The LAUSD Is Feeding Adults In Need — Who Should Pay The Cost?
School board candidate Marilyn Koziatek admonishes incumbent Scott Schmerelson for asking the city for needed funding while her own charter school turns away those in need.
-LAUSD School Board Member Scott Schmerelson
Within days of closing down schools due to the COVID-19 crisis, the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) opened Grab and Go Food Centers to ensure that the most vulnerable in our community continue to have access to food. The district has served over 10 million meals under this program, “not only feeding its students, but also adults in the community.”
While some expenses incurred in the food program will be reimbursed, there is currently no mechanism for recovering the $33 million cost of the meals served to adults. It is an expense that will be added to the millions of dollars that this crisis has cost the district to cover not only meals but “last-minute training for educators, ensuring students have devices and internet access, and a bigger investment in summer school.” The costs of ensuring school campuses are safe when they eventually reopen will make the impending funding gap even worse.
At the May 19, 2020, school board meeting, Board District 3 representative Scott Schmerelson noted that “it should be the mayor and the city funds that are taking care of that cost of feeding adults.” He acknowledged the district’s responsibility to the students but demanded that the city step up and cover the costs for the adult residents of the program.
As someone who’s platform states that she wants to “future proof” the district, Schmerelson’s opponent in the November general election should have welcomed his call to protect the budget. Instead, Marilyn Koziatek attacked the board member on Twitter, saying that the district “should be doing more to help the vulnerable, not less,” as if he had called for an end to the program. Carrying out his fiduciary duty to the students of the LAUSD, he has only called on the mayor to provide funding for costs the district has already incurred. As an employee of a charter school, Koziatek apparently finds it easy to give away money meant to be spent on programs for children in public schools.
Koziatek went into full-on Trump mode for the second part of her attack by conflating Schmerelson’s fiscally responsible request with a lack of thankfulness for “LAUSD employees and volunteers who are getting up every day to serve our community.” This allegation was particularly strange against a former teacher and principal who spent a career working alongside these education professionals. Furthermore, securing the funding that he requested would help to ensure that they do not face layoffs as a result of the widening budget gap.
As a member of the leadership team at Granada Hills Charter School, it is strange that Koziatek chose to pick this particular battle. As reported last weekend, this school, where 52.7% of the students are “socioeconomically disadvantaged,” is currently directing students in need to visit LAUSD schools and their Grab and Go Food Centers. While she preaches that “at a time when our economy is in crisis and the people in our schools can help, we should”, her school has spent two months forwarding calls for assistance to the district her opponent helps lead.
On Wednesday, May 27, Koziatek and Granada Hills Charter School will finally heed the call to action and start using the public funding that they receive to serve their students. At that time they will stop relying on the district and begin to operate their own Grab and Go program where they will serve “free meals for students, community youth, and children.”
While Koziatek castigated her opponent for seeking reimbursement for adults that the district is serving, her school specifically emphasizes children in the description of the program they are starting two months after the crisis began. Apparently, her call to do more is just a campaign slogan.
Carl Petersen is a parent, an advocate for students with special education needs, an elected member of the Northridge East Neighborhood Council, an appointed alternate to the LAUSD’s CAC, and was a Green Party candidate in LAUSD’s District 2 School Board race. During the campaign, he was endorsed by the 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.