AirTalk for September 19, 2012

Patt Morrison with the Big Man on Campus: LAUSD’s John Deasy

Los Angeles Unified Superintendent John Deasy speaks to reporters in this 2012 file photo.

AFP/AFP/Getty Images

Los Angeles schools Supt. John Deasy

It’s about one month into the new school year, but LAUSD has already come under fire for a variety of issues.

In a UCLA study released in April, it was revealed that black male LAUSD students had the highest risk of suspension in the state, with over 20 percent of students being suspended at some point in their LAUSD academic career.

LAUSD and the Associated Administrators of Los Angeles recently announced a tentative one-year agreement will incorporate student test data as a factor in evaluating principals and assistant principals. Is that an effective way to rate teacher performance?

The Miramonte scandal that rocked the school is still ongoing, two lawsuits filed by Miramonte Elementary parents against LAUSD are on hold. Is LAUSD sending too many kids to court for minor offenses? In the last three years, school police issued more than 33,000 tickets for vandalism, tardiness and disrupting the peace.

Patt Morrison will chat with LAUSD’s Superintendent John Deasy about all of these issues and your questions.

Highlights from the interview:

On what the Chicago teachers strike has to do with L.A.:
"I don't think it has anything directly to do, but there are really important lessons and observations that we take because they are the 3rd largest school system in the United States."

"The very, very difficult issues are really not money any longer. They're actually how we deal with employees in terms of helping them get better, helping them understand their performance, accountability. I think the very, very thorny issue is [if] seniority is the only way that we have to make decisions when we close schools or downsize."

On how LAUSD has handled Obama administration's decision to stop deporting younger undocumented immigrants:
"I personally and professionally am very thrilled with the opportunity that students are both thinking about the opportunities in front of them with this act, which means come back to school, complete through-adult education or otherwise."

"This Monday, we launched the entire online opportunity for this, and in the three short days, we already have 400 through our new online application."

"We already know there is an entire process beyond LAUSD which is expensive, that's why we have done this for no charge, for our former students who need their documentation."

On how deferred action is getting funding despite other cuts:
"This is a situation that we face in LAUSD along, I would imagine, every other school district, which is the funding comes from the state. I can't get more, so people are doing less of one job in order to help the other, and at the moment, making sure that everybody has their transcript was key."

On funding arts education in the district:
"This is a problem across California and inside LAUSD, as the state has made draconian cuts in funding for public education ... We have had a number of incredibly generous philanthropy and artists donate, but we are at a really critical point about maintaining arts education."

On Prop. 30 and Prop. 38:
"If they pass, the free fall of the bottom falling out stops. It will be awhile, over years, but we will get additional funding. The first funding that comes back to us in 30 ... pays us back for the deficit of the IOUs the state has been giving us. We are owed nearly a billion dollars from the state of California in IOUs."

"The state gives you, by formula, how much you get per student, but they're not able to afford to give it all to you. So they tell you they give you a portion of it, and then we go to Wall Street and borrow the rest and pay interest on that. Over the years, that has added up to a billion dollars, and that has to be paid back to us first."

On minorities being targeted for criminal arrests by the LAPD:
"We had great concern ... around the suspension of students. We put an effort into place to really take a look at dropping the number of days students were suspended. We had some 46,000 days over the course of the year that students were suspended, and we had targeted a 5 percent decrease. We actually were able to see about a 47 percent decrease."

"The difference is very much being responsible for finding other ways to deal with, particularly, this infraction called 'defiance.' If you ... bring a weapon to campus and you sell drugs, you're going to be suspended and expelled, but that is a minority of the suspensions that were taking place. The majority were for this issue called 'defiance.'"

"There are other ways to help students learn that coming to class without pencils and notebooks is not a suspendable act. Defiance was not defined by the district."

"It's made a difference in their grades, big time. We saw more students graduate last year than had ever happened in LAUSD history, way beyond our target for increasing four-year cohort graduation rate. State test scores at every single grade and at every single subject are at the highest point in LAUSD's history."

On how LAUSD is attracting the best-qualified school teachers for the system:
"It is a huge issue, because one is, when we have to downsize, we must be forced to do that only on the issue of seniority, and we can't actually contribute anything to that decision about how the teacher has done ... However, on the other side, for every position we have hundreds and hundreds of applications. People want to teach, and they want to teach in LAUSD."

Guest:

John Deasy, LAUSD Superintendent


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