LA School Board Election 2020 Candidate Q&A: Tanya Ortiz Franklin
Before Tanya Ortiz Franklin was a candidate for the Los Angeles Unified school board in District 7, she was a teacher in District 7. She spent five years at a middle school in Carson, including two as a Teach for America corps member.
And before she was a teacher in District 7, Ortiz Franklin was a student in District 7, graduating from Narbonne High School.
Now, the 36-year-old Franklin is on leave from an administrative post at the Partnership for L.A. Schools -- which operates 19 district-run schools on LAUSD's behalf -- to mount her run for the open District 7 seat.
She and her opponent, Patricia Castellanos, both recently sat down for interviews with KPCC/LAist.
SUMMARY OF ORTIZ FRANKLIN'S ANSWERS
Click on each section heading to jump to Ortiz Franklin's full response.
- On Supt. Austin Beutner: Ortiz Franklin praised Beutner's pandemic response, saying that it has served the vast majority of students well. But she said LAUSD still has work to do: a significant number of students remain unable to connect to their online lessons, in part because of unreliable wi-fi devices.
- On distance learning: In assessing the agreement with LAUSD's teachers union, Ortiz Franklin urged focus on the quality of teachers' instruction, rather than how many minutes of live lessons they're required to provide. She also suggested legal action against LAUSD may not be the most collaborative way to address parents' concerns.
- On reopening campuses: Ortiz Franklin said LAUSD should move more quickly toward reopening campuses for small group instruction, particularly for English learners and special education students. She said she understands employee unions' concerns and that LAUSD must implement proper safety protocols first. She also called reopening campuses was a matter of racial and social justice.
- On school police: Ortiz Franklin would have joined the narrow board majority that voted over the summer in favor of cutting the L.A. School Police Department by 35%, saying she believes in centering the voices of Black and Latino students. She also said the board's vote was rushed, and called for a more holistic discussion of safety moving forward. She would be uncomfortable shifting more responsibility for campus security to the LAPD or L.A. Sheriff's Department.
- On LAUSD's funding formula: Ortiz Franklin was one of the advocates who lobbied LAUSD to institute a formula redistributing more dollars to the neediest schools. She supports Proposition 15 and said California must increase funding levels for schools -- but she said the district must maintain a focus on equalizing discrepancies between schools that have 'very little' and schools that have 'some.' She's open to discussing changes to LAUSD's benefits offerings for new employees if it would help the district save money over the long term.
- On charter schools: California lawmakers recently instituted fundamental changes to the state's charter school laws -- Ortiz Franklin suggested LAUSD's interpretation has been harsher on charter schools than the new state law envisions. She suggested LAUSD's new proposed charter policy reflects political considerations, not a desire to share best practices between charters and LAUSD-run schools.
For more on this and other races on your ballot in Southern California, check out the Voter Game Plan from KPCC and LAist.
What follows is a transcript of an interview with Ortiz Franklin, edited for length and clarity.
SUPERINTENDENT JOB PERFORMANCE
KYLE STOKES, KPCC/LAist: The most important decision a school board member can make is to hire or fire a superintendent. How well do you think Austin Beutner is doing in the job right now?
I think he's doing well for the vast majority of students, but I care deeply about those who have been most historically neglected by our institutions of power, including educational systems. For many of our Black, Latinx, special education, English-language learners--- all of the groups that we put extra love and support and care -- we're not there yet, obviously.
So, for example, feeding so many families across our district is phenomenal. Intending to get devices to most of our kids is phenomenal. But we still know 98% of kids have connected with learning since the fall, which is nearly 10,000 kids who have not connected yet, and I am worried about those kids.
So I think he's doing well, generally, for the masses, but for our highest-need kids, we have a lot of work to do.
LAist: You said, 'Intending to get devices.' Those words seem intentionally chosen.
A lot of our families, particularly in public housing developments, don't yet have stable wi-fi. Even the hotspots LAUSD issued are not reliable enough for live instruction, particularly if there are multiple kids in the home trying to access learning at the same time.
