- Network for Public Education Action
When Ref Rodriguez pleaded guilty to felony charges related to campaign finance violations last July and was forced to resign from his Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) Board seat, he left the residents of Board District 5 without representation. When supporters of the California Charter School Association (CCSA) used bigotry to block Scott Schmerelson’s resolution to appoint Jackie Goldberg to fill the seat until a special election could be held, they ensured that this lack of representation continued. During this time, a charter school closed without notice, the police were called to question a kindergarten student, the School Board voted to make it easier for child abusers to enter the classroom, the LAUSD kept classes in session during the strike despite an admission that they could not guarantee the safety of certain students and the District signed a possibly illegal lobbying contract with a former state assemblyman surrounded by scandal.
The person who eventually wins the special election for the LAUSD Board District 5 seat will walk into a Board Room enveloped in turmoil. This is largely due to the fact that one of Rodriguez’ last moves in office was to work behind closed doors to install Austin Beutner as Superintendent despite his lack of professional experience and his connections to shady characters like David Pecker of the National Enquirer. In addition to his poor handling of the teachers’ strike, Beutner has attempted to usurp power from his bosses on the District’s elected board including actively working to withhold information from Board members with whom he disagreed. He is currently working without public input to make the LAUSD a “portfolio district”, a plan pushed by those who would like to privatize education despite its record of failure. To protect the 80% of LAUSD students who attend District schools, a leader is needed who has the will and immediate ability to stand up to Buetner. The only person in the field who meets both criteria is Jackie Goldberg.
Since before the special election was called, I had been supporting Dr. Rocio Rivas for this seat and serve as the treasurer for her campaign. Dr. Rivas has the educational and work experience that would benefit the Board. Unlike every sitting Board member, she also has a child enrolled in a District school. Dr. Rivas was a powerful voice in forcing Rodriguez from office and I am confident that she will continue to speak truth to power long after the results of this election have been tabulated. However, at this time, having the will to remove Beutner is not enough. The person who takes office must immediately have the ability to confront the threat posed by Beutner and his charter industry supporters. Therefore, I have decided to support Jackie Goldberg for the special election that is being held on Tuesday.
Goldberg has already served on the LAUSD School Board as well as the Los Angeles City Council and the California State Assembly. While serving in the Assembly, she chaired the Assembly Education Committee for several years. Ms. Goldberg is well acquainted with the halls of power and how to effect change. She will not have to spend precious time during this short term learning how to do the job.
For the past year, I have had the opportunity to work with Goldberg in the organization Transparency, Equity, and Accountability in Charter Schools (TEAch), which she co-founded. By opposing her on the grounds that this group is “anti-charter,” the charter industry exposes the fact that their concept for education can only work if they are not held accountable for the public funds that they receive. Hopefully, one of Goldberg’s first actions on the Board will be to look at the charter schools listed by the state as “underperforming,” including the two that have a management team that includes her opponent Allison Bajracharya.
The only prediction that can be made about Tuesday’s election is that “Did Not Vote” will be the overwhelming winner. The Charter Industry is well organized and will make sure to turn out their supporters giving them the advantage. If you are one of the 80% of families who sends their children to LAUSD public schools or you support public education and you live in Board District 5, you need to make sure to get to the polls. The future of our children’s education is depending on it.
Carl Petersen is a parent and special education advocate, elected member of the Northridge East Neighborhood Council and was a Green Party candidate in LAUSD’s District 2 School Board race. During the campaign, he was endorsed by Network for Public Education (NPE) Action and Dr. Diane Ravitch called him a “strong supporter of public schools.” His past blogs can be found at www.ChangeTheLAUSD.com. Opinions are his own.