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Charter group says Kayser policies ‘by no means race-neutral’

Michael Janofsky | February 3, 2015

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Bennett KayserAfter days of silence, the California Charter Schools Association is defending a controversial campaign flyer targeting Bennett Kayser, who is running for reelection for the LA Unified District 5 board seat.

Kayser, too, is speaking out about the flyer for the first time, calling its portrayal of him “a pack of vile misrepresentations.”

Paid for by an independent expenditure group affiliated with the association to support a challenger, the flyer accuses Kayser of supporting policies that negatively affect Latino students. Critics have characterized the flyer as racist in nature.

The association’s political action committee, CCSA Advocates, said today it does not believe Kayser “personally harbors racist views.” But it contended, nonetheless that “the implications of his policies have by no means been race-neutral.”

“The stakes are too high to sugar-coat Mr. Kayser’s record of failure. The facts are the facts and voters deserve to have them before they vote,” Carlos Marquez, Political Director for the PAC, said in a statement. “The facts of the mailer in question are indisputable and serve as a public service announcement to Latino families whose children have as much right to attend quality schools in any neighborhood they choose as anyone else.” 

In an emailed message to LA School Report, Kayser said, “I’m honored to have the support of almost every Latino elected official in my district, and that includes, the human rights leader Dolores Huerta. If monied interests want to double down on a pack of vile misrepresentations, it reflects more on their organization than on my record.

“The billionaire bullies are at it again.”

In its statement issued today, the charter group cited several issues during Kayser’s term on the board that demonstrate, in its view, his opposition to policies favorable to Latino children.

According to the charter group, Kayser opposed removing attendance boundaries to allow students to attend a higher-performing school, a redistricting plan drafted by a citizens’ commission that would have resulted in a greater number of Latino residents in his district, renewing “nearly every charter public school” that comes before the board and the Vergara decision, in which the deciding judge ruled that state laws on teacher hiring and firing disproportionately harm poor and minority students.

“After reviewing Mr. Kayser’s record in the light of day, we are left with a preponderance of evidence that suggests Mr. Kayser is, at best, out of touch with the educational hopes and aspirations of the Latino students in his district and at worst, dismissive of them entirely,” Marquez said in the statement.

The flyer, which says it supports the election of Kayser’s challenger, Ref Rodriguez, as well as the three other incumbents — Tamar Galatzan, George McKenna and Richard Vladovic — has been denounced by a wide range of Kayser supporters, including McKenna, the only incumbent running unopposed.

They have characterized the flyer — one of three targeting Kayser from the charter group — as divisive, unfair and inaccurate in an effort to build support for a candidate, Rodriguez, who has spent many years as a charter school executive.

McKenna has demanded the group remove his name for future campaign material. Galatzan decried the use of “negative literature like this,” and Rodriguez said the flyer “does not reflect what I believe about my opponent.”

Vladovic has said nothing publicly.

The District 5 race also includes Andrew Thomas, a professor of education and operator of a research company that consults with school districts, including LA Unified.

All three candidates are expected to appear for the first time together at a forum Thursday night at Eagle Rock High School, sponsored by a group of neighborhood councils and Great Public Schools Los Angeles, a political action committee. Kayser and Thomas pulled out of a forum last week and said they would not appear in another Feb. 10 — both of them sponsored by United Way-Los Angeles.


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