Last night two reform candidates won seats on the Los Angeles Board of Education in an election that has been framed as pro-charter vs. anti-charter school. In District 4, incumbent school board President Steve Zimmer lost to Nick Melvoin by almost 15 percentage points.
Zimmer conceded early in the evening and vowed never to run for office again.
In District 6, teacher Kelly Gonez beat Imelda Padilla by nearly 3 percentage points to represent the East Valley communities.
Both Zimmer and Padilla were backed by the teachers union and other labor organizations.
Now that this race is in the history books, it’s our hope that the new school board members get to work with the rest of the board, administrators, teachers, community organizers and organizations, children and parents to make sure all LAUSD schools are excellent and well equipped to graduate college- and career-ready students.
Because as important as the questions the board faces about public charter schools are, they are a small part of the work LAUSD needs to take up if all of our children are to be positioned for success.
We know that LAUSD and its new leadership cannot do this work alone. As mothers, tías, ninas, nanas and educators, we are fully committed to bringing the change we want to see. We can’t rely on others to do our work for us.
Here are our expectations for the next five years:
La Comadre’s Expectations:
- The Budget. We expect the new LAUSD board to focus on fixing the budget crisis in the district. LAUSD has a deficit that is expected to be at least $100 million by the 2017-2018 school year and will likely hit $450 million in three years. Ignoring the problem is not going to fix it. We intend to organize parents around this issue.
- Support Teachers.At the same time, we want to make sure that teachers are supported to thrive in their classrooms. We need to have dramatic shifts in how we respect teachers who are working hard and help those who shouldn’t be in front of children find another career. In countless conversations, the dedicated teachers privately have shared their frustrations that ineffective teachers are protected at the expense of the most committed teachers.
We should explore programs like sabbaticals to help teachers who need to recharge, and coaching immersion programs to help educators better reach students. Our teachers are our allies.
- Treat Us With Dignity. As parents, we are clear that we want effective schools that are community-friendly and student-focused. We want the LAUSD culture to change so that when we go into schools, we are treated with respect and dignity. It’s awful to know that we are often treated better in restaurants than we are in our children’s schools. We will remind you that we are your customers. Our children generate the funds that make public schools possible.
- Special Needs & English-Language Learner Students. We want more accountability and transparency around children with special needs and English-language learners district-wide. These students are not being set up to win. They are our children–and we must nurture their gifts. LAUSD employees should be laser-focused on getting them whatever they need to thrive. No more excuses.
- Break the Bureau-crazy. We want to make sure we eliminate the bureau-crazy. We are tired of this ineffective system where employees don’t focus on family and student success. We have heard thousands of stories where parents needed help and not one of the 50,000-plus employees in the LAUSD bureaucracy was willing to help them with their problem. We intend to hold these systems and people accountable to families and believe that breaking the bureaucracy must be the first step.
- School Board Members’ Community Engagement. We are publicly asking all school board members to post on their websites how we can contact them if we aren’t getting what we need by the employees of LAUSD. We know that there are board members who don’t take meetings with community members and don’t return calls to their office from families. This is not acceptable. We want access and respect.
- School Choice. Lastly, we expect that LAUSD is going to stop its shady and shameful ways about school choice. Currently, LAUSD employees deny families information about what school choices are available to them. They lie about what charter schools are, and then don’t provide information about charter schools in their communities so families can decide for themselves.
Currently, LAUSD employees are creating a universal process that’s supposed to be an opportunity for families to receive information about school choices. But the district has tried to keep charter school options out of the “choices.” Nor do they want to tell parents how schools are performing. We want information about all schools–and their quality.We hope that this information will keep everyone on their toes and do what is best for children and not their own financial interest. We’ve had enough.
We are hopeful about the future. We know that yesterday’s win changed the power dynamic on the school board, solidifying a majority committed to education as a strategy for social justice. We must defend children’s rights over the system. We must stand up for children and communities.
The pro-charter vs. anti-charter rhetoric must die down and give way to a commitment to what is best for children. Some charter schools are better than traditional schools, and some traditional schools perform better than charter schools. True reform isn’t about forcing all students into a “one size fits all” solution, it’s about finding the best solutions for each of our children. Today is a new day.
At La Comadre, we are clear. It can’t only be about who wins on election night. We have to make sure that it is about our babies, our children, and make sure that they win–every single day.
Alma V. Marquez
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