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LA voters and parents want the school board to put kids first, poll shows. First test of new board will happen Thursday.

Sarah Favot | July 5, 2017

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Ref Rodriguez with students. (Courtesy

Los Angeles voters and parents overwhelmingly agree that the LA Unified school board should put kids first when it comes to the district’s budget and policies, according to a new poll. And the board will have the chance to signal its commitment to that priority when it votes Thursday on a “kids first” resolution in one of its first decisions as a new board.

The poll released Wednesday by Great Public Schools Now comes on the heels of the most expensive school board race in the nation’s history. It was conducted between June 22 and 27, just over a month after the May 16 general election that unseated the board president and brought two pro-reform candidates to the board, creating a new reform majority.

“Voters in Los Angeles, especially parents, agree broadly that equity and quality must be at the heart of any educational agenda to move all of Los Angeles forward,” Myrna Castrejón, executive director of Great Public Schools Now, said in a news release. “Residents are ready to embrace kids-first leadership and focus on what works. Ninety-seven percent of voters polled say that no matter where they live, no matter what their income, all families deserve to have a high-quality public school in their neighborhood, and we hope that this serves as a guiding light for the school board.”

Those values may have been what voters were signaling when they elected board members Nick Melvoin and Kelly Gonez, who campaigned on a “kids first” agenda and vowed to make decisions based on the needs of students, not adult stakeholders.

The poll’s release comes one day before the new board is formally installed and takes it first votes.

School board member Ref Rodriguez, who is also viewed as a reformer and will likely be the new board president, authored a resolution for Thursday’s meeting that lays out a “kids first” agenda. One of its motions directs the superintendent to draft a “Student Impact Statement” on every item that comes before the school board to show how the proposed action affects low-income students, foster youth, English learners, African-American students, and students with special needs.

Great Public Schools Now, the nonprofit Los Angeles organization that funds grants to replicate high-performing district and charter schools and other initiatives, commissioned the poll, which surveyed 800 registered voters in LA Unified. Survey responses were broken out for parents and for voters. The survey’s margin of error is plus or minus 3.46 percentage points.

As reflected in the May election results, the poll shows LA voters and parents view the school board and the school district unfavorably, with parents taking a more negative view than voters as a whole.

Parents’ frustrations with the district and board were on display in the election, as parents were seen as more engaged in the campaigns this year than in years past. Both Melvoin and Gonez pointed to the support of parents, and mothers in particular, as a key to their success.

The survey found that both voters and parents viewed the school board more unfavorably than favorably. Of voters overall, 27 percent viewed the school board unfavorably and 26 percent favorably. But parents were more negative about the board: 32 percent viewed it unfavorably while 28 percent viewed it favorably.

Parents also viewed the school district more unfavorably than voters as a whole. Voters were split equally on their view of the district — 34 percent said they viewed the district favorably, and the same amount saw it unfavorably. But of the parents, 42 percent viewed the district negatively while 28 percent viewed it favorably.

There is a wide divide between parents and voters as a whole when it comes to charter schools. The survey showed that parents viewed charter schools, which are public schools that are independently run, as 63 percent favorably, while 41 percent of voters surveyed viewed charter schools favorably.

Other findings:

• Nearly 8 in 10 voters agreed with the statement “public school politics has become too overheated and divisive.”
• There was near-unanimous agreement to the statement: “No matter where they live, no matter what their income, all families deserve to have a high-quality public school in their neighborhood.”
• 86 percent of voters agree that “solutions for ensuring high-quality public schools can come from anywhere, either within or outside of the district, and no high-quality solutions should be excluded from consideration.”
• Parents were more likely to agree that schools need more funding: 87 percent of parents said schools need more money, while 78 percent of voters said there is a “great need” or “some need” for more funding.
• 93 percent of voters agree that when it comes to budget and policy decisions, the district should put the needs of students first.

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