With less than a week until the March 5th election, LAUSD voters are being inundated with mailer after mailer. At my place, we’re up to 14, and I’m sure there will be at least half a dozen more in the next few days. This L.A. Times article believes the battle is over John Deasy. I like the guy. He stands up and he’s attempting to make changes, far more than preceding superintendents have done–and with many more distractions including Miramonte and budget crises that have slowed any progress he could be making. But I don’t love the guy. LAUSD has always felt like more of a jobs program than a school district for students. Teachers have a right to want jobs and job security. However, when we as parents can not have a rational discussion about who gets laid off and how every school has that dreadful teacher that can’t be removed or must be placed, that means the people without a union lose: the kids and the families.
As the battle takes sides, one thing is clear to families: There is no one standing up for us in this election.
Outside interests have now funneled over $3 million dollars into the campaign to elect three school board candidates. I wonder at what cost? Surely when the Mayor of New York City drops $1 million into an election, he’s not doing it for the welfare of L.A kids. He could have donated $1 million to the victims of superstorm Sandy and gotten more bang for his buck there. Independent expenditures have resulted in at least a few live phone calls here–and I suspect the automated phone calls will start shortly. Local billionaire philanthropists have bankrolled mailers and misguided Hollywood types, without kids in the schools, have decided they know what’s best for those poor people with kids in public schools and written checks as well.
UTLA is firing back with ground support–folks to go knocking on the doors of voters, but mostly for Steve Zimmer. He’s seen as some magical tipping point in certain 4-3 votes by the board. They’ve paid for some negative “anyone but Monica Garcia” flyers as well. Sadly, in my district, UTLA weakly endorsed all three candidates, but haven’t done much to support the only actual teacher in the race.
So I know where they all stand, but what if this doesn’t play out as each side expects? What happens when some of these candidates get elected and use their seats to make themselves visible long enough to establish name recognition and run for higher office? Will Antonio Sanchez stick it out longer than his predecessor? Kate Anderson has already run for other offices, so while she has children and that makes her a realistic candidate, has she mapped out which elected offices will make her stepping stones to higher office? And most importantly, all these deals and endorsements and flyers are aimed at protecting a John Deasy majority, so what happens if he gets a federal appointment?
I can already write the ending for this story, because once again, it’s not about the kids. It’s not about families. It’s about political ambitions, name recognition, and protecting political interests. Just think if those same donors walked onto a campus and donated roughly $3000 per school ($3 million divided by the 1000 or so schools in LAUSD)? Instead, the post office, the printing business, and the political consultants make money, and families are forced to take ugly, irreparable sides in a battle. The battle for Los Angeles Unified shouldn’t be a battle of us versus them, charters versus regular public schools, or any other litmus test. It should be an ongoing discussion of what we can do to raise student achievement, how we get more kids to graduate, and how we get people back into L.A. public schools. That’s right. I said it. Give families a product that makes them think twice about private schools, home schooling, charter schools, and even out-of-district permits. Let great schools with space accept students from other areas. Let schools with declining enrollment offer programs not offered elsewhere to attract new students. Create a product people want. Of course, that requires bringing families into this discussion. And judging by this election, I wouldn’t hold my breath.
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