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Ankur Patel, a product of LAUSD, is youngest of board challengers

Vanessa Romo | February 4, 2015

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Ankur Patel

Ankur Patel

This is the next in a series of profiles on candidates running in the March 3 primary for the LA Unified school board. Today’s focus is Ankur Patel, a candidate for the District 3 seat.

At 29-years old, Ankur Patel is the youngest candidate running for the LA Unified School Board, and he’s using that as a campaign selling point.

“I’m young. I have the energy to lead and I’m a quick learner,” he told LA School Report, adding that among all six people running for the District 3 board seat covering San Fernando Valley he is the most recent graduate of the LA Unified public school system.

Patel grew up in the Valley, attending public schools from elementary through high school, then moved on to UCLA for undergrad. He returned to Cal State Northridge for a masters degree focusing on public transportation.

“I have been through it and I know first hand what it’s like,” he said, seizing on a key difference he sees between himself and the incumbent, Tamar Galatzan, and four other challengers in the March 3 elections.

Some other differences: Patel considers himself an independent who won’t stand for the rampant expansion of charter schools, the opposite of what he says Galatzan has encouraged.

“We have a great opportunity with our charter schools,” he explains. “They are a testing ground for new ideas but now let’s see how they’re doing on a year-to-year basis.”

Charter school expansions are a contentious issue in this part of the Valley. Board District 3 has had the highest growth of charters in the last five years, to 48 from 16. And most are previously traditional public schools that converted to charters when the formula for Title 1 funding changed. Now, nearly all Title 1 schools, which receive federal dollars for enrolling a majority of low-income students, are affiliated charters.

“It’s the responsibility of the board to stop and study the data that shows that charters are really working,” he said.

Patel’s take on the role of technology in the classroom also stands in stark contrast to that of Galatzan. While the two-term board member supported the district’s billion dollar one-to-one iPad program, Patel says, “The priority should be on the classroom.”

He supports reducing class size and raising teacher pay as the means to recruit and retain the best and brightest teachers.

While he’s never taught within the district, he was an English teacher in South Korea and China, which is why he identifies with local teachers’ struggles. “I had anywhere from one to 30 student in my classrooms so I really learned about the day-to-day challenges and what it means to be a teacher,” he said.

Referring to UTLA’s recent salary demands of an 8.5 percent raise, Patel said, “Teachers are being very reasonable. Meanwhile, administrators are the ones getting raises. That has to change.”

Despite his views on charters and his support for issues important to teachers, the teachers union, UTLA, has not endorsed him or any other candidate in the District 3 race. That could change.

So far, Patel has out-fundraised all five of his opponents, including Galatzan, with $21,746 in his war chest, according to the most recent data provided by the LA City Ethics Commission. The total includes $10,000 he loaned himself and another $5,300 from other people with the surname “Patel.” He says he’s done a good job of tapping into his “education circles” and now plans to move into getting support from neighborhood council members.

And if you live in his area of the Valley, you should expect a personal visit, he said, adding, “I am sending out glossy mailers and showing up on front doors.”

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