L.A. Mummified

The School District has subverted Prop. 227 by herding tens of thousands of kids into a blatant retread of its failed bilingual education program

Civil society would fairly crack apart from frustration and despair if it weren’t for the fact that sometimes the bad guys are made to pay for what they have done.

In Los Angeles, the L.A. Mummified School District board is the bad guy. And finally, after years of education malpractice, the board’s seven elected members — perhaps the most detested individuals in L.A. — are warily hurtling toward an unexpected double date with payback time.

First, in the next month or so, the board will be forced by law to hold an unprecedented, state-required, public hearing into just exactly why the $6 billion-per-year district is missing tens of thousands of English reading books for immigrant children — mostly Mexican-American grade-schoolers who have instead been stuck with Spanish textbooks all year and have fallen horribly behind in English as a result.

Second, multimillionaire computer whiz Ron Unz, sponsor of Proposition 227, is getting ready to sue several school officials in California on behalf of children who are being denied their right to learn English under Prop. 227.

Deliciously, Unz tells me, “Los Angeles Unified is definitely at or near the top of my list, and you will see lawsuits by parents on behalf of their children very, very soon.”

Even better, says Unz, “The money that is won in lawsuits will be used by parents to hire English tutors for their children to catch up.” Ron Unz plans to sue several school officials in California on behalf of children denied their right to learn English.

But most immigrant kids being denied English in L.A. will never get tutors and will never catch up, and they are being irreparably harmed by the school board, top bureaucrats, and even principals.

District officials have subverted Prop. 227 by herding tens of thousands of kids into so-called “Model B” classes — a blatant retread of the district’s failed bilingual education program in which kids only get half their reading and writing instruction in English, and the other half in Spanish.

“Model B is completely illegal,” says Unz. “Proposition 227 says nearly all instruction must be in English. If you bought a radio, and they said it worked nearly all the time, and really it only worked half the time, you would call that fraud.”

The word fraud also comes to mind when considering the unexplained “shortage” of English textbooks.

The reading books were supposed to have been purchased with a special $80-per-child award from the state under Assembly Bill 3482.

But dozens of “true-believer” principals and bureaucrats who oppose the teaching of intensive English reading and writing to immigrant grade-schoolers ignored the imminent passage of Prop. 227 and quietly blew much of the dough on Spanish books, not English books.

School board member David Tokofsky, the only worthwhile human in charge over at L.A. Mummified, is furious about the book shortage — which has forced the district into a much-publicized Sophie’s Choice between buying desperately needed English textbooks or raising teaching salaries to attract higher caliber educators to the flailing district.

“If you look at the date of these orders for Spanish textbooks,” Tokofsky notes with disgust, “many of them were ordered in April, May, and June of this year when the polls confirmed that Prop. 227 was clearly on its way to passing. But not a soul in our bureaucracy here sent out a note to principals saying Prop. 227 would make the books useless, so don’t order them. It was out of control. It was the bilingual true-believers on the march.”

The public hearing into the Grand Book Caper should be riveting, complete with sure-to-be squirming performances from a dozen or so whining incompetents who conspired to resist Prop. 227. Among them, I would like to nominate the following three school officials to Ron Unz’s list of Bureaucrats Most Deserving of Being Personally Sued:

.Director Forrest Ross, promoted to run the district’s bilingual instruction program and responsible for instituting English-immersion teaching under Prop. 227, even though he virulently opposes Prop. 227 and is against the early teaching of English reading and writing skills to immigrants.

Last month, Ross presented the foolish school board a laughably fraudulent report, complete with expensive view graphs, which attempted to show that Mexican-American children are “learning English faster by getting instruction in Spanish first.”

Ross’ beliefs are utter fantasy, formed because of his long years of worship at the feet of his mentor, Steve Krashen, the district’s bilingual education guru, who got rich promoting a series of failed curriculum “reforms” for California, including bilingual education and whole language.

