When Lies Replace Plans
Unable to articulate how they would govern differently than their opponents, both Trump and Koziatek resort to smear tactics.
“A few months back, Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson each made the mistake of asking Donald Trump what his plans for a second term are. After the President struggled to answer that, the right-wing media got the message: Don’t ask that question.”
As the country plunges deeper into the COVID-19 crisis, Americans are headed to the polls. Instead of making a case for his reelection based on his record and any specific plans he has to stop the pandemic and begin recovery, Trump has doubled down on a campaign based on character assassination, temper tantrums, and lies. His base eats it up with cult-like devotion while Joe Biden retains his lead.
It is not just Trump that has failed to make a case for the electorate, but the entire Republican party. While operating under the same pandemic restrictions as their counterparts were, the Democratic party managed to complete a 92-page platform. The best that the GOP could do was a single page resolution stating “that the Republican Party has and will continue to enthusiastically support the President’s America-first agenda.” The party of Lincoln has given up on running on ideas, they are now a full-fledged cult of personality willing to drink whatever Kool-Aid that Trump is serving.
In Los Angeles, two school board races will also be on the ballot. Like the GOP, the California Charter School Association (CCSA) and its supporters do not care if their chosen candidates have any plans to improve education for the 80% of students who attend LAUSD public schools, they just want their candidates to win. If winning requires the use of anti-semitism, rewriting history, and lies, then the end justifies the means. After they besmirched former Board Member Bennett Kayser’s reputation by calling him a bigot and making fun of the symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease, is anyone surprised?
In Board District 3, the object of CCSA’s wrath is Board Member Scott Schmerelson. Ignoring his many votes to approve new charters and renew others, they have targeted him for being an anti-charter school candidate based on his being the single vote to oppose the expansion of Granada Hills Charter High School. Schmerelson is a lifetime educator who during his tenure on the board has worked to ensure that:
- Every elementary school has a library aide.
- Students from two school sites were moved to safety after the Porter Ranch gas blowout.
- Parents were made aware of Safe Gun Storage mandates, protecting students and staff.
- Students with severe needs were able to retain access to special education centers.
The charter school industry seeks to replace this effective board member with an employee of Granada Hills Charter School who has no experience teaching or managing classroom activities. Instead, Marilyn Koziatek worked as the school’s Director of Development and Communications before being demoted to the Special Projects and Events Manager so that she could run for office. Other than touting the fact that her children go to an excellent LAUSD public school (in Schmerelson’s board district) and that she once helped develop a parent engagement app, she has yet to articulate what skills make her worthy of replacing a lifetime educator on the LAUSD School Board.
Koziatek’s lack of experience shows in her inability to articulate how she would make the LAUSD better. She claims that she would “restore fiscal responsibility” to the district but does not provide any detail about problems with the current level of budget transparency. Nor does she detail the specific steps that she would take to make the district more responsive to stakeholders. She notes that the LAUSD has a “convoluted budget,” but her supporters complain that Schmerelson needed “tutoring” to understand the district’s $9.2 billion budget. What skills does Koziatek possess that would allow her to understand the LAUSD’s finances without any assistance? Isn’t a requirement for being a successful leader that you know where to get additional information so that you can make informed decisions?
Part of Koziatek’s “plan” is also to “encourage parent involvement.” Once again no specifics offered, so voters can only look at her work with Granada and this school’s record with parent engagement. When Granada first converted to a charter school, it had a governing board with elected parent representatives. In a blow to democracy, these positions are now appointed by the board and are only available to those parents who take an oath of loyalty to the administration. This school failed to notify parents that a Notice of Violation had been issued to the school alleging that construction projects had endangered “the health and safety of students, staff and other individuals.” In her position as Director of Communications, Koziatek did not tell parents that a lawsuit had alleged that asbestos had not been properly protected from disturbance during air conditioner repairs.
A “plan” to ensure “Academic Equity” also falls short given Granada’s record. The percentage of students with special education needs is less than half what it is at all other neighboring LAUSD public schools. Allegations also persist that students who do not meet the school’s high academic expectations are forced into the unpopular iGranada independent study program to make room for higher achieving students on the school’s main campus. The percentage of students who are English language learners has plummeted since the school converted from a public school to a charter.
Unable to detail plans for their candidate, the charter school industry has resorted to outright lies against her opponent. This has included blaming the incumbent for the iPad scandal that the CCSA’s Board Member, Tamar Galatzan, promoted before Schmerelson was even on the board. They have also repeatedly stated that Schmerelson “tripled his own pay” when LAUSD Board Members do not set their own salaries. Their claims that the LAUSD has a “half-a-billion dollar” deficit and that teachers have been laid off during Scott’s tenure are also blatantly untrue.
Given the multimillion-dollar ad budget provided by Reed Hastings, Jim Walton, and other millionaires whose children will never see the inside of a public school classroom, these lies will be all that most voters see. Our students will be the ones who suffer if the electorate does not do the research and find out the truth.
Carl Petersen is a parent, an advocate for students with special education needs, an elected member of the Northridge East Neighborhood Council, a member of the LAUSD’s CAC, and was a Green Party candidate in LAUSD’s District 2 School Board race. During the campaign, the Network for Public Education (NPE) Action endorsed him, and Dr. Diane Ravitch called him a “strong supporter of public schools.” For links to his blogs, please visit www.ChangeTheLAUSD.com. Opinions are his own.