While working at the Partnership, we met several families who were struggling to come to campus to get a working device. So we're not there yet. There is definitely the commitment, but I'm looking forward to getting to 100% and being really confident that 100% of kids not only have devices and have stable internet connection.
LAist: Do you think you can have an impact as a school board member? Isn't this about broader gaps in access to infrastructure; by countywide, statewide or federal policy around internet access?
As a school board member, you're an advocate for the kids and families you serve. We could prioritize it as school board members for our district leadership to collaborate with the infrastructure: the city, the county, the internet service providers, the state. We are seeing some energy around connectivity, but we are not seeing a massive political will pushing for connectivity for our kids in, for example, places where internet service providers are not providing service.
LAist: Going into this year, LAUSD teachers in most grades will have to provide at least 90 minutes of live lessons per day. On most days, the teachers union agreed their members will provide somewhere between 110 and 170 minutes of "synchronous instruction," depending on the grade level. Is that the proper balance of live, virtual instruction?
I think it depends. I don't actually know if there is a perfect solution to the balance of live instructional minutes versus independent instructional minutes. We can get more creative and teachers are getting creative with each other to collaborate across content areas, across grade levels, to do some smaller-group instruction, to maximize the learning time that you do have within the contractual agreements right now.
But we're all learning how to do this right. My general modus operandi about instruction is that there is never a one-size-fits-all solution. Each student, each classroom, each school community is unique and should be treated as such. If we truly believed in differentiating learning for students at different learning levels, we might think about that as well.
It's hard. I've talked to a lot of teachers who are struggling. Live instruction through a computer is very different than live instruction in the classroom. I try to reflect on what I would be doing as a classroom teacher today to adjust. How do you manage grouping and equity of student voice and measuring how students are learning?
It feels like everyone's a brand new teacher all over again. I remember those days. They're hard. You sometimes end the day just exhausted. I also think about teachers who are caring for families at home, too.
LAist: There are schools out there basically recreating the seven-period high school day all on Zoom, with students virtually "present" for most or all of their day. What would you think if LAUSD proposed to adopt such a schedule -- a full day of synchronous instruction -- so long as most students remain at home?
I don't think we're there yet to increase the minimum number of live minutes of instruction. Teachers are still trying to figure this out for their own students.
I was a classroom teacher. In physical school, you would have some whole group instruction. In my typical practice in a 55-minute block, I might have spent 15 or 20 minutes on leading the whole class at once. After that, they're in small groups, practicing skills, demonstrating their learning, independent work -- and then sharing that with the whole group again.
Let's say you want to just huddle by a student's desk and check in on how they're doing. In the physical classroom, it's really easy; teachers have figured this out. In a virtual setting, I have to move to a breakout room and at the same time make sure students are on-task. And I'm also trying to help kids who didn't understand the lecture, catching them up.
If we try to translate all that to virtual learning and still have everyone on Zoom all day, the classroom management gets really tricky.
LAist: The advocacy groups Parent Revolution -- which has a history of battling LAUSD -- and Innovate Public Schools argue the district should require more minutes of live instruction. They argue that if LAUSD doesn't set a higher floor for live instruction, the most vulnerable students will end up left out. (Note: since our interview, these groups have since backed a parent lawsuit against LAUSD over these concerns.)
I think it's a fair point. We do need a level of transparency, trust and communication about what's happening during learning time. If parents believed that their students were getting as much as they deserved, then this would be a different conversation.
Ensuring a specific number of instructional minutes in my mind is not the full story. My best guess is that there's something underneath -- that families feel like their kids aren't getting enough, and "live instruction" is a concrete way to describe it. But if you had four hours of lecture as a fifth grader, I don't think that's what that student needs. You might be raising the floor for live instruction, but lecture is not a useful way to teach a 10-year-old.
It's fair to raise concerns, especially because families are partnering so much more closely with schools. It's about solving problems. Legal action is one way. But there are lots of ways to solve problems collaboratively that can be quicker than legal action, in my opinion.
