Judging from the huge crowd at Speak UP’s candidate forum Jan. 9 in Venice, there is tremendous interest in LAUSD’s March 7 School Board District 4 election, which may prove to be one of the most competitive and expensive school board races in history.
About 150 parents and community members from more than 20 different schools in BD4 packed into the Rose to see all four candidates -- Gregory Martayan, Nick Melvoin, Allison Holdorff Polhill and the incumbent Steve Zimmer -- appear together for the first time. Thousands more tuned in to Facebook Live to see moderator and Speak UP Co-Founder Katie Braude challenge the candidates to adopt a kids-first agenda.
Speak UP asked the candidates to explain how they would puts kids first in the most critical issues facing LAUSD: a $1.46 billion deficit and a $13.6 billion unfunded post-employment benefits liability, low student achievement and underperforming schools, quality school choices with adequate facilities, and excellent classroom teachers for every child.
There’s a reason this race is generating so much interest, as well as hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions. Zimmer, the current school board president, is up for reelection at one of the most pivotal moments in the district’s history. Due to a change in the election cycle, the candidate who wins will serve an unusually long 5 ½ years -- the longest term a board member has ever served and likely ever will serve again.
Think of it this way: If you have a child in kindergarten now, the winner will still be your representative when your child is in middle school. The decisions the victor makes will drastically affect the future of our kids’ schools and may determine whether or not LAUSD falls into bankruptcy and gets taken over by the state.
The winner of this race will help determine what kind of school options we have for our kids, where and in what kind of facilities our schools are located, whether class sizes are increased, whether our favorite teachers will get laid off and whether some schools will even continue to exist. Ultimately, the outcome will determine whether a kids-first agenda is enacted.
We believe there’s another reason the forum was so well attended. Speak UP members, like many Americans, are deeply concerned about the outcome and impact of the November presidential election and are more interested than ever in engaging in grassroots democracy and taking concrete action on a local level.
We have that opportunity with the upcoming LAUSD school board election. These races are often underrated in terms of their impact, and turnout is typically low. Speak UP parents understand that it has never been more important to participate in local school board elections and will be mobilizing their peers to vote in Board District 4 on March 7. We will be making endorsements in the BD4 race by next week and will provide opportunities for parents to get involved in the campaign through phone banking, canvassing and more.
Thanks again to all of our members who attended and tuned into the candidate forum last week. We hope that was the first of many steps you will take to make your voices heard at your schools, in your communities, with elected representatives and at the ballot box.
Together, we can be a force for positive change in our kids’ lives. So please join us. This is no time for any concerned American to sit on the sidelines. It’s time to speak up and put kids first.