"dwelling on some of these questions is pointless right now."
- Palisades Charter High School Board Member
When I was forwarded a link to the Palisades Charter High School's governing board meeting where they approved taking money from a program meant to help small businesses during the recession caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, I could not believe how brutally honest they were. The members of the board recognized that their actions would possibly take money from businesses which had an immediate need for the funds, that their school's current conditions did not dictate that they had an immediate need and that they did not have a plan to spend or pay back the money. Still, they voted unanimously to "get the money while the getting's good".
Before writing the article summarizing Palisades' morally questionable decision to access the Payroll Protection Program, I contacted the four remaining candidates in the LAUSD's November election to ask for their input on the issue. As a starting point, I suggested that they could answer any of the following questions:
- Are charter schools businesses or public organizations?
- Should charter schools be eligible for loans offered by the Small Business Administration?
- Should loans be used as a way for schools to earn money on the spread between the interest that they are paying on the loan and the interest that they are receiving by keeping the money in a bank account?
Perhaps Ortiz's outrage would have seemed more sincere if she had actually included her thoughts on the subject she said she wanted to discuss, but nothing else was included. The LAUSD spends a considerable portion of its budget on a school police department that has been accused of unequal enforcement and once had to return military weaponry that it had received from the federal government, so there were certainly proposed policies that she could have put forward. I also wrote back to her suggesting that she address the NAACP's accusation that charters are resegregating our school systems, but I never heard back from her.
With protests against police brutality and institutionalized racism in the third week, these subjects should be addressed by all candidates for public office. The fact that these protests are being led by young people makes it especially important during the school board race. However, this does not mean that other issues should be ignored. By design, charter schools are supposed to compete against public schools. As someone who is asking to represent the 80% of students in the District who attend LAUSD schools, Ortiz should be able to answer questions about a variety of subjects including how she will hold these private schools responsible for the public funds they receive. After all, LAUSD School Board members are expected to have the ability to multitask when overseeing a budget that is larger than that of the City of Los Angeles.
Ortiz's opponent, Patricia Castellanos, along with District 3 candidates Scott Schmerelson and Marilyn Koziatek were all sent the same questions, but have not yet responded. Their answers will be published as soon as they are received.
Carl Petersen is a parent, an advocate for students with special education needs, an elected member of the Northridge East Neighborhood Council, an appointed alternate to theLAUSD's CAC, and was a Green Party candidate in LAUSD's District 2 School Board race. During the campaign, he was endorsed by the Network for Public Education (NPE) Action and Dr. Diane Ravitch called him a "strong supporter of public schools." Links to his blogs can be found at www.ChangeTheLAUSD.com. Opinions are his own.