Archives for category: Los Angeles


If you are anywhere near Los Angeles today, you have a chance to see and meet the great Finnish educator Pasi Sahlberg. He is speaking at USC at 6 p.m. in the Grace Ford Salvatori Hall, Room 106. The topic is his book, “Finnish Lessons 2.0.” Of course, he will have much to say about our education system.


He will talk for about an hour, then take questions from the audience. See him if you possibly can. He gives a wonderful presentation.


The political action arm of the California Charter Schools Association spent heavily to elect charter-friendly candidates, but none of them won a majority. There will be three run-offs.


Bennett Kayser, the incumbent who was endorsed by the Network for Public Education, came in a close second to challenger and charter school leader Ref Rodriguez, who was leading by 38% to 35%. There will be a run-off.


Incumbent Tamar Galatzan, a strong supporter of charters and ex-superintendent John Deasy, got 39% of the vote, and the remainder was divided among several candidates. Veteran educator Scott Schmerelson (whom I endorsed) came in second with 20% of the vote. Galatzan outspent Schmerelson by 8-1 and will face him in a runoff.


Board chairman Dr. Richard Vladovic, also supported by charter advocates, did not receive a majority of the votes and will face a runoff against teacher Lydia Gutierrez. He led by 43% to 38%.


In all three critical races, the pro-charter candidate won a plurality, but the majority of those who turned out to vote did not vote for the pro-charter candidate.

Los Angeles school board member Steve Zimmer supports fellow board member Bennett Kayser, who has been the target of vicious attacks by the charter industry. Kayser has also been endorsed by Board chairman Dr. Richard Vladovic.

Here is Bennett’s website:

Here is how to volunteer to help:

By Steve Zimmer

Exactly two years ago, The California Charter Schools Association (CCSA) sent out a series of campaign hit pieces blaming me for the budget cuts that hit LAUSD during the great recession. They attacked me on every front they could with over three million dollars raised from the likes of Michael Bloomberg, Michelle Rhee and Eli Broad. It was the ugliest, most expensive school board campaign in the history of the nation. We thought it couldn’t get any worse.

Then, last summer CCSA came after Dr. George McKenna with a vengeance. With lies, filth and distortion they tried to mar the career of one of the most beloved educators ever to teach and lead schools in South Los Angeles. The effort failed and McKenna won handily. We thought we had seen the worst.

We were wrong.

In the current School Board election campaign the Charter Schools Association has turned their sights on my colleague Bennett Kayser. In an onslaught of mail, radio and TV commercials, CCSA has gone completely off the rails in their effort to vilify Bennett Kayser. The first mailer attacks Kayser as a racist ( despite the fact that he has a 100% voting record on every major district transformation supported by civil rights groups. They claim he protected child molesters ( when the entire Board has voted to dismiss every single teacher accused of crimes against children . The most disgusting TV advertisement ( directly mocks and mimics his public fight against Parkinson’s.

We have never, ever seen attacks like these in political campaigns.

Bennett Kayser is a good man. His entire adult life has been devoted to public service. And he is an outstanding policy maker. He has been a leading advocate on the Board in support of Early Childhood Education, Adult Education, Arts Education and Immigrant Rights. His courage in his fight against Parkinson’s has been a ray of hope to families fighting neurological diseases.

So why is the Charter Schools Association so hell bent on destroying this man?

One reason and one reason only: he votes against charter schools. Not all charter schools. But most. He has many explanations for this including that charter schools do not serve an equitable number of special education students.

It is fair to disagree with Kayser. In a tough campaign it is fair to attack him for voting against charters. But this is not what the Charter Schools Association is doing.

CCSA seeks to take over the Board of Education by any means necessary. The Association believes in a private sector, corporate model for privatizing our public schools. If CCSA’s candidate, Ref Rodriguez, wins on March 3rd, CCSA will gain control of the LAUSD Board. This will mean an even greater expansion of charter schools and a much greater number of colocations on district campuses, without concern for the financial stability of our district or its impact on district students.

But that’s not the most important reason we should stand against what CCSA is doing.

We should stand against this because it is morally and ethically wrong. By equating voting against a charter school to racism, CCSA cheapens the deep struggles that still face our city and our nation. The crimes against children in school districts are both heinous acts and moral outrages. But to use the suffering of children and families as a campaign issue is the lowest form of political exploitation I have ever seen.

The most shocking attack is the attack on Mr. Kayser’s disability. I have seen very closely how difficult Bennett’s struggle against Parkinson’s is. It is a disease that affects his mobility, physical stability and his speech. But Parkinson’s does not affect Bennett Kayser cognitively nor does it impair his conscience. Bennett Kayser is absolutely fit to serve a second term on the school board. Bennett talks openly about Parkinson’s and uses his profile to raise awareness and allay fears about his disease. His courage to face down illness and to battle publicly should be celebrated not derided.

Do not let the Charter School Association get away with this. They are not only destroying a man; they are degrading our entire electoral process. This is one of those moments when if you do not directly stand against this, you are complicit.

