Showing Up At Candidate Forums Matters: Why I Feel Antonio Villaraigosa is “The Education Candidate”

As we quickly approach the statewide primary election, the gubernatorial race is becoming more and more about public education. The two Democratic frontrunners Antonio Villaraigosa and Gavin Newsom battle it out as they fight for the Democratic vote and the opportunity to hold what some might say is second most powerful seat in the country, Governor of California.

Newsom claims to be a champion for education, but if that was the case then why didn’t he attend a Gubernatorial Forum on Education and Children in Los Angeles two weeks ago LA Trade Tech College? The event, ‘Building our Future: A Forum on Children with California’s Gubernatorial Candidates’, specifically focused on children’s health, youth justice, child poverty, access to technology, child welfare, and educational equity.

Unfortunately, Newsom wasn’t the only one who didn’t attend. Newsom and the two front-running Republican candidates were also absent. However, I do give the Republican candidates credit because they did attend another forum that took place at Pasadena City College in early May. So far I’ve been to two of these events hoping to hear more about his platform firsthand, especially since he’s in the lead but he has yet to “show up”. As a matter of fact, Newsom has yet to attend a forum in Southern California. I guess there is no surprise there since this is similar to his attendance track record as Lieutenant Governor, where “he attended 54% of UC Regents meeting days, 34% for Cal State and 57% for state lands”, according to an LA Times review of attendance records between 2011 and 2018. However, you may have seen him in a televised forum a few weeks ago, that took place in Northern California, much closer to his hometown of San Francisco. It seems like Newsom feels that he doesn’t need the Southern California vote.

On the other hand, the former Mayor of Los Angeles, Antonio Villaraigosa, was in attendance, and he was making a point to let everyone know that the children are his first priority. On Tuesday, May 15th, the day of the children’s forum, I arrived about an hour before the forum was to begin. I was waiting in the media room chatting with other activists and organizers, when all of a sudden, I looked to my left and a big group of people starting quickly coming into the room in the chaotic way they do when there’s a celebrity entering the room. As I began to look back around, I see Antonio Villaraigosa standing right in front of the table I was standing at. He had pulled a group of civic engagement students, who were attempting to ask him questions, from the press room to the room I was waiting in so they could ask him questions without being interrupted by reporters. He said it was about the kids, and we should let them speak and ask their questions and not be pushed aside by adults.

The students asked about six questions that ranged from immigration, to gun violence, to child poverty. The former Mayor thanked the students for their educated questions, that he joked that they were better than the media’s questions. After the interview with the students, Antonio did take a few questions from LA School Report’s Esmeralda Fabián Romero. Esme’s final question referred to the fact that when Antonio was Mayor, he was often called the Mayor of Education and she wanted to know if he was elected Governor, would he be the “Governor of Education”? Of course, he responded with definite yes. And also stated, “I was the education mayor because too many schools were failing students, and I will be the education governor.” On June 5th, we shall see if he has the opportunity to become our next Governor and first Latino Governor since Romualdo Pacheco served over a 100 years ago.  

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Roxann Nazario

Roxann Nazario

Roxann Nazario is a charter parent living in the Northeast San Fernando Valley. Born and mostly raised in the Valley, Roxann experienced her own struggles as a student in LAUSD. In order to ensure that her daughter would receive the education she deserved, Roxann made sure she was an active parent volunteer at her daughter's charter school. From field trips, to book fairs, to her daughter's charter school renewal, Roxann has made a point not only to advocate for her daughter's education, but she advocates for all children attending LAUSD schools. She campaigned for Kelly Gonez during her campaign for school board member of board district 6. She fought against SB 808, a proposed bill that would deny charter schools the right to appeal if their charter was denied by their local school board. Even though Roxann's daughter attends an amazing and well-known charter school, the school did not have an active parent group. So Roxann teamed up with one of her fellow charter moms from the same school, and with the school's blessing, they started a parent group called, "Parent Voice." Most recently, she was involved in a "Teach-In"/Rally in front of the California Democratic Party Convention that took place in San Diego in February of this year to advocate against the California Democratic Party passing a moratorium resolution on charter schools. Roxann and five fellow charter school mothers, all from board district 6, are being awarded with the Hart Vision Award for Parent Volunteer of the Year at the 25th Annual California Charter Schools Conference taking place on Tuesday, March 27, 2018.

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