Larsen: Public Schools in Anaheim Actually Work

One of my favorite movies is “It’s a Wonderful Life,” a tale about greed and what can happen when a city is controlled by rich and selfish interests.

It’s clear from an Orange County Register Op-Ed piece earlier this year, “No city subsidy for Anaheim high schools,” that Robert Loewen would make good company with Henry Potter, the corrupt loan shark of Bedford Falls.

Like council members Lucille Kring and Kris Murray, who voted against a line item supporting public schools, Loewen seems to believe that there are two Anaheims—one for his rich corporate friends and one for everyone else, including over 60,000 K-12 public school students.

Loewen, chairman of the Lincoln Club of Orange County, cites information from 2011 to bolster his claim that AUHSD schools are “chronically failing.”

I want to cite much more recent data that shows they are anything but.

Eight schools—the most of any of the 27 school districts in Orange County—have been designated as California Gold Ribbon Schools, under a new state Department of Education program honoring outstanding public schools. The eight Gold Ribbon schools join five California Distinguished Schools.

Meanwhile, Oxford Academy is a National Blue Ribbon School, based on overall academic excellence. Remember that Oxford Academy is representative of the entire District as it draws students from across the District. Additionally, for its performance on the new state tests in English and math, Oxford Academy also ranked as the No. 1 school in Orange County and the state, blowing away traditional academic powerhouses such as Whitney High School.

Savanna High School is a P21 National Exemplar School, the first and only in the state to be designated as such, for its innovative approaches to college and career readiness. And U.S. News and World Report has designated all nine AUHSD high schools as among the “Best High Schools in the Nation” in the annual rankings. Schools were awarded the medals based on their performance on state assessments and how well they prepare students for college.

Also, it should be noted that the community believes in AUHSD and the potential of its students—and that is why they approved Measure H by an overwhelming margin of 59 percent.

Loewen maintains that, because AUHSD had the nerve to seek support from the Anaheim City Council to help improve the lives of Anaheim students and their families—their constituents—then the school district is nothing but a greedy bureaucracy.

Yet Loewen mentions nothing of the hundreds of millions in tax subsidies that Kring and Murray have given to some of the most profitable businesses in Anaheim.

Loewen goes on to maintain that the AUHSD is ripe for a takeover by the corporate privatizers of education. What he failed to mention, though, is that he retired this year as a partner in a large law firm that worked on the 2010 “parent empowerment” legislation that has undermined public schools for takeover by private interests.

Loewen’s other association is with the Lincoln Club.

The club’s president is Wayne Lindholm, married to Linda Lindholm, an outspoken charter school proponent elected in 2014 to the Orange County Board of Education, which represents 500,000 public schoolchildren.

Campaign finance records show Ms. Lindholm received big money for her campaign from charter school supporters.

In the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life,” Mr. Potter was able to turn the community of Bedford Falls into Pottersville, where he could coldly and selfishly exploit and oppress citizens, because protagonist George Bailey was not around. George, fortunately, woke up to the realization that he could save himself, and Bedford Falls, in the bargain.

The mayor of Anaheim, Tom Tait, is a modern-day George Bailey. He alone has recognized that there is really one Anaheim, where our futures are intertwined.

The mayor knows that, especially in a community where there are approximately 4,200 homeless students, the more opportunities provided to enrich the lives of young people in gyms, pools, and playing fields, through sports, visual and performing arts, and activities, the better our collective future will be.

As we move forward, let us hope that a wonderful life is possible for all.

Larry Larsen is an Anaheim resident and supports a line item in the Anaheim city budget for schools.

Voice of OC is interested in hearing different perspectives and voices. If you want to weigh in on this issue please contact Voice of OC  Publisher Norberto Santana at nsantana@voiceofoc.org.