Bracing for Trump, LA school officials continue to pass resolutions opposing feared policies
Mike Szymanski | December 16, 2016
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Fear and anxiety of what lies ahead with a new Donald Trump administration, particularly for DACA students, led LA school officials to pass two new resolutions this week.
A sweeping resolution calling for “safe zones” last month wasn’t enough. Two more resolutions specifically mentioning the new regime were passed this week. Also, the teachers union is planning a districtwide demonstration just before the inauguration, and social-emotional learning experts are preparing to quell concerns brought up after Trump becomes president. Also, lobbyists for the school district painted a dire future for the district in the coming years.
“I think we face a disaster and we have to unite to fight together,” declared Robert Raben, president of The Raben Group that the district has contracted to lobby in Washington, D.C. “The absence of that voice is going to be nightmarish.”
Two new resolutions passed by consent at Tuesday’s meeting specifically mention Trump’s stated policies that the district opposes. A resolution called “Presidential Pardons for DREAMers in the Pursuit of the American Dream” sponsored by the two Latino members of the board, Ref Rodriguez and Mónica García, were joined as co-sponsors by board members Mónica Ratliff, Richard Vladovic, President Steve Zimmer and student board member Karen Calderon.
The resolution noted that Trump’s platform is “threatening mass deportations, including overturning DACA,” the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program introduced by President Obama. The resolution asks Obama to “issue an executive order prohibiting the use of information derived from the DACA application and participation process for purposes other than originally intended, including for the purpose of removal or deportation” and asks Obama to pardon “civil immigration violations for young immigrants that participated in DACA.”
Another resolution titled “Supporting Public Schools, Building Stable Learning Environments” sponsored by Zimmer and Rodriguez states that “the rhetoric used by the president-elect during the campaign and the stated policies, positions, opinions, investments and rhetoric of several of the president-elect’s nominees stand in direct conflict to the policies and positions of this board and this administration.”
The resolution asks that Trump’s “nominee for Secretary of Education and his nominee for Attorney General to directly affirm the Obama Administration’s guidance to states and local education authorities regarding the dignity and humanity of transgender students and access to safe restrooms, locker rooms and all school facilities.” The resolution also puts the district on the record of opposing any Cabinet appointment that goes against LA Unified’s mission and values.
Someone who is usually at odds with the board, the California Charter Schools Association’s regional director Sarah Angel, vowed solidarity with the district after the election.
“While the the charter community has at key moments challenged district policy and decisions, we have always done so knowing that deeper values connect us all,” Angel told the board. “For the first time in a long time, many of those deeper values now feel threatened by political events at the federal level. Immigrant families fear being torn apart, LGBTQ students fear harassment, and so many of us feel that the values we were taught in school, as children, no longer hold true for many adults, including some of those in positions of greatest authority. In this difficult and fragile time in which so much of the country is divided, we want to affirm very clearly the values that bind us — all of us here in Los Angeles — working on behalf of students: equity, equality, respect for human dignity, truth and compassion.”
Angel pledged alliance for CCSA’s hundreds of member schools and state legislators and said, “So while policy and political disagreements on charter school issues may arise, we are deeply committed to standing with you to uphold our shared values, to protect the families and educators we all serve, and to defend the deeper principles that are the foundation of this district, our city, our state and our democracy.”
UTLA teachers union President Alex Caputo-Pearl also spoke of concern regarding Trump and his selection of Betsy DeVos for secretary of education. He voiced support for the series of resolutions by the school board and noted the union action planned for Jan. 19, the day before the president’s swearing-in ceremony.
“We will take action at 100 cities across the country, and that number is growing,” Caputo-Pearl said. “We will be rallying at schools in the morning and stand with and for our students, shielding them from racism, bigotry and deportation that we fear could happen with an incoming administration.”
The often-divided school board remained unified in concerns about Trump.
“We have to keep DACA and our students with hopes and dreams, and if there’s even a nuance of a change, let us know and I believe there are politicians there who will still respond when we start yelling and screaming,” board member Vladovic told the team of lobbyists.
Board member George McKenna added, “Unpredictability is even more frightening than the possibility of what will happen. Trying to protect public education is troublesome for us, being the second-largest school district in the nation. I’m troubled.”
Lobbyist Raben summed up, “Our heads are spinning in Washington. None of us can predict what is going to happen.”