When it's escalated to legal action, it reveals maybe that the school-family relationship is not as healthy, productive or solutions-oriented as I might hope. I would hope that those closest to the students themselves would solve the problem together. Where have the barriers come up? What would it take to overcome those barriers in service of student learning?
LAist: Can you clarify what you meant by, four hours of lecture might not cut it for a fifth grader? Was your point that he needs more than 120 minutes of synchronous instruction? Or was your point, 'We don't need him in lectures, we need him to experience engaging lessons -- live or not?'
There are different ways to move students' knowledge that you can't capture only with the number of instructional minutes.
It could be that a student still has a given number of minutes, but that some portion of that time is spent in smaller groups or in pairs. And they're getting feedback, maybe even as an individual on their own learning and their own work, and that is actually moving their learning in different ways -- rather than being in a live Zoom with 30 other students.
LAist: Instead of worrying about the number of instructional minutes, we have to worry about the quality of how those minutes are used?
Thank you for summarizing -- yes.
Jump to Ortiz Franklin's answers on another issue:
LAist: County public health officials have seemingly ruled out hybrid learning reopenings until at least November. However, dozens of L.A. County schools are inviting as much of 10% of their population back for limited, small-group instruction. Superintendent Beutner is not pursuing that right now, favoring one-on-one, by-appointment tutoring sessions. Is that appropriate? Or should LAUSD be pursuing small group instruction?
We should be trying to get to a place where small groups can be happening on campus more quickly.
It's very complicated. I understand that. I've heard from many teachers and families that small groups are gravely desired and needed, in particular for our English-language learners or special education students.
There are both families and teachers who are willing to come on campus in small groups so that their kids can get some of the services that they're not experiencing in the current structure of distance learning. You could figure out how to bring in small groups to meet with an intervention coordinator or a resource specialist without revisiting a school's entire master schedule.
What I would love to do is talk to the folks closest to kids and ask: What would it take to start this process? Who most needs that? Who is willing and able to come to campus to make these small groups happen?
LAist: How do you view the role of the teachers union in this? United Teachers Los Angeles leaders have expressed some skepticism about whether small-group reopenings are safe at this point. Is that skepticism merited or fair?
The role of the teachers union is to protect their members in terms of wages, hours and working conditions -- and this is absolutely working conditions.
I think it's fair to be worried about the health and safety protocols on campus. We've seen the cool blasting of the disinfectants. But I had been on campus, and it is really hard to maintain six feet of distance and sanitize surfaces in between touches. That hasn't been thought through yet.
In UTLA leadership, there is also a real commitment to racial and social justice -- and a lot of members who would be willing to think about how racial and social justice shows up in brave steps like coming on to campus and supporting small group instruction, when lots of health and safety protocols have been not only written down, but practiced and reassured. You have to try these things on to see, 'Does this feel right?'
LAist: On March 10, the board unanimously voted to delegate emergency powers to Superintendent Beutner. This gave him broad authority to enter fast-track, no-bid contracts to address LAUSD's coronavirus response -- and do so without school board approval. We're going on seven months under this state of emergency. Is it time for the board to end these extraordinary powers?
That's a good question -- no one's asked me that before!
I am nervous about the long-term sustainability of the budget, and have so far been comforted by some of the state and federal dollars that have come in for coronavirus relief. What I've seen from the presentations is that we haven't gone too far in debt given these emergency powers.
And yet it's a really good question: When does that end? The emergency of the pandemic is not yet ended. But we should be soon getting to a place to look at the budget for next year. Community voice matters in budgeting decisions, whether we're in an emergency situation or not.
Whether we should take back the emergency power is a great question, and I would definitely want to understand more about. But we are definitely at a place where community voice should be included in some of the future budgeting decisions about our district.
LAist: Setting aside the question of emergency powers, Superintendent Beutner's justification for spending that money on pandemic response has been, We'll figure out how to pay for it later; no one else is providing a crucial service to our families, so we must act. Do you trust he's a good steward of these dollars? Have we found the limit of that M.O. being a good way to run the district?
