THE ALPERN ADVISOR--As I addressed in a recent CityWatch piece, we just had an UGLY election between two good men on the Westside for the LAUSD Board seat: both two-term incumbent Steve Zimmer and challenger Nick Melvoin were two good men, but that election was not easy on just about anyone ... and the low-voter turnout was in part a result of that.
There were a variety of other reasons, of course--the amount of money involved, the recent elections burning people out on more voting, and the propaganda flying back and forth makes many a potential voter throw up their hands and scream "Whatever! I'll sit THIS one out!"
And then there are those of us who do not have children, and who do not think this election means much to them...while those of us who have children are both PRO-education but ANTI-LAUSD.
This election, so very expensive and favoring challenger Melvoin, was heavily funded by the pro-charter lobbies.
And the final vote tally was higher for Melvoin than for the other elected newcomer in the San Fernando Valley, Kelly Gonez (who replaced outgoing LAUSD Boardmember Monica Ratliff).
So did the voters give the charter school lobbies a blank check? Did the teachers' union (United Teachers Los Angeles) learn their lesson?
Probably NO to both counts--but both the charter schools and teachers' unions need to know that reform is needed, and that the parents need to be listened to...while their children need to be prioritized by focusing on the students, and spending our ever-growing education tax dollars well:
1) Acknowledge you screwed over the parents and students by doing the bait and switch by voting to return to the awful, terrible "start in mid-August" school year. We had a deal. You got the voter money in November. And then you reneged. You lied. So...goodbye!
2) Acknowledge that there is a rea$on or three why so many--the majority, even--of parents in the LAU$D send their children to charter schools. Parents who really love their children often decide to work harder, spend more of their own money, and drive their kids long distances every day to go to their charter school of choice.
3) Acknowledge that UTLA is really a horrible, horrible union that is as regressive a caricature of out-of-touch, self-serving public-sector unions that we've ever seen. Hence the flight of so many otherwise-progressive parents and their children to charter schools. Really, UTLA...you really are one the biggest reasons it's so darned tough to raise kids in Los Angeles.
4) You can hate Donald Trump and Betsy DeVos all you want, but can we please do better than Common Core? Standards are awesome, and standardized tests are vital...but the ivory tower wizards who dominate Common Core are the worst--and our children have been hurt because of those evil wizards (who probably think they're doing the Lord's work).
5) When DO we stop talking and start building bridges between colleges, vocational schools, and other pathways that leads to jobs, financial literacy, and economic self-sufficiency for children?
6) When DO we start spending our money better and build more colleges (even if that means ripping away 5-10% of state K-12 funding to do it)?
7) The elections are over--we want parental input and control, and we want front-line teacher input and control. Probably the principals/administrators are the ones who need reforming (and perhaps some firing) first, but the teacher/parent/student relationship is more vital than ever to consolidate, and those who did vote made it clear that was their #1 goal.
Who knows if bridges can ever be built by the newcomers to the supporters of those who lost in the LAUSD elections---and arguably, unless UTLA leaders (and members) have a "come to Jesus" moment that the UTLA really is the "Darth Vader" of local education in Los Angeles, will they ever come on board?
It's up to these relatively low-paid LAUSD Board members with their extremely well-funded election coffers to restore the trust of the voters, taxpayers, parents and other adults who made a tough decision just now.
But more importantly, it's up to the LAUSD Board to start really, REALLY focusing on the students...because while our educational gurus SAY they're focusing on the children, it's pretty clear that the adults need to admit to their own lack of education, and their own lack of ability, in meeting the needs of the children they are supposed to be serving.
(Kenneth S. Alpern, M.D. is a dermatologist who has served in clinics in Los Angeles, Orange, and Riverside Counties. He is also a Westside Village Zone Director and Board member of the Mar Vista Community Council (MVCC), previously co-chaired its Planning and Outreach Committees, and currently is Co-Chair of its MVCC Transportation/Infrastructure Committee. He was co-chair of the CD11 Transportation Advisory Committee and chaired the nonprofit Transit Coalition, and can be reached at [email protected]. He also co-chairs the grassroots Friends of the Green Line at www.fogl.us. The views expressed in this article are solely those of Dr. Alpern.)