The DINOsaur In The Room

DINOsaur.jpgI think that it is fitting that the School Board elections are nonpartisan as it reminds us that our votes should be about the children instead of party loyalties. Unfortunately, Tamar Galatzan’s supporters do not agree and sent out two mailings last week criticizing the party membership of her opponent, Scott Schmerelson. While they warned voters of the “elephant in the room,” they ignored the DINOsaur standing behind him; in many ways, Ms. Galatzan is a Democrat in name only.

The Democratic party sees school choice as a way to turn “around struggling public schools” and “to expand public school options for low-income youth.” Ms. Galatzan takes a more wholesale approach to the spread of charters, encouraging even high-performing schools in high-income areas to separate from the district that she is supposed to lead. This leaves parents seeking a public school education with less choice. Her position is more in line with the less-nuanced Republican party platform that simply calls for “increasing the number of charter schools.” Perhaps this is why both Richard Riordan, our last Republican mayor, and Mitch Englander, “the Los Angeles City Council’s lone Republican,” have both endorsed her.

Given the Republican party’s official support of the Charter Industry, it is ironic that one of these mailings was paid for by the California Charter School Association as part of their million dollar attempt to influence the LAUSD School Board elections. What is not surprising is the fact that they want so badly to keep her on the Board. The current Board has consistently voted to renew the charters of schools that have been shown to under serve both students with special needs and those on free or reduced priced lunches. This comes into direct conflict with the  California Democratic Party’s platform which seeks to “ensure [that] data and accountability measures are transparent for ALL schools receiving public funds so that these schools are held to the same set of standards, and are open to all students regardless of their race, skill level, economic status, and/or special needs.”

As a Democrat, I am most troubled by the incumbent’s engagement in class warfare. Last year, she told the Sherman Oaks Neighborhood Council that “the LAUSD has not paid much attention to middle class, non-Title I schoolsand said the funding sent to Title I schools was the reason that the other schools had to hold fundraisers to buy toilet paper, ignoring the fact that parents in Title I schools also need to raise funds. At the one candidate forum that she bothered to attend in February, she bragged that she has been an “advocate for some of our non-Title I schools that went through horrible problems during the budget crisis,” minimizing the pain felt by ALL students during the Great Recession. This rhetoric is not something that should come from the mouth of a Democrat; it would be more at home in the party of swift-boaters  willing to demonize “welfare queens” and scare people with Willie Horton ads.

Despite the fact that Galatzan is the only Democrat in the race, the Los Angeles County Democratic Party reached “No Consensus” on who to endorse in the May 19th election. The Democratic Party of the San Fernando Valley has also not endorsed in the race. The North Valley Democratic Club, who endorsed me in the March Primary, voted unanimously to provide “No Endorsement” in the runoff. Can we now get back to debating which candidate is best for the students of the district?