ISSUES

SCHOOL FUNDING

When I ran for this office five years ago, I promised that I would root out waste in LAUSD to make sure that every taxpayer dollar that comes into this district goes to help our students.  I feel that I have done just that and can now say with certainty, that one of the biggest issues facing LAUSD today is that, while California is the fifth largest economy in the world, our per pupil spending is about half that of other states, like New York, with complex urban school districts.  

Convincing the governor, the California State Legislature, and voters that our children desperately need and deserve public schools that are fairly and adequately funded is a challenge. We must demand that Sacramento do more for school districts like LAUSD in addition to finding other sources of revenue, looking at all feasible funding mechanisms that will change the boom/bust system we currently use. 

We must also continue to improve our traditional LAUSD schools by fully staffing, lowering class size, and providing full wrap-around support services for students. 

Finally, I will continue to fight for transparency and effective oversight of all schools, including independent charter schools, and will combat the well financed efforts to privatize public education.  Public education is supposed to serve everyone, not just those who are convenient.

MODERNIZING OUR SCHOOLS

Schools in the 21st century must adapt to the changing world in which we live.  Reality dictates that local is better than distant and that those in the local community often know what is needed most and how best to provide for those needs.  That is why I support the Schools and Community First initiative because I believe that not only should more health services be offered at our neighborhood schools, but that we should be working towards becoming a true community, where schools offer a full range of wrap-around services for our students and their families.  The benefits in reduced traffic alone should spur us forward.

ON SCHOOL CHOICE

I firmly believe that a parent has an absolute right to choose the best school for their child.  I just want to make sure that the school down at the end of the street is so good that there isn’t a need or desire to go anywhere else.  The reality is that we already have a strong school choice program in LAUSD and especially here in the valley. Magnet schools are the crown jewel of LAUSD and many of the very best are located LAUSD Board District #3 here in the valley.  Given the tremendous success of our Magnet Program, I have dedicated myself to expanding the opportunity for students by helping to open dozens of new magnet schools over the past few years with many more in the process.

The original purpose of charter schools was to be pilot/laboratory schools charged with developing innovative practices, especially with respect to supporting our most challenged students, and sharing and scaling those practices with traditional public schools. LAUSD now authorizes more charter schools than any other District in the country.  We oversee some very innovative charter schools that are developing promising practices in certain areas and for certain student populations. 

BUDGET HAWK

As a fiduciary agent of the largest school district in the country with an elected board, it is my obligation to protect the fiscal integrity of LA Unified and while I try to root out waste within LAUSD, I promise to the taxpayers of our city that I will continue to be a watchdog on Charter Schools who abuse the public trust.  

It is unconscionable that a Principal of an Independent Charter School ran up a bill of almost $15,000 at a local steakhouse using public tax dollars.  Charging $100 bottles of wine on the school credit card should be illegal, and I’m trying to get those laws changed, but THIS is why I demanded that the Principal of that school step down before I would agree to allow their charter to be renewed.  Today, the school is a better place because of that stance.

Charter schools have to operate under the same transparency rules as regular public schools, they have to.  The financial abuse of other charter schools gives a black eye to all charters and that shouldn’t be the case, there are many fine examples of local charter schools doing wonderful work, but when agents of greed try to sap our resources to line their own pockets, I will be there shining a very bright light on their activities.

SCHOOL SAFETY

We live in dangerous times and my primary responsibility to you is to keep our children safe.  One look at the headlines today reminds us that we must be vigilant, always. That is why I sponsored and helped pass the Safe Gun Storage Resolution at LAUSD.  Regardless of your opinion on the 2nd Amendment, we can all agree that safe storage is of paramount importance for us all.

This is what I said at the Board Meeting: “As school board members, we have a profound responsibility to address the all-too- frequent school shootings that we are witnessing in modern America,” Board Member Schmerelson said. “Nearly 70% of student shooters gained access to a lawfully purchased gun from their residence or the residence of a relative, 87% of kids know where their parents’ guns are kept and 60% have handled them. Over 80% of teens who commit suicide with a gun used one that belonged to someone in their home, and guns are the third leading cause of death for kids. I am hopeful that the measures called for in  my resolution will better educate parents and guardians about their legal obligation to safely store firearms.”

THINK GLOBALLY, ACT LOCALLY

I remember that slogan from back in the 1970’s and it couldn’t be more true today.  Over the past few years we have seen mounting evidence that climate change is here, right now.  This is a global crisis with examples and evidence coming in globally and locally, why right here in the San Fernando Valley we have had to close schools because of the poor air quality due to brush fires.  This didn’t used to happen. If we are to raise responsible children, then we must act in a responsible manner and that is why I sponsored and helped pass a Resolution at LAUSD, making our school district one of the first in the world to pledge to use only clean, renewable energy moving forward.

Here are some of my remarks at the LAUSD Board’s Press Conference: “I introduced this resolution because I believe that we can no longer postpone a discussion about transitioning to 100% clean, renewable energy.  If there was any doubt about it, we only have to look at the recent fires and school closures in my district, and surrounding areas, and the impact on our students, families, and staff.

My colleagues and co-sponsors and I are all retired educators.  We believe in science.  And, scientists from around the world, and the City of Los Angeles, have all declared a climate crisis requiring a significant reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from the burning of fossil fuels by 2030, and net zero carbon by 2050, in order to mitigate the most catastrophic consequences of global warming and climate change.

LA Unified is the largest school district in the country with an elected Board. We are committed to preparing our students to be college and career ready.  But our children are telling us that all the preparation in the world will be meaningless if we are unable and unwilling to transform our energy systems to avoid the frightening reality that we are rapidly, and perhaps irreversibly, destroying the health of the planet that they will inherit.”

This will not be easy nor cheap, but given the stark reality that exists around us we must start somewhere and if we are truly going to raise the next generation of world leaders here in LAUSD, then we better teach them how to lead.

SPECIAL EDUCATION

I am now the chair of both the Parent Access and Engagement Committee and the Committee on Special Education.  These committees will help me to continue to lead the fight for encouraging parent engagement by strategies such as streamlining the process for the use of school facilities and eliminating the cost of background checks for parent volunteers.  As chair of the Special Education Committee, I will be able to continue supporting the rights of parents

In the Special Education IEP process I prioritize my passion for raising awareness and training to help staff and families identify kids with Dyslexia early and provide interventions.

Finally, I will continue to fight for transparency and effective oversight of all schools, including independent charter schools, and will combat the well financed efforts to privatize public education.  Public education is supposed to serve everyone, not just those who are convenient.