the LEARN experience and identifies the driving and restraining forces in its implementation. The aim is to provide information that can serve as a model for other communities seeking to address public issues that require cooperative efforts by multiple organizations.

The development of a plan to restructure the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) is a study of one organization's strategy to facilitate a network of constituencies to arrive at consensus to reform education. The data were collected via interviews with members of the LEARN organization, review of written reports of LEARN activities, action updates, and personal observation. The author was a facilitator for the LEARN Professional Development Taskforce.

The LEARN Experience

Background

LEARN is led by a Working Group of thirteen community leaders. Concerned about the plight of public education in Los Angeles, the Group created LEARN to be a goal-and action-oriented organization that would involve the broader community in reaching consensus on a plan for systemic reform of the Los Angeles Unified School District.

Committed to community-wide involvement, the Working Group hired as its president, Mike Roos, who was then Speaker pro Tempore of the California State Assembly and a fourteen-year veteran of the Los Angeles political and public-policy arena. Mr. Roos resigned from the Assembly and joined LEARN in March, 1991. LEARN officially opened in June, 1991.

An important initial task was to create a policy-making body called the Council of Trustees, which is a group of community leaders representing the diverse body of stakeholders in the Los Angeles education reform process: teachers, administrators, parents, and representatives from colleges and universities, business, ethnic, religious, social service, labor and other community-based organizations.

Trustees were charged with representing their constituencies on the Council and communicating the Council's goals, purpose, and progress to their constituents, providing input and information, working to achieve consensus on the plan, communicating the plan to the broader community, and engendering community support.

Careful attention was paid to representation and input from stakeholders. LEARN also worked closely with the Los Angeles Unified School District, employee bargaining units, and other organizations devoted to the interests of children and education in Los Angeles. These educators, community leaders, and advocates provided much of the impetus and vision for the plan.

Issue Creation

Initial actions involved defining the issues and building public awareness and community support for school reform. LEARN convened teams to conduct a review of current innovative practices and education reform experiments throughout the United States and Canada. …

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