On Tuesday the LATimes editorialized about “dysfunction” at the LA school board. They criticized the board for discussing the “minutiae” regarding spending $113 million dollars to implement Common Core in LAUSD.

But Common Core is an utterly not-understood phenomenon. It is a shiny theoretical construct that is being foisted on millions of people with practically no understanding of what, why or how much. “How much” is very, very relevant. $113 million dollars is hardly chump change; scrutinizing the “minutiae” surrounding this particular piece of the vast expenditure is right and proper. Particularly in light of the fact that our schools are falling apart for want of money. $113 million, while trivial compared with the overall price tag for Common Core, would nevertheless buy a lot of toilet paper, a commodity in short supply at the schools I know. $113 million would buy 1130 teachers to actually teach our children, alleviating the inept crowding of class rooms to the unconscionable rate of 50 students per teacher. These are but two essential, uncontroversial components of educational improvement.  In contrast, putting an electronic toy in the hands of every child – a hallmark of the Common Core — is far less clearly educational.  While this $113 million may not be available beyond Common Core implementation, all the same scrutinizing the specifics of how this money is distributed, say locally vs centrally, is very important given how complex – and controversial – is this project.

Adjudicating between competing interests is the job of the school board, and to do this job requires discussion. It is not “dysfunctional” to ask hard questions; it is their purview. The school board sets policy by prioritizing the spending of monies. When this much money is at stake, and yet still there is not enough to go around, then funding one program means necessarily that another will be defunded. Under these circumstances our board should be afforded all the time they need in order to make the best possible decisions – in the interests of our children and not administrators, politicians or corporate editorial boards. Complaining about careful consideration of prioritizing expenditures is advocating incompetence.

Would we prefer that the board simply swallow whole-hog the prescriptions of this new, untested and poorly understood Common Core scheme? Imagine how foolish – and poor — we will all seem in five years if we have rushed to implement this vastly expensive system to no end. Urging speedy, unreflective change rarely serves anyone well except those who would hoodwink those being railroaded. We should all be extremely suspicious of a set of characters who urge massive spending, funded in suspicious ways, and have a temper tantrum when their pressurizing tactics aren’t acceded to immediately. It is not simply a question of fearing the unknown, there are serious questions of validity and worth to consider surrounding the Common Core program.

Our LAUSD school board is not “dysfunctional”; this is a dysfunctional political body. I take great exception to the insinuation that a collection of people presented with huge expenditures of taxpayer’s dollars should rubber stamp some pet project just because the person pushing it is getting increasingly agitated about growing skepticism surrounding it. Deliberation is not dysfunction. Pressuring sales tactics is.