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In words of congratulations, Zimmer blasts ‘reform billionaires’

Michael Janofsky | November 5, 2014

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LA Unified board member Steve Zimmer

LA Unified board member Steve Zimmer

Steve Zimmer was the only member of the LA school board with a public response to yesterday’s victory by Tom Torlakson, who won a second term as state Superintendent for Public Instruction.

In it, Zimmer makes clear his disdain for the wealthy funders who backed the losing candidate, Marshall Tuck, congratulating the state teacher unions for standing up to them and urging them to continue, with a particular eye on next year’s LA Unified school board elections.

At the same time, Zimmer decries the millions of dollars spent on the campaign, arguing that the money could have been better used for programs benefitting students.

While Zimmer argues that “collaboration trumps conflict,” his disregard for Tuck supporters is, nonetheless, unequivocal, as he points to the “corporate education reform billionaires who have an endless magazine of resources to shoot at folks trying to solve the problems facing our schools.” 

Here is his complete statement:

“The results of yesterday’s election once again confirm that public education is not for sale. Against a gale storm of unprecedented funding, Tom Torlakson, State Superintendent of Instruction narrowly won re-election.

This was the most expensive State Superintendent race in U. S. history. I congratulate Superintendent Torlakson and urge him to continue his collaborative approach to transforming outcomes for all students in California. I look forward to continuing our close working relationship so that the Department of Education expands the resources available to classrooms in support of student learning throughout our District.

I also offer my best wishes to Marshall Tuck whom I have known well for many years. I know that Marshall will continue to be a passionate advocate for schools serving students in the most peril.

While it is tempting to feel exhilarated in the wake of this important victory, I mostly feel exhausted. I am sick and tired of dodging bullets from corporate education reform billionaires who have an endless magazine of resources to shoot at folks trying to solve the problems facing our schools.

There must be another way we can have this important conversation. Instead of reflecting on how the millions we spend distorting truths, attacking and bullying one another could help real kids in real classrooms today, the California Charter Schools Association is simply reloading their guns for the Spring School Board elections.

I am sure CTA and our other labor partners will gear up their defense systems again in response. I have a long list of programs we could fund in LAUSD with the close to $20 million dollars that went into this latest battle. More and more it seems like a zero sum game in which kids lose every time.

The solutions to the problems facing our kids are never simple. They require us to roll up our sleeves and work together to find the difficult answers in policy, in pedagogy and in practice. Finding solutions starts with listening. Teachers listening to parents, parents listening to teachers, school leaders listening to the community and everyone listening to our students. The last half dozen election cycles have had a ton of screaming. Close to $50 million dollars worth. And barely an ounce of listening.

I still believe that collaboration trumps conflict and that we can find common ground. I still have hope that we can transcend the power struggles in the name of the promise that public education still holds for families who dream of a better life for their children.

If we remember that we hold those dreams in our hands, maybe we can do more than dust ourselves off and prepare for the next battle.”

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