As usual, the school board was thrilled by the costly overhead view graphs and agreed with Ross’ Krashen-inspired plan to ask the state Board of Education for blanket waivers from Prop. 227 for tens of thousands of Mexican-American grade-schoolers.

.Associate Superintendent Carmen Schroeder, the bilingual true-believer promoted to run the district’s entire instructional program. Schroeder secretly launched a criminally stupid, Krashen-inspired, district-wide policy this fall, in which teachers were instructed to teach only conversational English to immigrant grade-schoolers, and not to teach them any formal reading or writing in English.

Schroeder’s outrageous little scheme is still being widely implemented at schools around the district as of this week, even though it was unveiled on the front page of the Los Angeles Times recently.

The Times report was filled with teachers and others plainly questioning how children can learn a difficult subject like reading and writing when teaching is being actively withheld in that subject.

.Superintendent Ruben Zacharias, who appointed and promoted the above-mentioned wheedling windbags and who continues to allow the discredited and destructive Krashen to deeply influence district practices.

Indeed, Zacharias is allowing Krashen’s idiotic video — of the smugly grinning Krashen extolling the need to put off the formal teaching of English to immigrant children for years — to be shown in teacher-training sessions in the district. Moreover, Zacharias has allowed Krashen to work with district bureaucrats to get around the requirements of Prop. 227.

Even as we speak, under a plan carefully designed by the district’s anti-227 bureaucrats, schools now are holding special training sessions to persuade parents to ask for waivers from the state to remove their children from English classes and return them to Spanish.

In the meetings, says pro-227 teacher Doug Lasken, “district leaders are telling parents that if they keep their child in English, he or she won’t get any reading and writing skills training — but that’s because the district has banned all skills instruction in English for immigrants.” As a result, Lasken points out, “The parent is under this circumstance of choosing no-skills English or formal skills training in Spanish. It is a horrible thing the district is doing to these parents and kids.”

Whenever such incredible district practices come to light, Zacharias acts the innocent. He shakes his head with mock disapproval and chirps to the media that he knows nothing whatever about such outrages.

Zacharias claims he neither knows how the Spanish textbooks got ordered instead of the English ones, nor how Schroeder and her anti-Prop. 227 cronies took it upon themselves to ban phonics, spelling, and other formal teaching in thousands of classrooms since school opened this fall.

“That is not the way we do it,” Zacharias said in response to media reports that teachers had been banned since the fall from teaching English reading and writing skills to immigrants.

But clearly, it is the way they do it, and Zacharias is either behind the whole ugly scam or is far too weak to put a stop to it.

Ross, Schroeder, and Zacharias are the sort of people who make one yearn for the public tribunals held in places like South Africa and Eastern Europe, where corrupt officials who irreparably harm others by misusing the powers of the state are held to answer for their deeds, publicly shamed, and sent off to work in a rock quarry.

Sadly, we don’t have public tribunals here, or even rock quarries. For that reason, it’s comforting to have Ron Unz on the case.

Rather than sue the district as a whole, Unz says, under Prop. 227, immigrant parents will directly sue named school officials who have acted to prevent their immigrant children from being taught how to read and write in English.

“Just to give you an idea of how skewed things are in Los Angeles,” Unz told me, “at Forrest Ross’ own high school, where he was principal before he got promoted to run bilingual instruction, almost none of the parents applied for waivers to get their kids out of English reading and writing classes and back into Spanish. So after years of Forrest’s propaganda, we find out how popular his bilingual program really was at his own school.”

As usual, nobody in charge of the L.A. schools is interested in what parents and children really need. Instead, those in charge are pursuing careers, votes, promotions, and power — rewards that in L.A. Mummified are still granted to the loudest supporters of the failed bilingual program.

So tune in soon with me to watch the yet-to-be-scheduled public hearing into how adult desires for self-enhancement left thousands of tiny children without their books and without a chance, in one of the richest and most incompetent school districts in the world.



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