By GARY TOEBBEN

The board of the Los Angeles Unified School District was elected to work on the very serious problems plaguing Los Angeles public schools. With the future of so many children at stake, we grow discouraged whenever the school board takes its eye off the prize to waste precious time on matters outside of their jurisdiction and unrelated to childhood education.

Unfortunately, the board spent precious time on such a matter at last Tuesday's meeting. The school board approved a motion encouraging district staff to avoid patronizing a dozen hotels along Century Boulevard near Los Angeles International Airport. These hotels are involved in a long-simmering labor dispute aimed at forcing the hotels into a collective bargaining agreement with the Unite Here union or else be subjected to wage rules reserved for city contractors.

We were pleased that the board made last-minute amendments to soften the language in the final motion. However, the end result was still the same. The school district took sides in a private dispute wholly unrelated to public education. They also called for a districtwide boycott of these L.A. businesses at a time in our economy when we need every business to succeed.

Turning around our failing school district requires laserlike precision and an unwavering focus on improving student success. While board members can and should have passionate opinions on issues outside of their jurisdiction, there is no time to spend on adult issues that have no direct impact on student performance. Our kids deserve nothing less than the full, undivided attention of everyone at LAUSD.

Upon taking office last July, the school board immediately passed seven resolutions focused on establishing clear education reform goals and new metrics for measuring student performance. The resolutions include the very relevant goals of improving test scores, reducing dropout rates, expanding English as Second Language programs, creating more theme-based academies and establishing additional small learning communities. These are examples of the work that the school board should be doing at every meeting and the L.A. Area Chamber will continue to be strong partners with them in these efforts.

LAUSD still has a long way to go toward fixing inherent structural inefficiencies and making our public schools work for students and families. The school board has begun to make great strides over the past year and there are many fantastic initiatives scheduled for upcoming meetings.

With so many internal issues facing the district and the feeling that positive momentum is brewing, the chamber urges the board to exercise the discipline to wave off distractions such as this and keep their eyes focused solely on the prize a top quality education for every student.

Gary Toebben is president and chief executive of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce.

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