In its post-mortem, the Washington Post calls Deasy’s departure “a vivid demonstration of how political interests trump results when it comes to America’s broken schools.”
During Deasy’s three and a half years in LA, that city’s schools got a lot less broken, as the Post’s editorial points out. Dropouts and suspensions went down. Test scores and graduation rates went up.
What also went up, however, was the political heat among the district, the board of education and the teachers union.
During the last couple of weeks of uncertainty about Deasy’s future, LA Times columnist Steve Lopez wrote a column about the rancor and the challenges of running America’s second-largest school district. And he consulted with Roy Romer, a consummate politician who lasted six years as LA’s superintendent after being groomed for that job by serving for 12 years as the governor of Colorado. Lopez quoted Romer as saying:
In L.A., you’ve got to have a good instinct for what education should be, but maybe 50% of it is that you have to have an understanding of politics.
So, if I’m doing the math correctly, that means that the person in charge of running the public schools of Los Angeles should plan on spending no more than half of the job focused on the needs of kids. And that’s the formula that cost Los Angeles the leadership of John Deasy—a superintendent who, according to the Post editorial, “made student interests his first priority.” And he got results.