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Commentary: Please, school board, focus on our children

Guest contributor | October 21, 2014

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Hispanic children LAUSD school board

By Michelle Crames

My daughter started Kindergarten this year, and part of why I enrolled her in public school was that things were getting better, and my belief that our family’s energy and resources could contribute to bettering our community. Two months after her start, we learn that Superintendent John Deasy, who has provided leadership during this turnaround, turned in his letter of resignation to the school board.

As a parent of three young children, I know it takes at least two parties to fight. Regardless of what you think of Deasy’s resignation, we all want to minimize the impact and distraction inevitable with such a leadership change. Can we please refocus our energy on what matters most, our children’s education?

I believe Deasy achieved a lot, but he certainly made mistakes. However, during the last several months, like many parents. I am most disappointed that our focus has shifted away from what is important, which is the kids. As an outsider, I feel that more time is being spent bickering and politicking than working to provide students with the best possible education.

The parents’ voice was largely absent in the recent feud between the school board and Deasy, but now needs to be heard. Lets put this behind us and get back to work on what matters.

In a city where 80 percent of LAUSD students live around or below the poverty line, the American dream requires great schools for our children. America is a land of equal opportunity, and access to quality education is the basis of that.

At the same time, while LAUSD is failing students, people who can afford it are spending more on their own children, fueling an increasing education divide. The Associated Press recently reported that the top 10 percent of earners’ spending on their children’s education jumped 35 percent during the recession, as school budgets were being slashed, to over 5 times that of the bottom 90 percent.

Parents believe in teachers – my own parents were teachers. Parents believe we should as a society fund schools better so that teachers are well-paid, and they should be respected as the professional pillars of our community they are.

Parents believe in reform, parent choice, and making schools better for everyone. Deasy supported charters, a movement which began years before his arrival, and I believe will continue to thrive after his departure. Parents want schools that help get kids out of poverty and improve outcomes, and they don’t care whether that’s a charter school or not.

It appears candidates for school board must choose to align with either the reform movement or the teachers union. It seems impossible to run on a campaign focusing on how to achieve better results for all children across both systems, or on increasing the funding for everyone. (According to the NEA, during 2012-2013, California had the 12th lowest spending per student in the country.)

The school board and superintendent roles should attract the best and brightest to oversee and deploy a budget of over $7.3 billion dollars serving over 640,000 students, vs. the most politically savvy. The fundraising requirements to run a successful school board campaign are staggering. For example, campaign contributions and independent expenditures totaled over $3 million in the Steve Zimmer/Kate Anderson race or $38.82 per vote, in a race ultimately decided by a margin of 2,653 votes. Primary elections for Districts 1, 3, 5 and 7 election will happen March 3, and I encourage parents to mark their calendars now.

Parents get involved. Lets expect and demand more for our children!

Michelle Crames is a tech entrepreneur and parent living in Los Feliz.


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