Schools of LAst Resort

Could the only teacher in LA’s school board race pull off a surprise win?

Los Angeles teacher Lisa Alva

In this season of election surprises, could an upstart candidate win a spot on the Los Angeles school board, powered by little more than enthusiasm and word-of-mouth? *I think we might be surprised on March 7,* says teacher Lisa Alva, the upstart candidate herself. The school board election has attracted close to $5 million in outside spending, a not insignificant chunk of which has gone to Alva’s opponent, charter advocate Monica Garcia. Alva may not have glossy mailers or an army of paid canvassers going door to door, but she has something that all those independent expenditures can’t buy. She’s a voice of genuine resistance—to reform experiments gone wrong, to *choice* for the sake of choice, and for the kids, the parents and the teachers who are being left behind. Can you tell I have a bit of a crush?

I met Alva two years ago when I was in Los Angeles to talk to people about Eli Broad’s *bold* plan to move half of the city’s students into charter schools within six years. I did what I always do on one of these edu-reporting adventures: I asked anyone I knew with an LA connection to hook me up. Which is how I ended up spending an afternoon with Alva in her English classroom at Roosevelt High School in LA’s Boyle Heights neighborhood. A virtual edu-pal had introduced me to Alva; another contact, a documentary filmmaker, introduced me to Boyle Heights. Once the *Ellis Island* of LA, Boyle Heights was sliced apart in the 1960’s by the East LA Interchange. That would be the intersection of six freeways built to transport Los Angelenos to the new suburbs and the tract houses that were blooming across California, thanks to a young home builder named Eli Broad. But I digress… Continue reading →

Inequality is for Winners

I talk to Tom Frank, author of Listen, Liberal, about the Democrats’ break up with the working class and why education can’t save us…

listen liberalEduShyster: Your recent book, Listen, Liberal argues that Democrats are no longer the party of the working class, which now seems to have some, well, data behind it.

Tom Frank: The Democrats are now a party of the professional class: affluent, white-collar professionals. They themselves say this all the time; they talk about the professional class as being their constituency. But we don’t often try to put the pieces together and try to figure out, well what does it mean to be a party of the professional class vs. the working class? One thing it means is that inequality is seen as the natural order of things. In fact, professionals believe in inequality. They think of inequality as totally fair and the way things should be, and they think that because they themselves are the winners in the great inequality sweepstakes. Continue reading →

*Hope Always Wins the Day*

City-councilor-to-be Helen Gym talks about the movement behind her win—and a clear defeat for the education reform vision…

Helen 1EduShyster: That sound you just heard was me uncorking a box of champagne. But you still have to win the general election in November. Did I start celebrating too soon?

Helen Gym: No—you didn’t celebrate too early. I’m not worried about the race but I definitely want to make sure that in the final tally in November that I move up in votes and send a clear message about voters prioritizing public education and communities. And just to put things in perspective, Democrats outnumber Republicans in Philly by more than 7 to 1. Continue reading →

Win, Helen, Win!

Parent activist Helen Gym’s race for Philly City Council is a model of how to put schools and community voice at the heart of a campaign…

Parent activist Helen Gym

Parent activist Helen Gym

When I got word that parent activist Helen Gym wasn’t just running for an at-large seat on the Philadelphia City Council but was teaching the world a thing or two in the process, I knew I had to see this force of nature for myself. And so I was off, to Philly, to spend a day with Helen, knocking on doors, shaking hands, talking to complete strangers about school funding and how you can’t have strong neighborhoods without strong schools. Or rather Helen did those things. I just stood back and marveled, thinking again and again that every one of our cities needs a Helen—and that it might just be you, or me. Well, probably not me… Continue reading →