Support independent thinking for LAUSD and police conduct review boards we can trust

LAUSD BOARD OF EDUCATION

The dollar figures don’t lie, even if lies are what they’re buying. The race for our local LAUSD board seat has played out as a brutal and disingenuous proxy war between unions and charter school advocates, one scuzzy attack mailer at a time.

A jaw-dropping $6.4 million in election spending controlled by neither incumbent Steve Zimmer nor challenger Nick Melvoin — both former LAUSD teachers — has all but hijacked this election from local families, well-meaning volunteers on both sides and even the candidates themselves. This shameful display of mudslinging has only made political consultants richer at the expense of rational public debate about local education issues.

Of course, the rise of charter schools at the expense of traditional public schools is a vital local issue. We believe there is clear evidence that many charter schools cherry-pick their enrollment, favoring high-performing students with engaged parents while excluding those who are more costly and difficult to educate. Cherry-picking breeds inequality by forcing traditional public schools to do more with less.

At times in our history, this publication has approached charter schools with a higher degree of skepticism than we’ve placed on traditional public schools. And we stand by our previous statements that Zimmer, who shares some of our concerns about charters, has served admirably and with genuine concern for the well-being of all students. So why in the world, many longtime readers have asked, is The Argonaut sticking with its primary endorsement of Melvoin?

For one, it’s time to change the dialogue about charter schools. The rigid ideological gridlock that dominates LAUSD politics and set the stage for outside money to drag this campaign into the mud has not served those who seek to limit charter school expansion. Despite a Zimmer-led board majority simpatico with the charter-opposed teacher’s union, there are more charters in LAUSD than any other school district in the nation. Because state law heavily favors charter school expansion over local control, what’s needed right now is not ideology-driven sour grapes but greater oversight and transparency.

Melvoin is a smart guy — an LMU and Harvard grad who worked for the White House’s Domestic Policy Council under Obama — but what sets him apart is independent, pragmatic thinking that can better navigate the widening divide between charters and traditional public schools.

Take, for example, the extremely divisive issue of co-location of charters on Westside traditional public school campuses. Melvoin’s detractors say his call for an audit of LAUSD facilities is an evil plot to give more space to charter schools. We believe, however, that taxpayers are entitled to know how the district uses its real estate and that the board can use such information to make better decisions for all schools. Transparency is good.

When it comes to issues of innovation, oversight and accountability for both charters and traditional public schools, Melvoin offers a grounded fresh approach to governing the LAUSD we have rather than fighting over the LAUSD we wish we had. Vote for Nick Melvoin.

MEASURE C: POLICE MISCONDUCT REVIEW

The violent and often deadly encounters with police at the forefront of our national dialogue not only scare the hell out of law abiding citizens, they also unfairly cast a shadow of suspicion over all the good cops who take “protect and serve” seriously.

Genuine and impartial civilian review of alleged police misconduct is incredibly important, especially for a department as large and complex as the LAPD. Not only does it deter officers from taking the law in their own hands — no one wants to live in a police state — it also builds greater trust between police and the public, which benefits everyone.

At first glance, Measure C sounds like a step in the right direction, promising to increase the civilian presence on the Board of Rights panels that rule on accusations of officer misconduct.

But don’t be fooled. Measure C has nothing to do with transparency; it’s simply the police union trying to stack these panels with those most likely to side with officers accused of misconduct. The civilians appointed to review boards by the L.A. Police Commission tend to be more lenient than the LAPD brass appointed by Chief Charlie Beck.

By stating publicly last year that the officer who shot an unarmed man in Venice should face criminal prosecution, Beck sent a strong message that police misconduct cannot be swept under the rug. Let’s hold out for genuine reform that doesn’t undermine him. Vote No on Measure C.