Two Los Angeles Unified School District Board candidates that were backed by the teacher’s union and presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders lost to charter-school funded opponents. This may mark a watershed moment in the district as its board now has a pro- charter majority.
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The incumbent Steve Zimmer and the new candidate Imelda Padilla spent $4 million dollars, but were outnumbered by their opponents Nick Melvoin and Kelly Gonez…. who, in contrast, were floated by $14.7 million dollars.
United Teachers Los Angeles, the union representing teachers, charged that Melvoin and Gonez were supported by billionaire donors, like real estate mogul Eli Broad, Republican Richard Riordan, Gap founder Doris Fisher and the Waltons of WalMart.
The teachers’ union was not available for comment, and along with Senator Bernie Sanders, said the charter schools advocates’ goal is in-line with the Trump/Betsy Devos agenda – which is to dismantle public education by the aggressive, unchecked expansion of corporate charters at the expense of neighborhood schools.
In a 2015 leaked memo from the Broad Foundation, the Los Angeles Times found that their long-term plan was to have half of the school district in charter schools by 2023.
Los Angeles has been friendly to charter schools, boasting the largest number in the country at 279. At least 24% of students are enrolled in charter schools. Charter schools defend their work, by citing major improvements in student outcomes.
This leaves one major question: What happens to the children who don’t make it into a charter school?
I spoke with Jose Lara, a social studies teacher at Santee High School, and he had this to say:
“Every time a charter school opens up, it means money and resources for the public school that’s nearby. Basically, robbing Peter to pay Paul – what you’re doing is taking resources from a public school that accepts all community students to a school that doesn’t necessarily take community student. And so, what you have in a situation like that is that charters that have their own rules. They don’t play by the same rules as everybody else. [There’s] actually very few rules and regulations for charter schools, so they can pick and choose which students they want.”
We reached out to The Broad Foundation and California Charter Schools Association, but could not get in touch in time for this report. On its website, The Broad Foundation states that it broadly supports urban education.
With the election of Melvoin and Gonez, Los Angeles residents have said it wants to improve its education system, but as it moves forward, will it still be able to help those left behind? This and many questions will be faced by Melvoin, Gonez and the rest of the School Board and the residents of Los Angeles.
In Los Angeles, I’m Michael Flores, Pacifica Radio, KPFK