This is especially true for every charter school that is a member of CCSA. If you think it is wrong to dehumanize a person, call upon the leadership of the organization that represents your schools to take these ads down.

Do not let Ref Rodriguez get away with this.

The candidate will tell you he has nothing to do with this. But when a candidate directly or indirectly accepts the dehumanization of his or her opponent it raises serious questions about their character. The willingness to view those who disagree with you as less than human is what actually raises questions about one’s fitness to serve. I have grave concerns that the ethical recklessness that has driven this campaign will become the operational norm of the Board of Education if CCSA is successful in taking control.

Finally, it is a time to lead. We cannot let Bennett Kayser stand alone.

I call on all of our elected leadership and community leadership to stand against the moral low bar of this campaign. If we allow the public tar and feathering of those who follow their conscience to become an acceptable norm, we are endangering the very republic itself; we are rupturing the fibers of our social contract. Stand up and call on CCSA to take down its commercials and apologize for its mailers ( Stand next to the courageous charters to withdraw their membership from CCSA.

And most importantly, let us all commit to re-focusing our attention on children, their families and their school communities. While we argue and hurt one another their dreams languish. It is these dreams, after all, to which we are all accountable.

I am happy to endorse Scott Schmerelson for the LAUSD school board. He is an experienced educator who worked for 35 years. He turned around a troubled middle school. He knows what schools and students need. He would make a great school board member.


“I have been a school site teacher, counselor and administrator for the past 35 years. I chose to always remain at the school site to work with students, parents and staff on a personal basis. I began my teaching career as a Spanish teacher with the School District of Philadelphia for 5 years and came to the Los Angeles Unified School District to continue as a Spanish teacher, English as a Second Language teacher, Secondary School Counselor, Assistant Principal of Secondary Counseling Services, Assistant Principal and Principal.

“I began my LAUSD career with a 12 year stay at Virgil Middle School in the Mid City area as a teacher, school counselor and Assistant Principal of Secondary Counseling Services. I later became an Assistant Principal at Griffith Middle School in East Los Angeles for 5 years and then became Principal at Lawrence Middle School in Chatsworth for 5 years and retired as Principal of Johnnie L. Cochran, Jr. Middle School in South Los Angeles for 11 years.

“I have been treasurer of the Middle Schools Principals’ Association and currently I am treasurer of the Cuban-American Teachers’ Association. I am a member of the Association of California School Administrators. I served a two year term as President of Region 16 and I currently am the Executive Director of Region 16. Region 16 encompasses the entire Los Angeles Unified School District.

“I consider my most effective endeavor was in accepting the offer to transfer from Lawrence Middle School to Mount Vernon Middle School in order to try to prevent the school from a state take-over due to a history of poor test scores, low morale and a decaying physical plant. The school was successful in avoiding a state take-over. The test scores, the physical plant and teacher-student-parent morale continued to significantly improve.

“I was also elected as Secondary Director of the Associated Administrators of Los Angeles. My goal was to assure all members that their rights would be protected. I believed that the strength of AALA is in all members participating in organization meetings. Our organizational meetings enabled fellow administrators from across the district to meet and share best practices. Some Local Districts do not thoroughly share operational issues at Principals’ meetings which are vital to the smooth functioning of our schools. Organizational meetings, on the other hand, present a balance of instructional and operational issues.

“I consider myself to be fiscally conservative and socially liberal. I believe all students should receive the best education possible and that all school should have the necessary funding to make the students successful. The school is where all available funding should be directed. As employees of LAUSD we all work for the children of the District. Every employee from the Superintendent down should focus on the school site when making fiscal decisions; that is where every available dollar should be directed. As a board member, will absolutely only use bond funding for its intended purpose. The last bond issue was to repair and upgrade our schools. That was a sacred trust between the voters and the District. You may be assured that as Board member I would follow the will of the people and see that the money is used as it was intended

Scott Schmerelson
Age: 63
Eduction: Master of Science in education, school administration, Cal State L.A.
Political experience: first run for public office
Website:, also

Candidate Scott Schmerelson worked in LAUSD schools for 33 years and carries the endorsements of LAUSD’s administrators union, Associated Administrators of Los Angeles, as well as the California School Employees Association, which represents clerical workers, teachers aids and other classified positions.

And he’s no stranger to troubled schools. When LAUSD wanted to prevent a state takeover of Johnnie L. Cochran Jr. Middle School when it was Mount Vernon Middle School, Schmerelson was called in. During his five years as principal, he improved test scores, conditions and morale at the troubled Mid-City campus, according to his website.

Schmerelson wants to increase local control by sending more decision-making power to school site councils, which are campus-based bodies of administrators, teachers and parents. He also wants teachers to evaluate the performance of their peers, as opposed to administrators, and create mentoring systems to support underperforming educators.

“The average teacher has close to 10 years’ experience right now. Why in the world would we move to get rid of struggling teachers without doing everything we can to help them improve instruction,” Schmerelson states on his website.

