Steve Zimmer's Confusing Doublespeak on School Choice and Trump

Steve Zimmer’s confusing doublespeak on school choice continued this week. In a newsletter he emailed to constituents Tuesday, Zimmer said “funding vouchers and charter schools has caused real and significant injury to the most vulnerable children.”  

Zimmer’s statement this week is both divisive and self-contradictory. It lumps LA’s high-performing charter schools in with President-Elect Donald Trump’s education agenda and attempts to equate charters with vouchers, which is a false and dishonest equivalency.

Last week at the Speak UP candidate forum, Zimmer complained that the narrative that he opposes school choice was “fictional,” pointing to the 114,000 charter school students in Los Angeles as evidence.

“Obviously the issue of choice is a core value in LAUSD,” Zimmer said. “We’ve authorized more charter schools than any other school district in this nation.”

We call on Zimmer to clarify his statement and to apologize to our Speak UP members who support having high-quality options, whether they are neighborhood schools, magnets, pilots, language immersion schools or charters. Speak UP members are 100% focused on getting the best education for their kids and should not be insulted or disparaged for doing so.

Speak Up strongly opposes Trump’s vision for education. As we outlined on our blog in early December, there is a vast chasm between the type of regulated, equitable and accountable public school choice we have in California and the version of school choice that Trump supports.

Speak UP takes a kids-first approach. We oppose vouchers, which send public money to private schools that are not accountable for student performance and that do not have to admit the most vulnerable kids. The research we have seen on student performance with vouchers is discouraging.

In contrast, we support nonprofit charter schools in California, which are public schools that must admit anyone who lives in the state. We believe they should be held accountable, and schools that are not serving students well should be shut down.

Equating the type of school choice we have in California with the Trump agenda is a lie. Speak UP on Wednesday released a statement condemning Trump for his “pattern of divisive, racist and bullying behavior that continues to harm and set a terrible example for our children.”

We called on Zimmer to follow our lead and join us in standing with Rep. John Lewis. To our knowledge, Zimmer has not heeded our call. Instead, he has chosen to pick on charter schools.

Senator Al Franken (D-Minn.), said at the hearing for Trump’s education secretary, "Charter schools are not the issue here,” pointing out that Democrats in Minnesota pushed the nation’s first law allowing charter schools nearly three decades ago. We agree.

We call on Zimmer to cease any more inflammatory rhetoric that picks on charter kids and divides public schools parents into camps. And we continue to call on him to stand with Lewis and take a stronger stance against the president-elect.