Goldberg Victory Means New Majority-White Board Remains Without Any Parents of Kids in L.A. Schools

Goldberg Victory Means New Majority-White Board Remains Without Any Parents of Kids in L.A. Schools

With veteran politician Jackie Goldberg returning to the LAUSD Board to represent District 5 nearly 30 years after she left, a majority-Latino district will now be run by a majority-white Board that remains bereft of any parents of school-age children.

Goldberg defeated L.A. Unified parent Heather Repenning 72-28 percent with a paltry 7.7 percent voter turnout. Her victory signals an increase in the power of United Teachers Los Angeles in the wake of the January strike, which could complicate the efforts of Superintendent Austin Beutner to rein in district spending at a moment when the County is threatening to take over.

“This is not the end, this is the beginning,” Goldberg told her supporters after initial results came in Tuesday night.

Because this was a special election to fill the seat vacated by Board member Ref Rodriguez, who resigned last summer, Goldberg will only hold the position for about a year before another primary election is held next March. BD5 includes gentrifying neighborhoods of Los Feliz and Echo Park, as well as overwhelmingly Latino Southeast cities of Huntington Park, South Gate, Vernon and Cudahy.

The loss of a Latino representative in District 5 means four of seven LAUSD Board members are now white, despite the fact that 90 percent of L.A. Unified students are kids of color.

“Congratulations to Ms. Goldberg. We hope and trust that she will focus her attention on improving the outcomes for the kids in her district who are least well-served by their local schools,” said Speak UP Founder and CEO Katie Braude. “And we hope she is sincere when she says the families in the Southeast won’t be ignored.”

Goldberg’s victory also poses a potential threat to the future of charter schools in Los Angeles and the 20 percent of L.A. students served by them.

“The only reason I came out of retirement is that I can beat the people who are running the charter candidates,” Goldberg, who also served on the City Council and in the state Assembly, said early in her campaign. The California Charter Schools Association, which has been a main funder in previous school board races, chose not to fight Goldberg or endorse any candidate in the primary or the runoff.

Instead, the race shaped up to be a battle between two unions: UTLA, and SEIU Local 99, the union representing bus drivers, janitors, special education aides and cafeteria workers, which backed Repenning, a former deputy and close ally to Mayor Eric Garcetti.

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District 5 Special Election Tuesday Could Shift Direction Of LAUSD Board

District 5 Special Election Tuesday Could Shift Direction Of LAUSD Board

Voters head to the polls Tuesday for a special election in LAUSD’s Board District 5, which has been without representation since last summer, when Ref Rodriguez resigned. The runoff between candidates Heather Repenning and Jackie Goldberg could mark a significant shift in the direction of the board.  

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LAUSD BD5 Candidate Heather Repenning: 'I Think 100 Percent, Parents Should Have A Seat At The Table'

LAUSD BD5 Candidate Heather Repenning: 'I Think 100 Percent, Parents Should Have A Seat At The Table'

Speak UP: Tell us about yourself and why you are running for school board.

Heather Repenning: Public education is very important to me. I'm a product of public schools. Growing up, my mom was a public school teacher, and because of her understanding of public education, she was able to identify great schools for my brother and I, and I was able to go to college and do a lot more professionally than I would have done under other circumstances. My family comes from a humble background. Originally we’re from Kentucky. To me, public education is the doorway. It is how we allow our young people to pull themselves ahead to do the things that they never imagined. And I don't think that we're doing that particularly well right now. I don't think there's any one thing or person to blame, but the issues around how we create great neighborhood public schools are very complex and require a lot of hard work. Personally, I've worked in local government for many years, and I know the work it takes to move bureaucracy, create policy and build coalitions to move great policy forward. So I feel like I have the skills to do that. Because education is so important to me, I've worked [in education] at different points in my career. I was in the classroom for a few years right out of college, and I worked at LAUSD helping organize parents and other stakeholders around the process of building new schools. I worked on the previous Ambassador Hotel, now the RFK schools site, and advocating for the new schools that are now thriving on that site.

Speak UP: You taught early in your career. Was this in Honduras? Is that how you became fluent in Spanish?

Heather: Yes, I spent time teaching in Honduras, in a bilingual school, and then I moved to Southern California to pursue graduate school. Actually, I was on the pathway to becoming an academic. I was in a PhD program. At the time I was teaching composition to undergrads at UC Irvine. And I also previously taught an ESL class at LA City College.

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