May 30, 2011
Los Angeles teacher Bennet Kayser has won a seat on the L.A. school board. Commentators called this result unexpected, since Kayser’s opponent, Luis Sanchez, was backed by the electoral machine of L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and by big donations from billionaires Eli Broad and Philip Anschutz.
Sanchez’s campaign slogan was “school reform.” These days, that has become a euphemism for cutting the number of teachers and their wages while blaming public schools’ problems on teachers. In his last State of the City address, Villaraigosa called for a “new kind of contract” for teachers.
Teacher Bennett Kayser will now take the seat held by Yolie Flores, who spearheaded the firing of at least half of the teachers at Huntington Park High School as a way to get rid of high paid teachers and reduce the number of teachers, jamming more kids into each classroom. The school board approved the firings unanimously, turning Huntington Park High into a guinea pig for a plan that the board intends to implement at other schools.
The election turned into a referendum for this kind of “school reform” which Flores, the school board and Villaraigosa have been pushing in the name of parents who are “fed up with the failure of public schools.”
Fed up many parents may be. But parents in Flores’s own district sent another message with their votes – that they disagreed with these “reformers.” The voters showed that, in fact, they would fire politicians like Flores and Villaraigosa and keep the teachers.