Star Parker

Los Angeles Mayor Antonia Villaraigosa soon will exercise more control over Los Angeles' deeply troubled school system as result of legislation that California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is expected to sign.

Similar initiatives in Boston, Chicago and New York City have resulted in some improvement in their school systems. But the real question on the table is why _ given that the future of children is at stake, and hence the future of our country _ do we settle for tepid reform when we need bold and innovative change to make a difference?

Yes, again I am talking about the need for competition in education and for school choice.

Freedom, competition and choice are what have produced the world's most powerful economy. Yet the very factors that have made America great, and have distinguished us from the rest of the world, are prohibited from operating in the education marketplace, where we produce our future citizens and workforce.

Sure, maybe giving the mayor more control and having more accountability will help in Los Angeles. But does anyone really believe that shifting around bureaucrats in a monopoly controlling 746,000 students and 80,000 employees is really going to make a big difference?

And, perhaps more to the point, will anyone claim this is the best possible answer? And, if not, what does it say about America today if we are allowing interests other than the welfare of children dictate how we manage education?

The dropout rate among Latino students in the Los Angeles Unified School District is 60 percent. Among black students it's 57 percent. Average proficiency in English and math is under 30 percent.

By the California Department of Education's own Academic Performance Index, 46 percent of elementary schools score 3 or below out of a possible 10, 72 percent of middle schools score 3 or below, and 66 percent of high schools score 3 or below.

As result of a complaint filed by my organization, CURE, along with the Alliance for School Choice, the California Department of Education is investigating compliance of the LAUSD with the school transfer provisions of No Child Left Behind.

According to NCLB, students in failing schools must be notified and permitted to transfer to another school. We have found that 250,000, about 30 percent, of the students in the LA system are eligible for such transfers, yet notification is not being given and there have only been only slightly more than 500 transfers.

Given the disaster that is taking place, you would think that the priority in the state would be to consider every possible option to find an optimal solution to educating Los Angeles' children.

But this is not the case at all.


Star Parker

Star Parker is founder and president of CURE, the Center for Urban Renewal and Education, a 501c3 think tank which explores and promotes market based public policy to fight poverty, as well as author of the newly revised Uncle Sam's Plantation: How Big Government Enslaves America's Poor and What We Can do About It.