“Charter families have lined up at dawn in biting cold winds holding babies. They’ve sweated it out for hours standing around ice chests or taking turns under canopies. They’ve waited hours—sometimes nearly a full a day—to get into an LA Unified school board meeting. Then, they wait hours more just to be heard.”
-LA School Report
Despite the stated goal of the LAUSD to have “parent and community engagement”, it is clear that the public is the furthest thing from the Board’s mind when they schedule their meetings. Most are held during the day when working parents, teachers and students cannot participate. The Board Room only holds 155 people, often leaving many people waiting outside or attempting to hear the proceedings in Beaudry's employee cafeteria amidst the din of food service. The marathon meetings often last past 8:00 PM, leaving parents with cranky, hungry children as they wait for their turn to speak.
There is no doubt that these Board meetings need to be made more accessible to the public and it is refreshing to see that the Board members are finally recognizing this problem exists. Monica Garcia recently told the LA School Report that “there should also be some trust that when you say something is going to happen, that it actually happens at that time” and Board President Steve Zimmer promised that the Board is “committed to changing that so they will not be waiting all day and not know when their items will come up before the board”. Unfortunately, their solutions ignore the parents in the schools that the Board is supposed to represent and instead will focus on the charter community. At the September 20, Board meeting “charter school items will have a ‘time certain’ starting at 6 p. m.” It is another example of how the LAUSD refuses to follow the law and actually compete with their charter rivals.
If “it is easier for families, teachers and school leaders to speak to the school board without having to wait eight to 10 hours,” then the stakeholders affected by policies developed by the Board should not be ignored so that those who have abandoned District schools can be prioritized. Why would Zimmer state that “when charter items are being heard, having folks wait all day is not something we want to continue” and ignore those who want to speak on behalf of the public school experience? If it is recognized that agenda items should be moved till “after 6 p.m. to make it easier for working parents and teachers”, then why is any Board discussion happening before this time? If the LAUSD wants to prevent bankruptcy by stemming the exodus to charters, shouldn’t the Board at least pretend to care about the parents in District schools or did the nearly $2.3 million spent by the California Charter School Association and their allies during the last election cycle also buy them privileged access to the Board?
While too often political campaigns become more about complaints than solutions, I will be issuing a series of resolutions that I will introduce upon my election to the Board. The first of these resolutions, Board Meeting Accessibility to the Public, details my exact proposals for ensuring all of the District’s stakeholders have a chance to participate in Board meetings. Instead of focusing on one specific group, it provides for solutions that will help to improve access to the system for all. That is how public education is supposed to work.