The Network for Public Education has endorsed Bennett Kayser for re-election to the Los Angeles school board. Kayser is a retired educator. He is a strong supporter of public education. He has fought for reduced class sizes. He opposes efforts to deny due process to teachers. He opposes privatization of public education.

He is enemy number one to the California Charter Schools Association Advocates, the political action arm of the wealthy charter industry.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the charter lobby has far outspent Kayser in its effort to defeat him with a pro-charter candidate.

The charter association has distributed malicious flyers falsely implying that Kayser is a racist and anti-Latino. The flyers feature a picture of Governor Jerry Brown, falsely implying that the popular governor endorsed their candidate (he did not). Their TV ads have ridiculed Kayser’s disability (he has Parkinson’s). The anti-Kayser campaign has been scurrilous and shameful.

The LA Times says:

“Through Wednesday’s campaign filings, the charter group had spent $699,688 to support [its candidate] Rodriguez. UTLA had spent $384,109 for Kayser. Those totals far surpass donations directly to the candidates as well as the spending totals for the other contested board races.

“Since September, the donors to the charter PAC include Netflix Chief Executive Reed Hastings ($1.5 million), former New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg ($450,000), Jim Walton of the Wal-Mart founding family ($250,000) and local philanthropist Eli Broad ($155,000). All are longtime charter school backers with a broad interest in education.”

These billionaires have a specific interest in education: they want to replace public schools with charter schools, and in the case of Walton, with vouchers. They also believe in disruption as a strategy for change. Disruption is not good for children or education.

Billionaire Reed Hastings told the charter association that he looks forward to the day when local school boards are gone and almost all schools are charters.

Bennett Kayser wants to improve the public schools, not replace or destroy them. Every high-performing nation in the world has a public school system, not a system of privately managed schools.

That is why the Network for Public Education endorses Bennett Kayser for re-election to the Los Angeles school board.

Ramon Cortines, interim superintendent of schools in Los Angeles, said that the district can’t afford to buy iPads or computers for every student and staff member. This is a repudiation of his predecessor John Deasy’s signal initiative, which was couched as a civil rights issue.

“Los Angeles Unified School Supt. Ramon C. Cortines said Friday the district cannot afford to provide a computer to every student, signaling a major reversal for his predecessor’s ill-fated $1.3-billion effort to distribute iPads to all students, teachers and school administrators.

“Instead, Cortines said, the L.A. Unified School District will try to provide computers to students when needed for instruction and testing.

“I don’t believe we can afford a device for every student,” said Cortines, who added that the district never had a fleshed-out framework for how the devices would be used in the classroom and paid for over time.

“Education shouldn’t become the gimmick of the year,” Cortines said in a meeting Friday with several reporters.”

There has been much discussion on the blog about the “Coffee Cup” ad sponsored by the political action arm of the California Charter Schools Association. (See here and here.)


Here is the ad. 


Kayser is accused of being anti-public school, when in fact he has been a strong supporter of public schools and public school teachers. He is a strong critic of charters. That is why the CCSAA is spending big bucks to defeat him. He has voted to reduce class size, increase teacher pay, and restore programs lost to budget cuts.


The broken coffee cup, Kayser and his allies believe, is a subtle reference to his hands shaking because of Parkinson’s. Why else would he drop his coffee cup? If that was the intention of the ad, it is reprehensible. If it was not, CCSA has some explaining to do.



The political action arm of the California Charter Schools Association funded a political attack ad making fun of school board member Bennett Kayser’s disability.

Robert Skeels posts a blog by Scott Folsom of 4LAKids who asks the inevitable question:

“The appropriate quote here is from Joseph Welch to Joe McCarthy: “You’ve done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?”

Steve Lopez of the Los Angeles Times reports on the vile tactics that the charter lobby is using in hopes of defeating school board incumbent Bennett Kayseri in the approaching election.

The issue of the moment is the unbridled proliferation of charter schools in LA. Kayser has been a charter critic. The California Charter School Association would like to defeat Kayser and replace him with a friend of charters.

CCSA and allies have been handing out a flyer smearing Kayser as an anti-Latino bigot.

Lopez writes:

“The flier essentially calls him a bigot.


“That’s the screaming headline on a vile, two-page missive in Spanish and English, and the flier includes a lovely photograph of five Latino children sitting forlornly on a curb, as if their world has been crushed by the cruel Caucasian board member.

“Kayser condemned the ad, calling it garbage.

“Character assassination and bullying have no place in our school district; these people should be ashamed of themselves,” he said in a statement his staff sent me Thursday evening.”

The charter supporters play rough. And dirty.

Parents at the Julian Nava Academy in South Los Angeles loved their middle school. They worried about their children moving on to a high school where they might get less attention, where the education would not be as good as it had been at Nava Academy. So the parents organized, met with the principal, met with the district administrator, and won permission to open a new high school, called Nava College Preparatory Academy.


The school opened this fall, and the parents remain engaged with it. Its first class has 300 students, and it will eventually grow to 1100 students. Note there was no parent trigger, no confrontation between parents and educators. The parents loved the school they had, they wanted more of it, they made their case, and they won.


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