Tom Torlakson:

The November election between you and Marshall Tuck was billed by many as one that pitted those who would privatize our public education system versus those who would defend it. Based on the belief that you were the candidate who would put student’s needs first, I chose to support you. With this in mind, I hope that you will rescind your support of the “One System: Reforming Education to Serve all Students” report. Some of these proposals will inflict harm on the most fragile members of our population and are already being used by the Los Angeles Unified School District to dismantle programs that are desperately needed.

As you know, all children are unique and a successful education system must reflect this fact. Unfortunately, this report engages in a cookie-cutter approach in it’s first sentence. When it maintains that “far too many children and young adults in California’s schools are not acquiring the skills they will need to succeed in postsecondary education and secure stable employment,” it ignores children like mine. While it would be great if my two daughters grew up so that they could “participate meaningfully in the nation’s economy and democracy,” they reside on the part of the autism spectrum where it would be a great accomplishment for them to reach a point where they could take care of their own basic needs in a highly structured environment. How will considering them “general education students first” help them to achieve this goal? Was anyone on this task force familiar with the needs of our most challenged students?

When the co-executive director of the task force, Vicki Barber, confirmed to the LA School Report that this report called for the closing of special education sites in the Los Angeles Unified School District, she was acknowledging that they had not considered the needs of all students. While “not all students with a particular disability need to be on a separate site,” closing these sites endangers students who need the specialized facilities that they provide. For the most fragile of students, general ed sites will not provide an opportunity, it will result in a death sentence.

The task force claims that its recommendations will save the state “billions.” When the proposal includes removing those with special medical needs from facilities that are designed to meet those needs, I cannot help but question their ultimate goal. Success should be judged in how well we help each student reach their own potential, not how much money was removed from a special education. I ask again that you withdraw your support for this report and seat a task force that understands the needs of all students.


Carl Petersen

Concerned Parent