Control of the Los Angeles Unified School District is up for grabs in the 2020 election.

You can be sure that the LAUSD prioritizes public schools by voting for incumbent Scott Schmerelson and newcomer Patricia Castellanos.

The issue now is the same issue that has drawn a sharp divide on the school board for the past decade. Will the schools be controlled by a cabal of billionaires who favor privatization by charter schools or will it be controlled by people who are dedicated to the public schools of Los Angeles, which enroll 80 percent of the district’s children?

The charter lobby supports privatization and high-stakes testing for students and teachers.

California state law defines charter schools as “public schools” because the law was written by charter lobbyists. They have private management, private boards, and they are almost entirely free from scrutiny by public agencies; due to lack of oversight, several charter executives in California have been arrested and convicted of embezzlement from school funds. Lack of oversight explains why so many charters felt empowered to apply for and receive federal Paycheck Protection Program money as “small businesses.” They are charter schools when it is time to collect money available only to public schools, then they shape shift into “small businesses” or “non-profits” when it is time to collect money that is not available to public schools. That is called “double dipping.” It is wrong. It is unethical.

The charter industry is powerful in California due to the support of billionaires such as Eli Broad, Reed Hastings (Netflix), the Fischer Family (owners of The Gap and Old Navy), and Republican Bill Bloomfield. The candidates supported by California billionaires enjoy funding from out-of-state billionaires like Michael Bloomberg, former Mayor of New York City. The fact that these billionaires are supporting the privatization agenda of Betsy DeVos and Donald Trump doesn’t seem to bother them at all or make them think twice.

They want more privately managed charter schools, period, even though the vast majority of the district’s charter schools have empty seats (Schmerelson posted on his Facebook page that more than 80% of LA charter schools have vacancies). Once again, the billionaires are pouring money into a school board election. This one will be held on November 3, but early balloting will begin in a matter of weeks.

In the November election, there are two seats on the school board that will determine the near-term destiny of the district: Scott Schmerelson is up for re-election. He has served one term with great distinction. There is also an open seat, and one candidate stands out as a strong supporter of public schools, Patty Castellanos.

Scott is a career educator, who rose through the ranks in LAUSD as a teacher, assistant principal and principal. He has literally devoted his life to the students of LAUSD.

Patricia Castellanos is the parent of a child in the Los Angeles public schools and a community activist.

Both deserve a seat on the board of the second largest school district in the nation.