When the pandemic hit and he made some big decisions, like the food distribution program, I was glad to see some intentionality behind the statement, 'We will feed our families.' Here was some clarity from Beutner about what we stand for. I don't have a personal relationship with him yet, so it's hard for me to say if I can trust he has the long-term interests of the district in mind.
I will say from experience in L.A. Unified, we have seen a lot of turnover in our superintendency. I haven't spoken with him, so I have no idea how valid a concern this is, but a worry has crossed my mind: In general, judging on the lengths of previous superintendencies, will he be here to deal with the effects of the budget decision three years from now?
It's easy to make bold decisions when you are not held accountable for them long-term. But I will be on the board hopefully for more than four years, and I do want to be held accountable to the kinds of decisions we're making for our community.
LAist: California already gives extra money to schools serving higher concentrations of high-need students. In recent years, board members have expanded the definition of high-need students to redistribute even more of that money to the very highest-need schools -- I'm referring to the updated Student Equity Needs Index or "SENI 2.0." Do you support this formula and why?
I support it 100% -- and I was a part of those conversations where families, students, educators and community partners stood up to help L.A. Unified define what goes into our understanding of student need. We developed a new formula reallocating resources to our high- and highest-need schools.
I really see it as a foundation for how we should be thinking about budgeting in L.A. Unified. Now, it's only $280 million of our $8 billion budget. But using community voice, being very student-centered, thinking about what different communities need -- those are great principles to apply more broadly to our budget.
LAist: The occasional pushback you hear about SENI 2.0 is that there are very few "low-need" schools in LAUSD. In that sense, is it possible to become too progressive in your funding system -- to redistribute too much of that money to high-need schools when there aren't really that many low-need schools from which to take funds?
That argument is always a little hard for my heart because we think about equity as taking from some and giving to others. We have this scarcity mindset in L.A. Unified -- which is true, and we absolutely have to do more to ensure adequate levels of funding, obviously, which is why I'm so proud to support Prop 15 and Schools and Communities First.
Yet we cannot lean on adequacy and avoid the equity conversation. I worked with schools towards the north end of Board District 7, in Watts and South L.A. When the pandemic hit, we knew we didn't have enough electronic devices for our students there to even access learning. But schools in the southern part of Board District 7 [closer to San Pedro] were doing home delivery of devices because they had additional supports, time and resources at their campus.
It is very clear to someone who is working with kids who don't have, versus kids who have some, that we still absolutely need to have an equity lens when making these decisions across our district. At the same time, we have an adequacy issue and need to be working on that as well.
LAist: There's such a temptation in school board races to frame candidates as "pro-charter" or "pro-union," but the groups who pushed for SENI 2.0 -- groups who have priorities that don't fit neatly into the charter/union -- are also major players. You were super involved with these third-party "equity" groups, and I feel people don't talk enough about their influence. But you've also gotten funding from big pro-charter donors. So in this race, doesn't that just make you the charter candidate?
Thank you for being more nuanced in the question. I would wish that more folks would be because I agree that that's not the right question to be asking in terms of what a candidate hopes to accomplish on the school board.
My history has been with traditional schools, and I also believe that every student and family should have a great public school choice in their neighborhood, whether that's a magnet school -- like where I went to high school -- a pilot school, where teachers are really getting creative; a charter school, a traditional school or a dual language school. There's so many options in L.A. Unified. Diverse choice is important.
Yet to be boiled down to, 'Are you for the teachers union and traditional schools? Or are you for charter schools and choice?' is false and unfair. I hope we can understand all of the kinds of decisions that our school board members are facing and not just minimize it to this one decision.
LAist: California's charter school laws recently changed in a big way. It's now much easier to deny an application to open a new charter school, but existing charter schools are supposed to have a much easier time staying open. This was forged in Sacramento as a compromise between charter advocates and teachers unions. But do you think it strikes the right balance? And will this compromise hold in LAUSD?
