Heather Repenning is the former vice president of the Los Angeles Board of Public Works, and the former director of external affairs for Mayor Eric Garcetti's office. In the March primary election, she's running for the LAUSD Board of Education, District 5, and she just announced that she's raised an impressive $175,000 from 400 donors in three months.
"I am deeply grateful for the depth and breadth of support we have received in our campaign," Repenning said in a statement. "This strong showing demonstrates that we're working hard and building a broad coalition of support from classroom teachers, school employees, students, parents, working families, activists, neighborhood leaders and elected officials. I look forward to expanding our efforts in the weeks and months ahead."
We spoke to her about all of this and more.
L.A. WEEKLY: Why should you win in March?
HEATHER REPENNING: I should win in March because of my extensive background fighting for our future and working in local government, and in some of the neighborhoods that are part of Board District 5. I am also an LAUSD parent. None of our current LAUSD board members have school-age children, and I think that having a parent's perspective represented is very important. I can speak directly to the issues that families care about, like reducing student-to-teacher ratios, increasing funding for art and music programs, addressing poverty in our student population by bringing more social workers and health care and other support services to our schools, and having quality after-school and summer programs available to all of our kids.
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Why will you win?
With so many candidates competing in the primary election, our objective is to be successful in the March 5 primary and make the top two into the general election. Our campaign will be successful because we have assembled the most dynamic, diverse coalition of support in this race. With endorsements from Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti to SEIU Local 99 Education Workers United to Los Angeles' firefighters [United Firefighters of Los Angeles City Local 112] to over 100 community leaders and organizations representing working families, combined with my background and our message of building better schools and stronger neighborhoods, we are confident we will win this race.
How did you manage to rally people and raise the $175,000?
I've spent many years working in public service, and I have worked really hard on a number of issues from community development to sustainability to income inequality — and I have always found a way to intersect with schools and students because education is so important to me personally. I've been fortunate to work with a lot of great people along the way. Those are the folks who are supporting my campaign for school board — people who know firsthand my ability to bring people together to solve problems and get things done, and they believe that those skills are needed in public education right now.
How will your experience working for Mayor Garcetti's office help in this post?
In working for Mayor Garcetti, I have had the chance to get to know and work with many of the diverse communities that make up our region. I've helped lead some really impactful initiatives, like raising the minimum wage in Los Angeles and creating policy to improve our air and water quality. As the vice president of the Board of Public Works, I have provided oversight to a major public agency that impacts people's lives on a daily basis. I have also seen the broader landscape, including how the interests of local government are impacted by Sacramento and Washington, D.C., and how to move the ball in those places. I think that these experiences are all directly relevant to the job of school board member.
Should you be victorious, what will be your first act in office?
I'm really interested in bringing many more early-education classrooms to LAUSD. We know that our governor-elect has committed to providing $2 billion statewide for early education. If I get elected, my first act will be to create a working group to bring these dollars to LAUSD communities. Early education is such a strategic way to help address poverty and reduce the achievement gap among our kids. I would like to look specifically at how we can do early education as a dual-language immersion program. This would really help our many students who come from Spanish-speaking homes so that they have English proficiency before they reach kindergarten. And for all students, learning a second language has so many benefits that we really should be doing much more language instruction, especially in a global city like L.A.