California Educator

June/July 2019

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Page 42 of 63

U N I T E D T E A C H E R S L O S A N G E L E S mem- bers won several major victories during their six-day strike in January — lower class sizes, more support services for students, and plans to reduce time spent on testing. But perhaps more importantly, the union raised community awareness about and ultimately squelched Superintendent Austin Beutner's planned restructuring of Los Angeles Unified School District using the "portfolio model." Rumored for months to be in the works, the secre- tive plan, which Beutner referred to as a "reimagining" of the district, would have broken LAUSD into 32 local networks, decentralizing oversight and (euphemistically) broadening student enrollment options. Although Beutner tried to distance himself from the actual term "portfolio," Kitamba Group, the consulting firm he brought in to make recommendations, had worked with other districts on implementing portfo- lio strategies. Their report, which was leaked to the Los Angeles Times in November, referenced the idea of portfolios multiple times, and several of their recom- mendations contained portfolio-like aspects. "e portfolio plan would have destroyed the district," says UTLA president Alex Caputo-Pearl. "Kitamba was brought in, along with other consultants associated with LA(USD) Confidential UTLA organizing foils district's "portfolio model" plan By Frank Wells UTLA President Alex Caputo- Pearl speaks to educators in Los Angeles in December. Inset: UTLA responds to an LA Times story on the restructuring plan. implementing portfolio models in districts across the country, to com- pletely privatize LAUSD. Beutner tried to keep it confidential because he knew UTLA would use it to expose his compromised position in the district as a noneducator businessman brought in to implement the vision of folks like Eli Broad, Michael Bloomberg and Wal-Mart." Advocates of the portfolio model, which has been implemented fully or partially in school districts such as Indianapolis, Atlanta, Memphis and New Orleans, say their intent is "to upend school districts." ey suggest public school boards should treat their schools as if they were a stock portfolio, and keep or "dump" them accordingly. Simplified, the portfolio model focuses on accountability, primarily based on test scores; decentralization of district management; closing or reconstituting underperforming or "failing" schools; and perhaps most controversially, creating more choice and competition through the expansion of charter schools. e idea and the terminology originated with Paul Hill, a University of Washington professor who argued in 2006 for a new system where "school boards would manage a diverse array of schools, some run by the school district and others by independent organizations, each designed to meet the different needs of students. Like investors with diversified portfolios of stocks and bonds, school boards would closely manage their community's portfolio of educational service offerings, divesting less productive schools and adding more promising ones." Hill founded the Center for Reinventing Public Education, which has been promoting the portfolio model since its inception. 41 J U N E / J U L Y 2 019 A

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