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Meet an LAUSD school board candidate — District 6’s Patty López: ‘Parent involvement is key in our kids’ education’

Esmeralda Fabián Romero | February 9, 2017

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LA School Report covers the 2017 LAUSD school board race: See all 13 candidate profiles

Name: Patty López

Board district: 6

Age: 49

Job: community activist in the San Fernando Valley

Married: to Juan Lopez, supervisor for an electronic company

Children in LAUSD: She has four children who attended LAUSD schools and four grandchildren. Her first three children graduated from San Fernando High School, Vaughn Next Century Learning Center and Cesar E. Chavez High School. Her fourth child is in middle school. 

LAUSD education: López attended LAUSD schools when she arrived from Mexico at age 12. She received her high school diploma from North Valley Occupational Center through adult education.

Education: Attended Los Angeles Mission College

Lives in: City of San Fernando

Platform: Increase parent engagement, quality education for all students, programs for students with special needs and create new programs for pre-K and adult education.

Endorsements: community members

Campaign funding: As of Feb. 23, LA City Ethics Commission filings show that López has neither raised nor spent any campaign funds. The California Charter Schools Association Advocates’ independent expenditure committee has reported spending $64,698 on mailers opposing López’s candidacy. 

Website: pattylopezforschoolboard2017

Patty López, a former Democratic member of the California State Assembly who represented the 39th District from 2014 to 2016, said she hadn’t planned to run for public office again, but members of her community encouraged her to enter the race for LA Unified School Board because she has a “true passion for kids.”

“The community felt that they wanted someone who knows and belongs to this community, so I’m doing it for them,” said the mother of four who also has four grandchildren. “Parents like me want to be more involved in their school decisions, and I want to make that a priority if I win a seat on the school board, because parent involvement is key in our kids’ education.”

López is seeking to represent Board District 6 in the east San Fernando Valley, now represented by Mónica Ratliff, who is leaving the board after one term to run for Los Angeles City Council. Her opponents in the March 7 primary are community organizer Imelda Padilla, teacher Kelly Fitzpatrick-Gonez, loan officer Araz Parseghian, Gwendolyn Posey and Jose Sandoval.

She feels proud of having sponsored several education bills during her time at the state Assembly, on child development programs, diploma alternatives and language options, and adult education grants, though all failed to pass. She feels confident that this time she can make improvements on these issues as part of LA Unified.

“I’m going to fight for a quality education in my community, from pre-kinder to adult education, and return the after-school programs to our schools,” López said. “I plan to use my experience and good relationships in Sacramento to bring more funding to our schools.”

López said her priorities will be to bring more funding to the district, particularly for children with special needs, while watching over accountability and increasing parental involvement.

“Learning and executing the role of Assembly member for the state of California gave me a lot of insight and also the opportunity to present and fight for legislation on our students’ and teachers’ behalf,” she said. “I worked with the educational leadership at the state level and also advocating bodies from across the state to fight for educational funding, which enabled me to develop a lot of relationships and obtain experience which can benefit us.”

López was born in Michoacán, Mexico. She moved to the U.S. at age 12. Before she was elected to the California State Assembly in 2014, she worked on an assembly line in Valencia with her husband, whom she married at age 18.

She noted that what she has achieved in politics has been thanks to the support of people in her community, as well as family and friends, and not because she has received large contributions to her campaigns. This time is no different.

“I don’t have big monetary contributions or political endorsements. I prefer to have the freedom to make better choices for my people, and not because I owe it to a campaign contributor,” she said.

According to the Los Angeles City Ethics Commission, as of Jan. 11, López had reported no contributions or expenditures or received any official endorsements.

She said she “will not be sold to money or promises from special interest groups. I am not on anyone’s camp except that of the students and parents. I will do what it takes to work with all groups as long as it benefits all students. I do not have political alliances or owe anyone favors, so I cannot be persuaded or intimidated. I am from the community and live in the community and want to represent all of us.”

One of the biggest challenges the board will face is a projected deficit of $1.46 billion in 2018-19. López believes she’s ready to deal with that and already has a plan in mind in case of possible cuts.

“We will need to review it, but if we have to make cuts, they have to be from top to bottom and not the other way around. It’s not wise to cut money that goes directly to the classrooms, or to parent engagement programs and school counselors that we need so badly. There are not enough counselors. It’s so hard for students to apply for college on time.”

She thinks there are too many unnecessary positions in the district’s offices that should be cut first, but not those that directly affect students. López said she has collaborated with the district for 25 years as a parent and as a community representative, so she understands how the district works.

She said she would work with principals to explore options to reduce the budget and with colleges to make sure they can support efforts to provide more classes on local school campuses.  

“I am very proud to have been successful in guiding and pushing for the currently opened LA Mission College satellite campus in the Sunland-Tujunga area. It took a lot of partnership, advocacy, push, which involved community leaders, educational leaders and other stakeholders. As a board member, I could dedicate my full attention to duplicating this type of result.”

López said one of her goals is to develop better communication and collaboration between charter and district schools. “The goal for all our schools is to benefit our students regardless of which school they attend.”

With charters, she said, “you have to see them case by case. Not all charters are the same as not all LAUSD schools are the same. I think the key to good schools is to involve parents in the decisions,” and they should “follow the same rules as (traditional) schools and be more open to kids with special needs.”

She said there are excellent charter schools in her district, but she doesn’t believe that all charters are good and all district schools are bad.

Regarding the education bills she sponsored in the Assembly that did not pass, she said, “The legislative process in Sacramento is not always in favor of those who need it most. Just like our federal system, there is a need to re-evaluate why thousands of bills are not passed which could be producing great results for our communities. There are issues of political alliances, favoritism, the influence of special interest groups, how much money the bill will take away from other areas, and the personal needs and desires of other Assembly members. All of these factors make it very difficult to pass truly momentous bills; so it is easier to pass ‘non-controversial’ bills that do not require huge campaigning and which do not alter the political whims of many people with influence.”

For undocumented students in Los Angeles schools, many of whom are concentrated in District 6, López said, I will fight to abolish the notion that we need to categorize our students into buckets based on their migratory status. We have young men and women, they are all students period, and our job as board members is to advocate and create the best possible environment for their success. My job is to see every individual student as the next possible leader, judge, medical doctor or successful business person and to support their dreams.

“I will not allow our students to feel fear, unfair treatment or be exposed to inadequate school policies. When we care for our students, then our society wins and our nation grows. We were founded in a dream of people escaping persecution and only asking for an opportunity to work hard and realize their potential. Why should we stop now?”

LA School Report covers the 2017 LAUSD school board race: See all 13 candidate profiles

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