Today is Board of Education election day in Los Angeles, but many parents won’t actually take the time to go out and vote. This is not OK. Yes, we’re all busy with work, and just trying to keep afloat, raising our kids in one of the toughest cities in the country, financially or otherwise. But just as staying away from the polls during the presidential election proved to be one of the biggest regrets many Americans have to this day, not voting for the betterment of our schools is a blow to education and our city’s future — whether you have children or not.
Filling the seat left vacant after Ref Rodriguez's resignation (due to breaking campaign finance laws several months ago) with the right person is essential. Residents living in District 5 need a voice — a selfless and honest voice not affected by outside interests — to weigh in on major decisions before the board. The current six members need a tie-breaker, as four-vote majorities aren’t always reached. They couldn’t even agree about a potential replacement for Rodriguez, so the seat has remained unfilled.
With 10 names on the ballot this week, there are several choices, but as a mother with a child in the public school system and a product of this system myself, I am voting for Jackie Goldberg. After talking about the candidates with fellow parents and teachers, and learning about some things that happen behind the scenes when I wrote the story “Beyond the Classroom” after the UTLA strike, I am convinced Goldberg is the right choice.
And apparently I am not alone, at least along the liberal-minded, music-loving community — a benefit for Goldberg headlined by Best Coast a few weeks ago sold out immediately and saw L.A. parents out in full force, many of them fellow parents whom I worked with when my daughter was at Micheltorena Elementary School in Sunset Junction. I was an active public school proponent there when she attended the school, co-organizing a Halloween benefit concert every year and getting artists such as Mac Sabbath, Shooter Jennings, Foo Fighters’ Rami Jaffee and Starcrawler’s Arrow De Wilde to play. In a small way, this unified the community and helped residents see that yes, public school can be cool, which was a feat back then when everyone was sending their kids to charters.
In addition to Goldberg, who is backed by UTLA, school board candidates include Heather Repenning, a senior aide to Mayor Eric Garcetti; charter school executive Allison Bajracharya; school counselor and Huntington Park City Council member Graciela Ortiz; and principal Cynthia Gonzalez.
Today's winner must score more than 50 percent of votes to avoid a May runoff, and it is my hope that parents like me, who supported the teachers strike and see way too much favoritism and even corruption within the charter school system, will join me.
The winner will have to have a strong mind and perspective when it comes to working with charter schools, which continue to compete with our district schools for students and resources. Members backed by charter school support won the majority last election, and this includes law-breaker Rodriguez. We need some balance; it's time to cap and regulate charter schools.
It won't be an easy job but I believe Goldberg, who has served on the board before, is the best candidate to accomplish this. Even if you don't agree, it's important to go out and make your views matter, if only as an example to the future generation.
Polls opened today at 7 a.m. and will close at 8 p.m. tonight. Registered voters who live in the boundaries of District 5 (including neighborhoods northeast and southeast of downtown) can vote in this election. Find your polling place by entering your address here or call (800) 815-2666.