Wednesday, February 04, 2015


Commentary: The anti-Kayser flyer ‘a new low in campaign tactics’

 By Steve Zimmer Guest Contributor in LA School Report |

Board Vice President Steve Zimmer

LAUSD school board Vice President Steve Zimmer

Posted on February 3, 2015 6:03 pm  ::  The vicious lies contained in the California Charter School Association (CCSA) mailer represent a new low in school board campaign tactics. They attack not only Bennett Kayser’s service to his district but his heart and his soul as well. I know these attacks.  They were leveled at me, my life work and my person. So I don’t expect them to have any concern for Mr. Kayser or his family. But I expect them to have a modicum of concern for Los Angeles.

The racially incendiary content of the mailer was about more than just a school board election or control of the District. It was an intentional effort to further destabilize public education and ignite a tinder box of ethnic hate in a city reeling from decades of inequity and institutionally racist school, public safety and economic systems. There are real issues. There are open wounds. The power systems that oppress directly and indirectly are still intact.

The intensity of issues that intersect race and public education in Los Angeles require authentic introspection and intentional action. When we are able to identify the instruments of institutional racism, we have a moral obligation to blunt the instruments and dismantle the structures through which they operate.

That is what the Board of Education did when LAUSD became the first large district in the nation to discontinue the use of suspensions that were disproportionately affecting students of color and institute restorative justice as the progressive discipline policy in every school.

When we are able to quantify the inequities in the conditions children face because of concentrations of poverty and racial segregation, we have a moral obligation to redistribute resources based on an equation that balances these conditions with a surplus of supports. This is what the Board of Education did last year when we allocated resources based on the nation’s first public education equity index.

An amazing coalition of civil and education rights organizations advocated for these transformative resolutions. And for a key vote on each, they turned to Bennett Kayser. He never flinched. He understood what each of these historic changes could mean for the children in his district. Against pressures from strong critics and naysayers, Mr. Kayser needed to do the right thing and he did. In the most impactful sense, the question was about the content of his character.

None of us who benefit from the power of white privilege should be celebrated for doing the right thing. If anything, it should lead us to an even deeper understanding of how much more needs to be done. It should give us pause to question the legitimacy of the privilege itself and our participation in a system that perpetuates its force. And we should weigh shared experience as one of a number of critical criteria we consider when determining who should represent us.

I know that decisions about the centrality of race at the ballot box are deep and personal. But I also know that if Bennett Kayser was the racist he is purported to be in that inflammatory mailer, he could not have cast the votes he has cast. He could not have sponsored the resolutions he has sponsored. The advocates for ethnic studies, the Dream Act, Early Childhood Education and the Equity Index found an ally, when they looked to Bennett Kayser.

That issues of race and class in our schools are so vexing and so important makes the content of the CCSA mailer all the more reckless. We are at a moment in our city and our nation when we need to turn towards each other rather than against each other. Standing united against this mailer and everything it represents is an important first step.

I am concerned that CCSA and their allies have no moral code. I do not think they have any boundaries at all. It has been made clear to me over and over again that CCSA and their allies on the Board of Education, in Foundations, and in charter schools themselves regard Mr. Kayser as less than human.

When dehumanization becomes an acceptable norm or worse yet a means to an end, we should all be concerned about our civic health. And if that health isn’t enough, we should remember our children are watching us. As such, all Angelenos who care about our city, our schools and our future should denounce this mailer and everything it stands for. Together we should demand more of ourselves and of those who seek to lead our schools.

Steve Zimmer represents District 4 on the LA United school board.

CCSA Advocates Statement on Bennett Kayser Mailer

C4_Squared_Blue[1] Posted by Steve Levin , CCSA Advocates |

February 03, 2015 at 9:30 AM  ::  Last week, CCSA Advocates’ locally sponsored independent expenditure committee, Parent Teacher Alliance*, authorized, funded, and distributed a mailer to voters in LAUSD Board District 5 illustrating a troubling record of votes cast by L.A. Unified school board member Bennett Kayser against the interests of Latino students over the last four years.

