A School Board Race Turns Ugly

I am embarrassed that there are any Board members on this Board of Education that do not take seriously that a man with three felony charges against him is still on this Board.

- Jackie Goldberg on Ref Rodriguez

Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) Board of Education candidate Jackie Goldberg taught for 16 years in the Compton Unified School District. In 1983, she was elected to the LAUSD Board of Education and served for two terms. She was then elected to serve two terms on the Los Angeles City Council and three terms in the California State Assembly where she chaired the Assembly Education Committee. In the 13 years since she left the Assembly, Goldberg has continued to engage in public service and was a frequent voice of opposition to former Board member Ref Rodriguez after he was charged with felonies related to his campaign. In the primary race to replace him, she secured 48.45% of the vote.

While Heather Repenning claims in her campaign material to be a “former teacher”, the state of California does not show that she ever held a teaching credential. She is a long-time staffer of Mayor Eric Garcetti who was appointed to serve as the Vice President of the Board of Public works, a department which the LA Times has reported is under investigation by the FBI. During the primary, her supporters received a $100,000 donation from Eli Broad, who had also supported Ref Rodriguez. As the second-place finisher in the primary, Repenning received 13.17% of the vote.

Faced with overwhelming odds against their candidate, Repenning’s supporters have resorted to the politics of division. Ignoring the fact that Goldberg is a “successful recipient of U.S. Department of Education, Office of English Language Acquisition, five-year grant to improve the teaching of second language learners and narrow the achievement gap for African American and Latino students”, Students for Education Reform (SFER) makes the claim that she has “a history of bias against Latinos.” In support of this false premise, they produced a video that includes a recent graduate of the LAUSD who claims that she was told by her “teacher and her counselor that she wasn’t good enough” because they recommended community college instead of a four-year college. According to their premise, this is somehow Goldberg’s fault, even though this student was not even born when Goldberg served on the LAUSD School Board. A mailing sent by SFER uses the headline “Jackie Goldberg says LAUSD is working well. Students of Color know it’s not.”

Sadly, this is not the first time that education “reformers” have used bigotry to achieve their political goals. When LAUSD Board member Scott Schmerelson introduced a motion to appoint Goldberg to the seat while a special election was held, the group Speak-Up organized a campaign against it which centered on the premise that District 5 was a “majority-Latino seat” and that Goldberg was, therefore, unqualified because of her ethnicity. During the previous election, Ref Rodriguez’ supporters sent flyers that claimed his opponent “Bennett Kayser tried to stop Latino Children From Attending Schools in White Neighborhoods...He’s not for us.” LAUSD Board Member George McKenna denounced this literature by stating that it was “misleading and racially inflammatory in nature.” He also insisted that the organization behind the ad rescind their endorsement of his campaign.

As a member of the LAUSD Board of Education, the winner of the runoff election on May 14th has a responsibility to be a role model for all the children of the district.  Heather Repenning and her campaign should have, therefore, followed the example of Dr. McKenna and condemned the SFER ads. Unfortunately, they have not. The campaign was asked to comment on the SFER materials, but as of the publication of this article has not responded to the email. This silence should be noted by every voter within Board District 5.

Jackie Goldberg faces the felon she seeks to succeed