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Jewish World Review Sept. 13, 2004 / 27 Elul 5764

Steve Young

Steve Young
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Consumer Reports

RUSSIAN JEWS IN L.A.'S VALLEY FACE SCHOOL BIAS: Attacks from school district and councilman's office attempt to stop charter school from opening | Across the country, parents and dedicated teachers are leaving public school districts for the educational freedom of self-governing charter schools. And because school districts are so fearful of losing the revenues generated by the each student, they will do most anything they can to stand in the way of the parent's rightful freedom of choice.

No where in this country are the efforts to keep a charter school from opening more insidious than in the San Fernando Valley area of the Los Angeles School Unified School District.

This woeful saga tells the tale of how Ivy Academia Charter School, started by Russian immigrants with a large Jewish student population, has attempted to open its doors. But if you listen to what school officials say about this immorality tale, you'd swear that Ivy is run by the most insincere group of administrators to come down the Russian-American pike. I have no doubt that the Los Angeles Unified School District and San Fernando Valley City Councilman Dennis Zine, will have their crack phone team at the ready to respond to everything written here, just as they have been doing as part of their vendetta against Ivy.

It's what they do best. It's also a school system and city officials at their worse.

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They will tell you that Ivy should not open their permanent location until all requirements are met.

But they won't tell you that they refuse to allow Ivy students to temporarily use any of their vacant schools until the permanent location has passed codes is completed.

LAUSD will speak of their concern for the children and how they need to have the utmost assurance that they are safe above all.

But they will not speak of the fear our children deal with in the hallways, classrooms and so many schoolyards at LAUSD schools.

They will speak of Ivy's need for an elevator in their two-story building for those who cannot walk to open its doors even though Ivy presently has no handicapped children or teachers.

But they will not speak of the many LAUSD schools who have no elevators, nor have been requested to add one even though they actually have handicapped children attending AND that Ivy administrators have said that if required that they would surely comply. Nor will they mention that the LAUSD Supervisor waited until one working day prior to Ivy's opening to send an official from their office to tell Ivy they needed the elevator (at the mere cost of some $300,000).

They will tell you that the toilet roll holders in the shiny new Ivy bathrooms are extended rather recessed.

But they won't tell you of the girls who refuse to use LAUSD bathrooms because of their constant state of filth.

They will speak of their awareness that they must rent a LAUSD facility for Ivy students, as the state charter code dictates, but could not because of their uncertainty as to whether LAUSD would need the vacant schools.

But they will not speak of the myriad LAUSD schools that remain vacant all year round, losing hundreds of thousands of sorely-needed revenue, while Ivy and other charter schools are forced to pay outside landlords for their facilities then lay out even more money to upgrade to the acceptable standards. Money that could have gone into the pockets of the budget-strapped LAUSD. And if you multiply the number of charter schools that have been forced to find private facilities despite public schools that remain deserted, millions of dollars have escaped the district's needs. Quite the administrators, wouldn't you say?

Nor will the LAUSD supervisor will say that she has ignored any number of calls from Ivy to use (and pay rent) for existing vacant schools temporarily.

They will speak to their concern to teach our children values and ethical behavior.

But what they definitely won't speak to is the LAUSD evening phone calls, the day before school was to open, to tell every Ivy family, many who left Russia to escape this state intimidation, that Ivy would probably not open on time and that there is no idea as to when it will. They won't tell you that they read from scripts, trying to scare the parents into going back to their old schools (tapes are available).

They will tell you that Ivy has not done the necessary traffic study to gain occupancy.

But they won't tell you that the study cannot proceed until school starts. They will also not tell you that they had asked Ivy to come up with a $30,000 bond to get temporary occupancy authority. Nor will they tell you that when Ivy brought in the $30,000, they were told that Valley councilman, Dennis Zine refused to give approval until Ivy received the blessing of the local community council; or that the council was unable to deal with the issue until a later date, a date after Ivy was supposed to open. And when Ivy administrators tried to contact Zine's office to explain what had happened, Zine never returned their calls.

Zine will tell you, as he did the L.A. Daily News, "There are a multiplicity of issues that absolutely infuriate me."

But what he won't tell you was that he had enjoined the "Stop At Nothing To Stop Ivy" attack machine and that while he says he plans to send a letter to the school's parents Friday apprising them of the situation, he and his people have refused to return calls from Ivy officials after they followed his recommendation.

Was this all a set up, Catch 22 or just plain gotcha? There's a lot of proof of all three. Is it anti-Russian and or anti- Semitic discrimination? It might be if you believe what's been said by insiders at the LAUSD.

But Zine and the LAUSD will tell you they're doing standing in the way of Ivy's opening, "for the children."

What they won't tell you is that they are so afraid of losing state funding that they will do everything they can to forestall or outright abort an entrepreneurial education for those same children and true parental empowerment.

And they certainly won't tell you that instead of being bullied by darkness of the night, LAUSD jack-boot tactics of shameless manipulation, fear-mongering and racial insinuations, the Ivy families rushed to the school to ask what they could do to help and spent until midnight calling other families to explain that the distortions LAUSD was insidiously spreading weren't true and they would never give up fighting for their children.

Above all, will anyone ask, "What happened to the days when school districts were all about serving dreams not crushing them; getting kids to school, not stopping them?" Perhaps when school board and city council elections next take place, Valley families will use their votes to bring us back to those days.


JWR contributor Steve Young created for National Lampoon. Comment by clicking here.


© 2004, Steve Young