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Public Ed Literally on the Ballot

The very theory and concept of public education for all is at stake in Los Angeles

Kris LaGrange's picture
May 16, 2017

In the country’s second biggest school district voters are going to the polls to decide the future of public education. At stake is whether the school system will continue their commitment to an education for all children or if they will sell their schools to private charter school companies.

The Los Angeles Unified School District has seen a huge growth of charter schools over the last few years.  Like many major cities, hedge fund billionaires have come in to push an anti-union, pro testing message that prey’s on the poor. Under the guise of school choice, these charter schools have undermined the public education system.

In Los Angeles, the 7-member school board has always had a majority of members who support traditional public education.   Since charter school support has grown, their support on the board has grown to the point where they only need two more seats to take over the board for the first time.  To get that majority, charter school advocates have spent over $9 million on the two candidates, one who is a local charter school teacher and the other candidate is a charter school advocate and lawyer.  The teachers union, who is supporting the pro public education candidates, has spent about $5 million to support their candidates.  The charter school candidates have promised to limit due process for teachers and seniority rights and fight any limits on charter school expansion.

This election serves as a battleground for the future of public education.  So called Education Reformers like former Education Secretary Arne Duncan have endorsed the pro charter school candidates while tHe Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, Senator Bernie Sanders and Education Activist Diane Ravitch have supported the public education candidates. It is a classic battle of good vs. evil.

While interest in school board elections has risen in recent years, this is an especially important election.  Due to a municipal law change that adjusted the date of future elections, these school board members will serve 5 and a half year terms.  This election also comes just months after pro-charter school forces tried to fundamentally change the education system in Los Angeles by pushing a $490 Million plan that would have moved half of the districts students into non-union charter schools. This comes at a time when major charter school networks like Celerity are under federal investigation for the misuse of funds.  Celerity is currently trying to get permission from the state to expand, but the district has objected to this expansion while they are under investigation.

With billionaires with poor labor records like Elon Musk and Bill Gates chomping at the bit to force their failed educational policies on students, it’s no wonder that both sides have been forced to spend what some campaigns spend on statewide races.  Voters today will make an important decision; Do they continue to support traditional public education or do they sell their schools to privateers with failed education policies.

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