While it is not our belief that Mr. Kayser personally harbors racist views, the implications of his policies have by no means been race-neutral. In fact, Mr. Kayser’s votes have wielded a disparate impact on the educational outcomes of Latino students and it is incumbent upon us to educate voters about Mr. Kayser’s record.

“The stakes are too high to sugar-coat Mr. Kayser’s record of failure. The facts are the facts and voters deserve to have them before they vote,” said Carlos Marquez, Political Director for CCSA Advocates. “The facts of the mailer in question are indisputable and serve as a public service announcement to Latino families whose children have as much right to attend quality schools in any neighborhood they choose as anyone else."

As referenced in the mailer, in an effort to give every student, irrespective of zip code, the opportunity to attend high-performing schools, the LAUSD board considered removing attendance boundaries in 2012. Mr. Kayser opposed the mere notion of a study to examine the removal of attendance boundaries, despite its promise of reconciling racial enrollment inequities. That same year, Mr. Kayser opposed a redistricting plan drafted by a citizens’ commission that would have resulted in a greater number of Latino residents in his district.

And despite a recent finding by the Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) at Stanford University that Latino students in poverty experience an additional 6 months of learning in math and an extra 3 months in English Language arts for every year enrolled in a charter school in L.A. Unified, Mr. Kayser has fought to close nearly every charter public school that has sought renewal.

“Mr. Kayser is categorically opposed to charter public schools and he’s been virtually unable to square his ill-informed, reflexive anti-charter ideology with the fact that 73% of students at independent charter schools in L.A. Unified are Latino, 33% are English learners, and 78% live in poverty,” said Marquez.

“Mr. Kayser chooses to ignore the fact that 76% of students who graduate from charter schools in L.A. Unified are eligible for college admission, compared to just 18% of students who graduate from district schools,” Marquez continued. “He either doesn’t understand or doesn’t care that charter schools are providing what Latino and low-income parents want for their children: a path to college. For Mr. Kayser to build walls between Latino students and the schools that are best serving them is simply indefensible.”

Mr. Kayser firmly opposed the Vergara lawsuit, filed by Latino students on the grounds that California law denies them equal access to high quality teachers. The judge, who ultimately sided with the students in a ruling last year, wrote that state laws on teacher hiring and firing disproportionately harm poor and minority students. “The evidence is compelling,” the judge stated. “Indeed, it shocks the conscience.” But Kayser continues to this day to defend these state laws, even after a judge deemed them discriminatory and unconstitutional.

Finally, Mr. Kayser has pulled out of two public candidate forums, denying hundreds of Latino families the opportunity to hear his views on the education issues they care about most.

“After reviewing Mr. Kayser’s record in the light of day, we are left with a preponderance of evidence that suggests Mr. Kayser is, at best, out of touch with the educational hopes and aspirations of the Latino students in his district and at worst, dismissive of them entirely,” said Marquez. “In the weeks ahead, we expect Mr. Kayser will hide from the facts. He and his allies will distort Dr. Ref Rodriguez’s character and record of results for students. They will characterize Dr. Rodriguez as a Republican, even though he is a lifelong Democrat who was recently endorsed by the Los Angeles County Young Democrats and is a trusted appointee of Governor Jerry Brown to the California Commission for Teacher Credentialing. They will accuse him of privatizing schools, even though every one of the charter schools he founded is public and tuition-free. They will draw voters’ attention away from the inequities facing Latino children in Los Angeles and from Mr. Kayser’s inexcusable record.”


* – The California State PTA has issued a statement declaring that the “Parent Teacher Alliance” is is not affiliated with the National, State or Local PTA in any way, shape or form. “It is truly unfortunate when any group gives an appearance or representation that seems to trade on the credibility and reputation of the 100-plus year-old PTA."

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