The LookOut Letters to the Editor
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Butts' Letter "Disappointing," Mixed Signals and Corporate Ed

May 28, 2002

Dear Editor,

It was disappointing to read Chief Jim Butts' recent letter ("Chief Butts Speaks Out on Policing Demonstrations," April 25) regarding the April 11th demonstration of SAMOHI students who were voicing their support of workers at the Doubletree Hotel.

With this planned demonstration, as with all those organized to address issues at local hotels, the Santa Monica Police Department was informed well in advance about the size, the route, and the timing of the action. It was made clear to the Department that primarily students would be participating, that there were no plans for civil disobedience of any kind, and that the march would be closely controlled by trained monitors.

After informing the police of all the plans, no one from the Police Department contacted the Hotel Workers Union with any concerns about the planned activity.

The Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees Union, Local 814 has been a member of the Santa Monica community and a property owner in Santa Monica since the 1940s and has represented members in Santa Monica's tourism industry for nearly 60 years.

We consider ourselves a trustworthy and respected member of the local community. While many of our members reside outside of Santa Monica, we consider them and our union to be a vital and contributing part of this city and its economy.

Sincerely,

Tom Walsh
President H.E.R.E. Local 814


May 22, 2001

Dear Editor,

Your article on the ARB rejection of the Boulangerie project ("Main Street Project Has No Friends on ARB," May 21) is further evidence that there is something broken in the Santa Monica development approval process. For a good mixed-use project that took 18 months for an EIR to be rejected by the Planning Commission and then green-lighted by the City Council, and finally rejected this week by the ARB, this just seems like a complete breakdown.

In response to the Planning Commission concerns about a lack of variation in architectural style, the developer apparently made important changes to reduce architectural homogeneity. Then this week the ARB turns around and rejects the project because there is too much stylistic variation in the plan????!!!

We have to send a clear message to developers that Santa Monica wants good, mixed-use development on transit corridors that will not only beautify our city but will address the critical housing shortage, reduce auto-dependency, and make our city more sustainable in the long run.

Although as a city we have identified mixed-use and higher density as the smart way to grow, we seem to be unable to follow through and live up to our lofty goals. Lets do what other progressive cities are doing by providing a simplified, fair, fast-track approval process for developments that are in accordance with our community standards and goals.

One-stop shops, developer liaisons, priority review, and sustainability score-card checklists will help send the right message to developers about the kinds of growth that we want in Santa Monica.

Allen Freeman
Livable Santa Monica
Santa Monica, CA


May 27, 2002

Dear Editor,

A recent article in the New York Times reported that the Edison Corporation will take control of twenty "failing" public schools in Philadelphia. The story also reported that school principals will be replaced by Chief Executive Officers and teachers will become employees in schools resembling corporations. Within weeks of the school district's decision, a majority of teachers at the affected schools requested to be transferred.

Will this corporate model resemble the one established in America during the past two decades? The same model that encourages CEO's and top corporate executives to reap unprecedented profits, perks and payoffs on the backs of their employees. The same model that places personnel gain ahead of environmental protection. The same model that places profit before people. I certainly hope not. However, I must admit, I have my doubts.

There is no question that public schools in Philadelphia and other American cities need to improve. At the 2001 National Education Association Convention, President Bob Chase said, "If a public school is not good enough for my child, it's not good enough for any child." If public schools, especially large urban schools are to improve, teachers and their associations must be part of the solution and most importantly, be the architects of school improvement plans. However, the current trend of teacher bashing, labeling schools as failures and corporate control falls well short of that ideal.

Jim Boren wrote in the Fresno Bee in March 1999, "Teachers are being made scapegoats for poor student performance. It doesn't matter that many low performing students barely speak English, often go hungry, seldom have books in their homes, have high truancy rates and have parents themselves that are dropouts."

Unfortunately many within the mainstream media are unwilling to raise these issues and when teacher advocates do, we are reminded that there are no excuses for students not achieving at high levels. We are not making excuses! No one is more committed to improving student achievement then classroom teachers and teacher associations.

If schools are to improve, we must have the courage to look at both the internal and external factors that contribute to successful schools. Too many of America's children are living below the poverty line. It is unacceptable and unconscionable that America leads the industrialized world in childhood poverty rates. Twenty- five percent of America's children live in poverty. How are children to learn and reach their highest potential when 25 percent are hungry?

Research has shown that there is a strong link between poverty and lagging academic achievement. According to the independent research group Ed Source, "California teachers face a significant challenge in educating large number of students from families struggling for economic survival. The economic boom of the 1990's has made the affluent even wealthier but has left relatively untouched those at the bottom. California sits towards the top in terms of states with pronounced income gaps between the rich and the poor." What will corporate schools do to solve childhood poverty?

Another contributing factor to consider when looking at student achievement is the large percentage of children attending public schools who do not speak English as their primary language. Ed Source estimates that " 24.6 percent of California students were designated in 1997 as Limited English Proficient and that in Los Angeles Unified School District, as many as 46 percent of students are LEP, and they speak more than 75 different languages." How will corporate schools meet the needs of our second language learners?

America's public schools are antiquated and overcrowded. Urban schools are the most overcrowded, and often employ a disproportionately high percentage of teachers on emergency permits or with no credential at all. What will the corporate executives do to solve the facilities crisis? What will the corporate leaders do to attract and retain certified teachers?

Teachers and public education are under attack in America and its time for those of us committed to our work and profession to fight back. Gerald Bracey in his book "Setting the Record Straight" wrote: " The high school graduation rate in the United States has swelled from 3 percent a century ago to 83 percent now. It has been a century of ever-increasing university education and progress in educational attainments. We cannot rest on any laurels, but we can be proud of that record even as we seek to improve it."

Try telling that to the Edison Corporation.

Harry M. Keiley
President, Santa Monica Malibu Teachers Association
(Editor's note: This was the text of the president's message this month)

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