Best Chance for Resistance in the LA School Board Election

EDUCATION POLITICS--Elections have a way of setting up false choices. In the runoff for the LA School Board’s 4th District seat, voters are told to line up behind either pro-union or pro-charter candidates.

Progress for our schools, however, lies beyond the campaigns of these two firmly entrenched camps.

Especially now, when the Betsy DeVos agenda makes such a stark (and easy) enemy, public education advocates need to do more to further our cause than follow campaign narratives. It simply cannot be that the only stakeholders who matter are school district employees and those who want to privatize our schools.

The situation cries for an independent voice, a radical middle.

Individual school communities understand this. Parents, teachers, students and principals have been working together to strengthen and improve our schools outside the terms of the political debate. Yet, there has been little opportunity for us to be heard above the powerful interests during this critical election.

There is little talk about how schools will be supported, about policies that will improve our schools, about fighting legislation that causes schools to struggle. As we have seen in the last four years, a board majority “on our side” does not guarantee support for our schools in the fight against privatization.

After recent meetings with Steve Zimmer, I am now confident that he understands this and that he will welcome the independent voices. 

So I am endorsing Steve Zimmer for school board and I'm endorsing a process to help advocates for public schools hold him more accountable for seeing his rhetorical goals through.

Zimmer still differs from public education activists on some fundamental issues. His unequivocal support for school choice as a right should cause alarm to anyone fighting against privatization. Put another way, school choice is a way for our government officials to tell schools they’re on their own. And Zimmer’s unapologetic support of the temporary teaching corps, TFA, undermines the stability of our schools and the teaching profession.

Nick Melvoin supports these things, too. But he has tapped into the demands of parents and community members frustrated with an unresponsive school district. While I believe Melvoin would support efforts to improve schools regardless of which camp they come from, his reform agenda goes too far. His refusal to support legislation that would make charter schools as accountable with public money as public schools are seems to show that he is carrying the water of corporate privatizers more than being the independent voice he could be.

Moreover, the stakes of Zimmer’s re-election are higher than they were in the March primary because UTLA sat out of the race to unseat corporate reformer Monica Garcia who coasted to re-election in District 2.

LAUSD has a long way to go toward the right side of some key issues. Steve Zimmer gives us the best chance, but only if those in the movement to save and support public education push him and the rest of the school board long after the election.

Think of it as the radical resistance.

(Karen Wolfe is a public school parent, the Executive Director of PS Connect and an occasional contributor to CityWatch.)