EDUCATION POLITICS--(Steve Zimmer, who is running for re-election for the Los Angeles Unified School District school board, wrote this unusual article, “The Case Against Myself.” The election is Tuesday. Decide for yourself whether he persuaded you.)
I want to present four legitimate arguments against me. These are good and fair reasons to vote against me on May 16th.
I know this is unusual, but because my opponent has lied so much about my record, I thought I would just go ahead and do this myself. I hope you will share this with your friends and family and explain to them that everything they are reading about me is a lie whether it is on the television, on the radio, or wrapped around their Sunday newspaper. Give them the real reasons to vote against me. Here they are:
- I believe independent charter schools need to be regulated to ensure that they serve every student that comes to their school house door. I believe independent, privately operated charter schools must be accountable for all public funds they receive. I believe charter schools should operate in the district that authorizes them. If you believe independent charter schools should be completely de-regulated, you should vote against me.
- I have moved resources to meet the needs of district students living in the highest concentrations of poverty, including thousands in my own district. In real and understandable ways, this has been difficult for certain schools in my district. But I believe it is the only moral way to do this job when 83% of students in the LAUSD live below the poverty line. Some voters may be concerned about these decisions and choose to support my opponent who has only focused his campaign in the more affluent areas of the district.
- I have been endorsed by the teachers and school employees of our district. I work with our teachers and I work with their union. I vote against their recommendations when I think they are wrong. But it is a priority for me to build trust with the people who deliver education to our students, to be allies in our struggle for equity, to make significant improvement in LAUSD schools. If you don’t believe I should engage our teachers and their unions then I understand why you would vote against me.
- I oppose the ranking of teachers, students, and schools. I oppose high stakes standardized testing. I believe that the things that are the most beautiful and wondrous about children can never be measured by a standardized test. If you believe we should be constantly testing and ranking students, teachers and schools then I understand why you wouldn’t support me.ur workday the right
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This is what I have done. I understand some people can’t vote for someone who has done this.
But Nick Melvoin hasn’t used any of these reasons. Instead he has lied and he has distorted. I can’t stop someone from lying, but I can certainly tell you that this is not how you should win an election. Here are some of the lies he tells about me:
Nick’s Lie #1: The iPads were my program
The Actual Truth #1: The iPad program was started by Melvoin supporter John Deasy. I voted to end the program once it became clear that Deasy had lied to the school board and lied to the public.
Nick’s Lie #2: I created a $1.4 billion deficit.
The Actual Truth #2: The Board has balanced our budget every year. With the Governor’s latest announcement , we will have our budget balanced for 10 years straight.
Nick’s Lie #3:: I lowered graduation standards
The Actual Truth #3: We raised the rigor for all students by ensuring that all students be enrolled in college preparatory courses. While we increased rigor, we have raised graduation rates to record levels, from 56% to over 75%
Nick’s Lie #4: I laid off teachers
The Actual Truth #4: I anchored the difficult negotiations that allowed us to save our schools and save thousands of jobs
Nick’s Lie #5: I cut arts education
The Actual Truth #5: I stopped the cuts to arts education and have added over 18 million dollars to the arts budget each year.
I respect the democratic process and I value debate about the important issues facing our public schools. But that’s not what’s happened in this election. I am not perfect and I try to be a better board member every day. If Nick and the California Charter Schools Association waged an honest campaign, I would not be writing this argument against myself. It terrifies me that such an important election could be determined solely on lies and distortions. It should scare us all.
There is much more than even the control of our public schools that is on the line this Tuesday.
Our democratic values and the value of truth itself seem to have worked their way into this moment. I am proud to stand for honesty and service. I hope we can set a better example for our kids.
(Steve Zimmer represents District 4 — which stretches from the Westside to the West San Fernando Valley — on the LAUSD school board. Peter Dreier is professor of politics and chair of the Urban & Environmental Policy Department at Occidental College and an occasional contributor to CityWatch.)