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LAUSD School Board Candidates to Face Off in Tuesday’s Runoff

One of the two races in this Tuesday’s run-off election is a contest for the District 5 seat in the Los Angeles Unified School District’s (LAUSD) Board of Education. Candidates Luis Sanchez and Benett Kayser were the highest vote getters in the general election, but neither secured a high enough percentage of votes, they will face off in the May 17 election.

Read this story IN SPANISH: Los Candidatos a la Junta Escolar de LAUSD Se Enfrentarán en la Elección de Este Martes [1]

Kayser, an LAUSD administrator and retired Irving Middle School teacher, is endorsed by the United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA), the Associated Administrators of Los Angeles (AALA), the Los Angeles Professional Managers’ Association (LAPMA), the International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) Local 12, Los Angeles City Councilmember Paul Koretz (CD-5) and several retired elected officials, according to his campaign website.

Sanchez has been endorsed by dozens of organization that include current elected officials—five current Los Angeles Council members, three current LAUSD School Board Members, Los Angeles Supervisor Gloria Molina, Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca and many others, according to his campaign website. Eastern Group Publications, publisher of this newspaper, endorsed Sanchez during the primary, as did La Opinion and the Los Angeles Times.

The March 8 election results showed Sanchez ahead of Kayser by over 1,360 votes; Sanchez received 9,500 votes and Kayer received 8,132. To date, neither candidate has the endorsement of Yolie Flores who is vacating the School Board District 5 seat.

Both campaigns have engaged in negative campaigns, mailers dissimulate defending their candidate while accusing the other of wrongdoing.

Kayser’s supporters have accused Sanchez of selling-out public education through a so-called influx of cash from corporations and have appealed to teacher’s interest regarding layoffs and linking pay to test scores.
Sánchez’s campaign has called Kayser the downtown bureaucrat’s candidate.

Last week, Sánchez’s campaign filed a complaint against UTLA independent expenditure committee and Bennett Kayser’s campaign alleging multiple ethics violations.

They formally requested an investigation into supposed illegal coordination by Kayser and the United Teachers of Los Angeles independent expenditure committee for a mailer that showed a copy of a receipt of Kayser’s property taxes.

A report released Tuesday by the Ethics Commission report indicates that both candidates’ campaigns have been well-funded.

School Board Candidate Q&A: In order to give readers insight into the candidates before the election, EGP asked the candidates to answer a few questions. The responses by the candidates alternate without preference and have not been edited.

EGP Question: Critics of your campaign claim you cannot be independent of your supporters and campaign contributors. Will you be able to make decisions contrary to what these groups may want, for example in regards to school reform and/or budget cuts? Please explain.

Kayser: “I would say those critics are mistaken. I am a teacher; I will be a likely vote on issues that improve students’ classroom experiences and learning. I am a parent and a taxpayer; I will be an unlikely vote on issues that take away learning resources from the classroom. I have Parkinson’s Disease and, therefore, I will be a strong advocate for kids and employees with special needs. My values are not for sale.”

Sanchez: “I am proud of the diverse coalition of parents, teachers, labor, local business and community leaders that have united behind my campaign. I have received donations from over 400 different contributors, some of which have never donated to a political campaign before because they know I will be an independent voice on the School Board. If elected to office, I will not owe favors to any particular individual or group, which will allow me to work on the tough issues facing LAUSD with the sole focus on what is best for our students.”

EGP Question: Given the state of the economy and the school district budget, under a worse case scenario, meaning the revenue numbers stay as they are today, if you were given a line-item budget veto, what things would you cut? Please explain.

Sanchez: “It is critical that we focus on creating fiscal accountability, strong neighborhood schools and provide the opportunity of a world class education to every child. We must work hard to protect the classroom as much as we can, and streamline bureaucracy so that funds allocated for our schools are well spent and if any budget cuts are needed, these cuts do not have an impact on our kids education.”

Kayser: “I would invest in a “Culture of Quality” that will cut the wastefulness of doing jobs over when they could have been done right the first time. I would cut the number of school days to reduce the budget deficit and keep staffing at a level that will cut the overcrowding of students in classrooms. I will work to cut the time it is taking to collect the $110,000,000 LAUSD is owed annually by the Community Redevelopment Agency.”

EGP Question: Superintendent John Deasy has announced he will change the Public School Choice reform process, including the elimination of the community advisory vote. In your words, what is the role of Public School Choice in LAUSD, how can it be improved, and has it been effective?

Kayser: “PSC is an effort to improve learning in LAUSD’s classrooms. At this time there is no evidence it has made any difference in student outcomes. On the positive side, PSC has started a conversation among many stakeholder interest groups and people who weren’t aware of the unsatisfactory conditions in and around their children’s classrooms. They have now taken interest and become empowered to expect change. On the negative side, this competitive model to claim and to operate the campuses has brought out the dark side of the interest groups as they become pitted against each other rather than collaborating to achieve common goals.

PSC could be improved with a moratorium on new startup campuses and analyzing what has worked and what hasn’t thus far. Until such a study has been done, we don’t know whether the tremendous number of scarce dollars and hard-worked hours expended on the project were well spent.

Hopefully, the Superintendent meant that he will recommend changes to the School Board which will then decide whether or not to implement them. I believe that the community advisory vote is valuable as it further notifies the stakeholders of LAUSD’s intentions, and it provides a snapshot of what the stakeholders think of the project. Transparency is always good.”

Sanchez: “The role of Public School Choice in the LAUSD is to ensure that every neighborhood provides a quality education to every child regardless of their city and to engage local parents, teachers and community leaders to take a leadership role in empowering their local school. We need to make decisions based on what is best for our students and our community. For far too long, our children have suffered the consequences of low expectations and been held captive by an underperforming school. Public choice gives us the opportunity to change that and expect nothing less than a great school in every neighborhood. Our kids and families deserve it and as a board member I will fight to make it a reality.”

EGP: Based on your experience with LAUSD, please give an example of a school in District 5 that is “working” without special funding or grants from out resources. Please explain your response.

Sanchez: “I believe Maywood Elementary School is a great example of what can be accomplished when a dedicated team of a principal, teachers and parents come together and focus on children and improving student achievement. Maywood Elementary demonstrates that a great school is possible in every neighborhood and we need to fight to ensure that every child has access to a quality education.”

Kayser: “I don’t know of a District 5 school that does not receive some sort of outside funding. Whether it be the Free/Reduced Lunch Program, or Special Education, or ESL, or community support groups such as PTA and ‘Friends of…’ organizations, newspaper subscriptions or donated computers and software, every school receives additional funding.”

For more information on Kayser visit his campaign website at http://kayserforschoolboard.org/ [2]

For more information on Sanchez visit his campaign website at http://sanchezforschoolboard.com/ [3]