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Scurrilous flyers have been peppering LAUSD3 board member Scott Schmerelson’s 3rd District. As former teacher, counselor and principal, the incumbent board member, Mr. Schmerelson, is challenged by Marilyn Koziatek, a community outreach spokesperson for a large charter school in that district. The race has been quiet because Mr. Schmerelson is well-qualified as a current board member and former educator and unencumbered by overt scandal; a clear contrast with his opponent who is not an educator but rather an administrator working in Education.

Prodiguous Funding Drives

The race has been quiet because Mr. Schmerelson is well-qualified as a current board member and former educator and unencumbered by overt scandal; a clear contrast with his opponent who is not an educator but rather an administrator working in Education.

LAUSD3 includes the neighborhoods of {Canoga Park, Chatsworth, Encino, Granada Hills, Lake Balboa, Reseda, North Hills, North Hollywood, Northridge, Mission Hills, Porter Ranch, Studio City, Tarzana, Valley Glen, Van Nuys, Woodland Hills, West Hills, Winnetka}. Angelenos in these areas (or parts of some, see the map here) will choose between these two voting in the primary election of March 3, 2020.

Reproducing the flyer here would only serve its purpose of propagating fake news, but its stated provenance is significant as an: “Ad paid for by Families and Teachers United, sponsored by California Charter Schools Association Advocates. Committee major funding from Charter Public Schools PAC. Not authorized by a candidate or a committee controlled by a candidate.”

That is, Koziatek can (by design; all candidates may as well) maintain plausible deniability regarding the ad’s insinuations because her campaign did not design the ad. Sidestepping the candidate, another entity is responsible: a PAC called ‘Charter Public Schools’.

So who has contributed to the Charter Public Schools PAC? It was created in the wake of California’s great Public School Choice movement of the late ‘oughts. Intended to support and influence the drive to privately operate public schools, the PAC has been fueled since its 2007 inception by the usual ideological suspects:

In particular, nearly one third of that total has been contributed since December, 2019 by just 6 entities, principally Reed Hastings (the libertarian CEO of Netflix and billionaire champion of high-tech educational software), the Walton family (architects of big-box retailing and forerunners of organized labor’s decline) and Doris Fisher (Gap clothing retailer and driver of charter networks including a venture fund and the giant chains KIPP and Alliance):

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Prodiguous Funding Drives

Table 1: All contributors to Charter Public Schools PAC, 12/07-1/20

Without fueling falsehoods, it matters to abstract the arguments of the flyer because they are internally inconsistent.

Table 2:  Three families contributed over five million dollars to Charter Public Schools PAC, 12/19-1/20

Table 2: Three families contributed over five million dollars to Charter Public Schools PAC, 12/19-1/20

Mr. Schmerelson is accused of personally (a) profiting unduly from a pay raise recommended not by him but by an independent commission, ratified (not, designed) by the collective of his seven-member board, and paid generically to all seven of this year’s and next’s board, regardless of this election’s outcome (i.e., potentially to the challenger whose supporters decry the remuneration). And (b) profiting from stocks in a private fund under his inattentive care, at the expense of teenagers’ health. Conflict of interest is claimed because Schmerelson owned stock in JUUL, a company that makes vaping products, while voting on board lawsuits and positions concerning vaping. However, LAUSD3 Schmerelson voted for the lawsuit and for a motion opposing vaping. In short, he voted against his financial interests.

It is worthy that our public works divest of unhealthful forms of consumption. One possibility might be to substitute the sweet and salty, heavily-processed Breakfast In The Classroom, with healthy meals baked and served on-site in the kitchens of LAUSD3. The endeavor would better address food insecurity and nutrition, and provide a living wage to folks who would relish the opportunity to nurture kids. This would, of course, impact the food service budget and require raising schools’ (including cafeteria’s) appropriations.

This year’s 2020 prop 13 is a bond intended for construction and modernization of public education facilities. It’s responsible to support our schools, not get hoodwinked into crediting Public Relations fabrications over the credibility of a long-term, dedicated educator.

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Sara Roos
Los Angeles Education Examiner