At the state level, the intention was to compromise. But LAUSD recently came out with a revised policy interpreting [Assembly Bill] 1505 for our district.
I'm still learning and trying to understand -- but I observed some of those school board meetings where it felt like we were not yet clear in our overall mission and vision as a district and the role that charter schools do or don't play in that mission and vision.
For example, the district's new charter policy says the intent is to share best practices. Distance learning is a perfect example. Hey, some charters even took attendance in the spring! And we didn't take attendance in traditional schools.
But that mindset is not reflected in the new policy. It's a lot of details about how a charter can be denied for renewal or a new application.
LAist: Ask Jackie Goldberg -- one of the board's most outspoken charter school critics -- and she'll argue the California Charter Schools Association's concerns about the district's new policy stem from features of AB 1505 -- not from LAUSD overreach. Goldberg has said, "Their [CCSA's] view is, 'We like the old system.' Anything you're doing to change the old system was wrong." Doesn't she have a point?
I think the law is strict and the L.A. Unified interpretation is stricter. What remains to be seen is how it will be implemented: which schools will be recommended for approval or renewal, and which won't.
In practice, we can see if we are really centering kids, if we are really centering high-quality education, or if it is about a political conversation that is removed from kids.
LAist: Charter schools sharing LAUSD campuses continue to be a real pressure point in the relationship between charters and the district -- and it seems that everyone will have to live with them so long as the state law simply known as Prop 39 holds. Is there any way to turn down the temperature on this problem? Does it have to be this contentious?
No, it doesn't have to be this contentious. I think there are some really clear opportunities that we could take even as soon as this year.
For example: the communication with an L.A. Unified School about the space available and the potential for a co-location assignment the following year. It's been hard for traditional schools to find out last-minute that they might be getting a neighbor next year.
My whole vision is those closest to kids in classrooms make the best decisions. I was talking to a UTLA chair many months ago at a middle school who said, 'Why can't we have an elementary school on our campus?' Then they are potentially feeding into our middle school and we're not competing for seats, but we're building a feeder pattern and a family. Those kinds of open ideas come directly from those closest to kids.
We also need some real support, though. If a neighborhood school is chosen for a co-location, it matters where charters' co-location payments go -- and a lot of charter folks have said, 'We'd be happy to have our fees go directly to the host campus.' Then you can use those dollars in ways that benefit the kids in the community that are being impacted.
LAist: But how many examples of this perfect symbiotic relationship actually exist? Co-locations are the clearest reminder that there is a zero-sum game between charter schools and the district.
I think there could be more of these special cases, but you're right, they are not in abundance right now.
I have also seen actually a healthy co-location of two elementary schools where they planned together. Synergy and Quincy Jones have dual-branded materials around the school. They start their opening assemblies together every morning. That takes intention from the adults to say, 'Here's how we're going to structure our days and these are the kinds of decisions we're making together in service of kids.'
But I've also seen the real challenge. A charter school just left a District 7 school -- Green Dot left the Jordan High School campus. I know that through The Partnership, which runs Jordan. That's a hard decision to close a school. And absolutely, the traditional Jordan school, the Partnership school, is receiving more staff members, more students. There is an immediate adjustment when a campus is no longer serving two different schools -- so there are real benefits and tradeoffs.
What would be most helpful is open communication, longer timelines in LAUSD's co-location process, and focus on solutions for the kids who are most impacted.
LAist: Part of what underlies the co-location debate is that there are a lot of schools in LAUSD where capacity is abundant. Charter school advocates have argued LAUSD has not done enough to reduce its fixed costs; it arguably costs more to run two half-full campuses than one campus at full capacity. I'm curious if you think the district should be exploring options to consolidate or close district-run schools.
Yes, I think everything has to be on the table.
People don't want to talk about closing schools -- I get that. It doesn't mean that if it's on the table, it will be the decision that is made. But in our district, with our history of financial instability, everything has to be on the table.
