Few endorsements? Little money? No problem, says Lydia Gutierrez
Craig Clough | January 27, 2015
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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 Lydia Gutierrez, a candidate for the District 7 seat.
Although she has no major endorsements and little campaign money, Lydia Gutierrez is expecting to make a big splash in LA Unified’s District 7 school board race as she looks to unseat sitting board President Richard Vladovic.
Could it work, when voters cast ballots on March 3? One need not look any further than her 2014 campaign for state superintendent of public instruction for proof.
Despite going up against two candidates with millions of funds in their coffers, Gutierrez received close to 1 million votes and 24.5 percent of the total, finishing a close third behind Marshall Tuck (28.9 percent) and the incumbent, Tom Torlakson (46.5). Torlakson eventually beat Tuck in a runoff.
“I think I did pretty well for having spent $30,000 dollars, and my opponents spent $10 million,” Gutierrez said. “I really had an excellent platform, having experience in business and education and knowing the changes that we’ve gone through for many years.”
Gutierrez, a Republican, has been a teacher with the Long Beach Unified School District for decades and also spent six and a half years working in the aerospace industry. She credits a big part of her success in the state superintendent’s race to her opposition to the new Common Core State Standards initiative, which Tuck and Torlakson supported. She plans to contintue to advocate for doing away with Common Core, should she win a seat on the LAUSD board.
“I have a saying: Common Core is a theory licensed as a product, marketed as a standard,” Gutierrez said. “It’s a theory that has never been tested. Nowhere can anyone prove any documentation. They have not tested it. That’s why it’s called a theory.”
The last few school board races that went to a runoff have typically featured a candidate backed by reform movement, pro-charter money versus a candidate backed by union funds. The reform vs. union battle also played out in the state superintendent’s race, with reformers backing Tuck and unions backing Torlakson. Gutierrez said she isn’t interested in either and only has a handful of individual endorsements.
“I received a million votes [in the state superintendent’s race], and not one endorsement. I’m not into endorsements. My endorsees in the past have been harassed,” she said.
In a repeat of her state run, Gutierrez is also lagging far behind her opponents in campaign funds. Through the last reporting period to the City Ethics Commission, she reported having raised just $1,200 in campaign contributions to $67,867 for Valdovic and $26,555 for the seat’s other challenger, Euna Anderson.
Certainly, her views on charter schools and former Superintendent John Deasy — who is a darling in the pro-charter community — won’t earn her reform support any time soon.
“I think Deasy came in to set LAUSD up for failure so that they could create more charter schools, because you have to have failure so that you can get those parents to sign signatures so that you can get a new school. They have to create failure,” Gutierrez said.
In referring to the frequent accusation that charters screen students to keep the school’s test scores high, she said, “In a public school, any child that attends, we have to give a quality education to by law. A charter school can say, ‘You don’t qualify, you didn’t meet this qualification,’ and they can say goodbye to that child. And that’s a serious problem.”
Gutierrez is also no fan of Deasy’s replacement, Ramon Cortines, and she is critical of Vladovic for voting to rehire him. She doesn’t mince words on the subject, referring to Cortines in a recent blog post as a “sexual predator,” a refererence to a sexual harassment lawsuit that was brought against him by a district employee but never proven in court.
“Dr. Vladovic, he had no business rehiring Cortines. There is no excuse for that,” she told LA School Report. “He’s been there for eight years, you can’t tell me he had nobody else? There was no one in training? You can’t tell me in that the whole distict, you had no one in training? There was no plan for the future.”
If elected, Gutierrez said she would call for a review of Cortines and look to replace him, possibly with Chief Deputy Superintendent Michelle King.
Gutierrez is also critical of Vladovic for signing off on the ill-fated iPad and MiSiS programs, and said they are indicative of the board’s lack of sound financial planning and oversight of the district.
One of the key components of her plan for the district is to bring an increased level of financial accountably by creating a centralized online data system that tracks and clearly documents how the district’s money is spent, similar to the site created by LA City Controller Ron Galperin that was hailed by many as a move toward fiscal transparency by the city.
“Vladovic approved MiSiS and iPads? There should be a through understanding of how the money is being spent,” she said.