No changes in policy, no reform expected in BHUSD public schools
BEVERLY HILLS, CA (robinsrowe.com) 2020/11/4 – Thank you to my many supporters in yesterday’s election. Robin S. Rowe, that’s me, came away with 7% of the vote. While that’s better than the 5% I achieved in the March City Council election, it’s not the 18% necessary to win one of the three Beverly Hills school board seats.
So, what lessons can we learn from the School Board election? Money still wins. That Beverly Hills elected candidates who have wealthy Beverly Hills backers isn’t a surprise.
The Incumbent Gets Reelected in Spite of Himself
BHUSD schools have suffered ten years of appalling decline and financial waste. During our debate the Incumbent pointed to this record as though it was some sort of accomplishment. I pointed out it’s a record of failure. He said it’s not his fault. Why not? He said because it has been one crisis after another during his time on the board. Is that supposed to be an excuse?
Why do many voters embrace politicians who fail to anticipate a crisis and then incompetently manage it? That is, fail to do their job. One voter told me frankly that he wouldn’t vote for anyone smarter than himself. He doesn’t trust smart people.
Construction Fraud Not Addressed
Beverly Hills has a massive $700 million budget in school construction from Measure E and Measure BH. The Construction Developer Candidate says she sits on the committee that is supposed to watchdog financial waste at BHUSD. She was elected. The School Board is being sued for trying to hide $16 million in school reconstruction funds being diverted into frivolous lawsuits intended to delay Los Angeles subway construction.
Our taxpayer money going to (deliberately?) losing lawsuits. Hiring the same law firm who represents the President and lobbying to try to get the President to intervene. Paying for buses to transport students to a Board-coordinated “student protest”. How does the candidate responsible for overseeing preventing fraud feel about that? When I tried to ask during the debate, I was told there was no time to answer that question.
IEP AP/Honors Fraud Not Addressed
IEP AP/Honors fraud is a problem I’d never heard of before I ran for school board. The IEP Child Psychologist Candidate was elected. She never mentioned this issue at all. A Beverly Hills teacher told me about it. It didn’t come up in the debates because it wasn’t one of the questions allowed. The debates aren’t really debates, but forums in which all the candidates get the same generic softball questions. We’re asked talk about ourselves, how we feel about our accomplishments, about our self-imagined greatness. It’s like a job interview.
The way IEP AP/Honors fraud works is a normal child goes to an accommodating IEP psychologist who certifies the child for SpecialEd. Then the child is placed not in SpecialEd classes, but in AP and Honors classes. Why would anyone do that? Because the IEP students get twice as much time to take tests and other accommodations. It raises the child’s academic ranking on paper. It raises the school’s whole AP/Honors program on paper. Beverly Hills has IEP students in AP and Honors classes.
During our debate, after I noted that BHUSD had fallen from being the #1 school district in the world to a present low of ranking #54 among local schools, the Incumbent responded. He didn’t deny, but countered that BHUSD is up in AP and Honors ranking. How is it our schools are falling in overall academic ranking and yet AP and Honors are up? Isn’t that peculiar?
More Money Thrown at the Public Education Problem
Also in this election, California Prop 15, the Disney tax, passed. Expected to raise corporate taxes $11 billion. With 30% of it to go to local school boards to spend on whatever they wish. In our case, to a School Board being sued for diverting funds from school construction funds into conservative political projects unrelated to education. That doesn’t pay teachers a living wage despite having the budget to do so. Is more money to these politicians going to improve public education?
Beverly Hills Voters
Demographics. Beverly Hills voters are wealthy and have a history of voting conservative. In the 2016 election, this was the only district in Los Angeles County to vote to have a Republican be president. That seems surprising because this most voters here are registered Democrats. One might conclude these are split-ticket voters who are locally liberal but nationally conservative. It may be simpler than that. Rich people voting for other rich people.
School Vouchers Next?
Financial waste and education mismanagement will continue and perhaps accelerate. More students will flee from Beverly Hills schools. So, what does the future hold when this is the type of leadership who is leading us? Giving more money to the people wrecking our public schools may make the decline go faster.
Rich Beverly Hills parents will continue to pay twice. Once for the most expensive public schools in the country, with taxes so high it costs more per student than the average private school in California. Twice because parents spend the same again to send their child to a good private school. Because Beverly Hills schools are inadequate.
Voters will be increasingly enraged that public schools continue to decline, waste so much taxpayer money. Eventually, they will tire of throwing more money at the problem. Will give up. However, that may not lead to the type of reform public schools need.
If public schools continue to decline as they have, expect school vouchers laws to pass. Then rich parents only pay once for their children’s education, not twice as many do now. Is it incompetence wrecking our public schools or deliberate? Is there a conscious effort by conservative politicians to wreck public schools to pave the way for school vouchers?
Collapse of the Teachers Union and Tenure?
School vouchers will make it impossible to maintain or even to plan for public school teacher employment levels. The tenure system will collapse under such uncertainty. While much maligned because the teachers union seems to use it to keep bad teachers, the tenure system is all that’s stopping good teachers from being fired at the whim of School Board politicians.
Without tenure, teachers become political appointees. Public schools become a political patronage system where teachers are chosen for their party affiliation. That is, their enthusiasm to teach nationalism, creationism or racism.
The Great American Experiment
American schools may return to their roots. That is, educating the rich few, with the syllabus going back to being the 4-Rs of Reading, ‘Riting, ‘Rithmatic and Religion. As it was at the time of the founders.
That would be the end of America’s great experiment in mandatory and free K12 education for all. An experiment deliberately failed so that the children of rich politicians come first.
Robin S. Rowe ran in the November 2020 election for School Board. His plan was to make Beverly Hills the most advanced K12 school system in the world. Reverse our schools’ 10-year decline. Increase enrollment. Raise our academic standing. Pay our teachers a living wage. Put an end to millions of dollars of our education funds being diverted, squandered on School Board politics.
Professor Rowe has taught computer science at two universities. An enterprise manager at a multi-billion dollar high tech company. Implemented advanced education technology for the world’s largest PC maker and as a navy research scientist. As a journalist he’s written for Popular Science and many other magazines and newspapers.