Jump to Ortiz Franklin's answers on another issue:
LAUSD FINANCES & HEALTH BENEFITS
LAist: Well, let's talk about the financial history. We know LAUSD's enrollment is declining and faced mounting costs even before the pandemic. On the other hand, district officials have been predicting for the last decade that LAUSD is just two or three years away from fiscal calamity -- and arguably that calamity hasn't arrived yet.
Well, we have been saved a few times: with the Local Control Funding Formula (in 2013, the new state funding formula injected billions of new dollars into California's K-12 system) and with potentially Proposition 15 (which would raise commercial property taxes to generate new revenue) coming down the pike.
I'll be very curious to learn much more as a board member. But I don't believe that there is hidden money, that we are never at risk, or that we are totally fine. I do believe there is a concern and you feel it when you have even these micro-situations like schools not being at full capacity.
Yes, we have a challenge. Potentially, we will not see that again this year if Prop 15 passes. But we do have to think really long term about the stability of the district and the students that we're serving. Our enrollment has gone down year after year.
The current three-year budget barely saves us. We can do Year One and Year Two decently. Year Three is often a big challenge. But I wonder about Year 10 or Year 15. Think about an incoming kindergarten class: What would they need fully to graduate at 12th grade? I haven't seen that kind of planning before.
LAist: There have been some efforts to rein in health care costs. A few years ago, then-candidate Nick Melvoin ran for office suggesting that new employees might be given the option to pick different health care plans -- or forego LAUSD's lifetime health care package -- in exchange for higher starting salaries. Are changes to health benefits one of the things you'd put on the table.?
It needs to be on the table. I need to understand more about the implications. But if we are really putting kids first, then we might need to think differently about the options we offer new employees -- not just for teachers, but for all collective bargaining units in L.A. Unified. I wonder what successes we have found in different units. I don't know what the answer is yet, obviously, but I think it's worth exploring. Absolutely.
LAist: Teachers unions worry about moves to curtail their health benefits often because they have prioritized those benefits over salary increases.
That's true; no one gets into teaching for the pay.
But if we're finding that teachers are not spending their entire career in the district, and not leaving the district with lifetime health benefits, I wonder, for new employees, what we could offer in terms of salary and health care that would be attractive, sustainable in today's economy -- and also respects that we shouldn't be spending a third of our budget on staff who are no longer directly serving our students.
I recognize the times of the past have honored the contributions of public employees and I want to respect that. But I also want to be thinking about the future and where our district goes. The kids that are in our system today and what is going to be sustainable and supportive for them.
So I think it's worth putting it on the table again. I think there are lots of implications they don't yet understand and want to understand more deeply. But to the question of, Is it even worth it? -- I think our kids are worth every hard conversation.
LAist: Over the summer, a divided school board voted 4-3 to cut the L.A. School Police Department budget by 35% -- $25 million. Would you have joined the four board members who voted to make this cut?
I do think real police work is a smaller percentage than what we currently spend in L.A. Unified -- but I don't know if it would have been $25 million, that's the hard thing. How do you know without having the real data?
I would have liked to have approached the conversation differently. We have a huge budget that may not always line up with our vision and our values. I think we need to reexamine the entire budget and understand if we are investing in real helpful ways to improve our kids' holistic outcomes. It is very unclear to me if our budget aligns with our big goals of kids being able to graduate fully prepared for college, career and life. That's step one -- I want to step back and look at our entire budget process.
School police is one part of that budget. In this moment in particular, the racial justice uprising and the call for Black Lives Matter -- if we acknowledge that as a district, as we should, then we absolutely must center the voices of our Black students when making decisions about things that impact their safety.
For me, the conversation about student safety is not limited to school police. I think about safety really holistically: physical safety that school police may contribute to, but I also think about intellectual safety in the classroom. Are you willing to take risks? Emotional safety: Do you have the mental health support you need? I would prefer to take a bigger step back about our entire budget and how we allocate dollars for holistic student safety and what, if any, role the L.A. School Police Department plays in that.
