… yet money talks and without it, you’re just mute. Or moot? Voiceless, ignored. Manipulable.

Education policy has been in the clutches of monied interests for some long while now, and it’s cloaked with the thinnest of veneers insisting Reform “is all for the children” – in Orwellian fashion because this is precisely the constituency, as a whole, for whom education policy is not being managed.

Meanwhile there is an earnest band of nerds plugging away at life, toiling at their muse expressly for children, education and the ideal of democracy. The trouble is, it’s hard to tell the difference. Remember the problem of knights and knaves? One tells the truth only, another lies only, and telling the difference between them is the province of master logicians.

There has been a revolution on the LAUSD school board and everyone collectively is holding their breath to see whether a different faction is truly in ascendancy. Will children and their true needs become the focus of attention once again or will the status quo re-form to re-cloak the drive toward segregation and manipulability that masks a sector-wide implementation of “privatization”. That is, public policy implemented on behalf of private gain?

This week of our country’s birthday, July 4 (2013), marks the new term of a new school board member. Freshly instated on LAUSD’s board is a teacher who in her bid for election stated some strong words of support for our current superintendent. It is an open question as to whether this signals a level of political dependency that will permit skepticism toward current pernicious policies that to date have driven public education through a complicated, tiered system of haves and have-nots.

It’s hard to see the over-arching patterns of manipulation across a system as vast as LAUSD. And it’s harder still to affect any change within such a monolithic system of bureaucrats.

But it’s easy to see the results at the ground-level: in the classroom and on the campus. It’s terrible for the kids to have to absorb the brunt of the trauma of this experiment, but it is what it is. And what it is, is awful.

Schools that work are ignored and impoverished. Their funds are rescinded. The cuts to title I funding among those schools with lower concentrations of ‘socioeconomically disadvantaged’ is aggressive. It is a call to action among those school communities to push them into the world of private charters. To survive, vast numbers of these schools, particularly in the valley, have already done so. And the drive in west LA to push families into private charters is likewise fierce, active and remorseless. Jump or be pushed, that’s been the mantra of the past decade. If you value education, the value of your educational system of choice is so denuded as to force a change that enables private purveyors to skim their own profit. If you do not value education, you are sifted from the system until the school where you are left, abandoned by those who could or would before you, is vulnerable to the same corporate machinations as explicitly implemented in the private versions of the schools where ‘everyone’ has already jumped.

Either way, a system setup in the past as egalitarian and democratic, a pillar of our political philosophy, has been ravaged. And it is to draw us back from this brink of existential non-democracy that so many are right now holding our breath in anticipation of a ‘fix’. We desperately miss public schools where teachers can actually instruct their pupils. Where teachers have the time to grade their papers, to guide students, to support and encourage them. In a classroom with 40+ students, this is a sheer human impossibility. Period.

We miss schools where our kids can dabble in all that life has to offer, not exclusively nail down the skills that will employ them in cornering some master’s economic market. Our children need to learn music and the interactive social lessons it reveals. Our children need to try art and drama and the access to emotional release it facilitates. Our children need to exercise their bodies and build their muscles to support a frame capable of entertaining ideas and working out the unknown, to enter adult life with a physical capacity that will coast them through to old age. Our children need counselors to guide and advocate, nurses to bind wounds, librarians to organize knowledge. Our children need an engaged community that supports and loves them for doing the whole panoply of all the things they can and should be doing in their childhood: learning, studying, playing, drawing, running, understanding.

This is not happening in our public LAUSD schools right now. It just isn’t. Sporadically, in isolated pockets, perhaps. But not easily, not fluidly, not in large-enough numbers, not reliably. Not in the schools suffused with the “socioeconomically disadvantaged”, nor in the schools not thus-saturated. Because all the funds to support a school community have vanished. Some to a failed economy, some to explicit re-prioritizing of spending, both short and long-term. But the bottom line is, parents out here are practically passed-out in holding our breath, hoping, excruciatingly, for some change.

Public education, run by public servants, for the exclusive good of the public, is a basic tenet of these United States of America. I love our country and I want it to survive as a place of opportunity for all. The best way I can think of to wish our country a “Happy Birthday” is to beg its citizens – you – to fiercely retain the right of every child here to opportunity. We must protect them from those who would steal this entitlement for private gain. Our public schools must be managed to benefit those for whom they are intended: All Our Children.

Please, LAUSD board members: ~ bring teachers back into our kids’ classrooms. Bring support staff back into our kids’ schools. Nurture our schools’ environments so community members can return publicly and work for ALL our children, all our country.