I would be very nervous about calling LAPD or L.A. Sheriff's Department, particularly in this day and age, to come onto campus for any reason. So I want to understand alternatives to real police work.
When I said 'real police work,' I mean: What is the role of school police in L.A. Unified? Often you'll hear school police officers described as mentors or counselors -- but while that might be a side benefit, that's not the focus of their role. There are other L.A. Unified staff where being a mentor or a counselor is the focus of their role.
So I think for me, it's trying to define specifically what is the role of police officers in L.A. Unified. Should it be a separate L.A. School Police Department? If any police-specific work is needed that cannot be done by a counselor, social worker, or campus aide, do we partner with LAPD or the Sheriff's Department? That makes me feel very uncomfortable.
LAist: With that groundwork laid, how would you have voted on the 35% cut?
I would have voted yes to the cut, because we are hearing from young people and particularly from our Black students, a real request for reallocating resources to support their needs.
Advocates and students directly tied together how school police weren't serving, in particular, Black students. This budget decision is intended to reallocate from police to supports for Black students -- I would have supported that. I also think we need a much bigger conversation about budgeting and student safety.
LAist: As much as some advocates and students distrust the police, there's also a real need for maintaining security. Who should be responsible for that?
I would love for there not to be police officers on campus policing our students, which is how it has felt for a lot of our students. But when an unwelcome community member comes onto campus intoxicated, with a weapon, who do we call? I'm using that as an example because I've heard it from principals before.
We should define specifically what are the reasons for which we might need police response -- and if there are enough reasons, do we have our own police force or do we partner with other law enforcement agencies?
I would prefer police with the training that -- as far as I understand -- L.A. School Police have gone through: on adolescent development, better de-escalation tactics for working with young people. I don't know if we could demand that of the Sheriff's Department or of LAPD. So today, I would prefer L.A. School Police officers responding to incidents on campuses.
Again, in this moment in particular, I'm very nervous about them being on our school campuses at all. And yet we do need to understand what are those incidents for which they should be responding and no one else can be.
LAist: Is it possible to have a nuanced conversation about this issue? It feels like both school police supporters and critics are really dug in -- and in the end, the cut the board approved didn't fully give anyone what they were looking for. Then-Chief Todd Chamberlain resigned from LASPD the morning after the vote!
Both sides were really impassioned -- individual school police officers saying, 'I'm not a bad person, please don't make me feel this way.' Students were saying, 'I'm not a bad person. Please don't make me feel this way.' As a school board member, that's hard. That is part of our role is to listen with open hearts and real compassion.
I don't know that the tactics were right. They felt very rushed, honestly, in the spring with the various resolutions, the task force, the budget cut ... It was clear that the board was not in a unified place.
Yes, I would love to still have a longer, more nuanced conversation about student safety, but recognizing the role of the board is not to just follow what an advocate is asking of you.
Again, I do believe in centering Black student voices in this moment in particular. A board member also has to consider all of the implications. For example, I have heard -- and I haven't seen this in writing -- that an immediate cut would have resulted in a large payout for school police officer pensions. As a school board member, you cannot make the decision to cut for superficial, "I'm-with-you-in-spirit" reasons -- and then also decimate the budget.
LAist: Why should voters pick you instead of Patricia Castellanos?
I believe that all students, and particularly those that have been most historically neglected by systems of power, deserve a leader who will put them first. That's what I got to do as a classroom teacher, as an educator, as an advocate. I hope voters will see my commitment to kids and to equity and support a vision for all kids graduating fully prepared for college career and life.
LAist: Is there any contrast you would draw between yourself and Castellanos?
The biggest one is that I was a classroom teacher and I've worked alongside educators and in schools my entire career. She's also a parent and I'm not.
But we're also both Latinos from the community who have done community work -- there are definitely some similarities as well. How great that our community gets to choose from two Latinas who grew up in our district, who've been committed to our kids, who have some shared values.
We just have very different work histories. I think some guiding principles might be different going forward based on what we've learned through our work experience. Just working in schools, you understand how policy and budget decisions impact teaching and learning.