What If You Gave an Election, and Nobody Came?

userpic=voteA week from Tuesday we may see one of the lowest turnouts in San Fernando Valley history. We have a general municipal election in our portion of the valley, and there is one, that’s right – one, issue on the ballot: A school board election. Further, this is a school board election in a time where the school board isn’t big news. The big school board scandal was the whole kerfuffle about the iPod purchase by Deasy, and Deasy is long gone. Additionally, this is school board … so everyone (like us) who doesn’t have kids in school will think they don’t have a big need to vote. Cut out all the younger kids who haven’t started families yet, and all the older adults whose kids are off in college (and who don’t yet have grandkids).

As I said, low turnout.

But it’s an election, and I do an election post, even though I don’t have kids in school. You can thank me later.

The battle is between Scott Mark Schmerelson and Tamar Galatzan. Let’s get rid of the elephant in the room first. Both are Democrats. [ETA: Got that wrong. Schmerelson is Republican, plus his campaigners are annoying (7 calls over the weekend).] Seriously, Schmerelson is hammering Galatzan on the iPad debacle. Sorry, I don’t blame her. Deasy was pushing them, and none of the school board are technology experts. The notion of providing a tool to students that works the way students work today seems reasonable on the surface. We’re dealing with a generation that is more used to looking things up online, to using ebooks. The problem wasn’t the idea; it was the implementation. Galatzan was just one voice of many, and the situation is in the past.

The battle is between a 12 year board member (Galatzan) and a Spanish teacher turned school administrator (VP at Cleveland High). Teachers Union is behind Schmerelson, likely because he is less supportive of charters and has been a member of the union. I don’t consider Teachers Union support as a factor when I look at this stuff.

Let’s pick a few critical issues: (1) improving arts (theatre) in the schools; (2) increased emphasis on STEAM (and women in STEAM); and (3) college preparedness.

Galatzan’s web page talks about emphasizing the A-G curriculum (UC preparedness) and providing technology in the classroom. She did sponsor resolutions in favor of voluntary funding to restore the arts and to restore funding for honors music programs. She has encouraged robotics.  Couldn’t find much in the way of STEAM. Ballotpedia doesn’t have an issue ranking, but shows loads of endorsements including both major papers. I did find a summary of where they stand on the arts.

Schmerelson has nothing on his website on the subject. In issue ranking, he puts arts as #3 and college readiness as #6. Couldn’t find anything on STEAM.

From what I can see, the two are very similar. Both want reduced class sizes. Both want technology, although they disagree on the source of funding. Both want college prep, although Galatzan makes it a priority. Both support the arts. Both support charters.

I think I’m going to go with the bulk of endorsements, simply because the incumbent should understand the budget issues better.

Conclusion: Galatzan.

OK, convince me otherwise.


Ballot Recommendations – LA Municipal Primary Nominating Election

userpic=voteIt’s hard to believe, but we have an election about a week and a half away. You would hardly know it by the dearth of advertising. Of course, that means that turnout is going to be low — so low, in fact, that our precinct only got 3 pizza boxes (folded up voting booths). This will explain two of the measures on the ballot, but that may create more of a problem. Still, it is an election, and that means it is time for me to go through my sample ballot and tell you what I think.

Member of the City Council, District 12

Mitch Englander is running unopposed. Would be nice for him to have some opposition — after all, this could be a 5½ year term. Still, this is LA city politics for you, where we elect councilcritters who represent populations larger than a state.

Los Angeles City Unified School District, Board of Education, District 3

We have five candidates here, again, for a possible 5½ year term: Carl J. Petersen, Ankur Patel, Scott Mark Schmerelson, Filiberto Gonzalez, Elizabeth Badger Bartels, and the incumbent, Tamar Galatzan. Let’s see if we can sort these folks apart based on their websites. Note that I no longer have a horse in this race — my daughter is the successful product of an LAUSD education, under Galatzen, now at UC Berkeley. All have websites, passing the first hurdle. Let’s look at the endorsements next. The LA Times endorsement is lukewarm for Galatzen.  The Daily News also went for Galatzen. They note Gonzalez as the alternative for those who don’t want Galatzan. They note Galatzan was a Deasy supporter, and is “the only board member with children currently in an LAUSD school”.  Filberto was endorsed by the National Association of Social Workers, CSUN Young Democrats, representatives of NOW — essentially, supporting Filberto’s goal of advancing minorities. Schmerelson has the support of the California School Employees Association and the Associated Administrators — in other words, the teachers. Patel appears to have no major endorsers. Peterson has no major endorsers. Bartels has no major endorsers, and her front page emphasizes that she is a woman of faith, and has children on the autism spectrum. The “woman of faith” troubles me — I’m concerned about the excessively religious being on the school board and overtly or covertly influencing children. Given we have to pare down somehow, that’s a good starting point.

Let’s look at the issues. Galatazan is concerned about the budget, ensuring the A-G requirements are met (UC prerequisites), providing technology, and providing teachers with the needed devices and training. Filberto’s priorities are teachers pay, child safety, class size reduction, local control funding, and children with special needs. Petersen’s is accountability, high stakes testing, local control, defending Public Education, and children on the Autism spectrum. Badger’s is accountability, early childhood education, parent participation, providing sufficient resources, reducing dropout rates, safety and security, special needs children, and teachers and staffing. Schmerelson  focuses on local control, teachers, and adult education. There are some repeated themes here, and some aspects that shows a disconnect with Galtatzen.

But what’s important. For the most part, I didn’t have a problem with LAUSD. I wish teachers were paid what they are worth, but that’s not going to happen with budgets as they are. I wish there weren’t some of the idiotic rules, but the came in because of idiots. There’s the large issue of safety, but valley campuses are mostly safe. I saw no problems with parent participation — for those that wanted to participate. I can’t address special needs children, not having one.

I read through all the issues statements. There’s general railing against standardized testing — but that’s a state and federal requirement, not under local control. There’s general railing against teacher pay. We’d all love to pay teachers more, but only have so much budget. Unless you scrap or adjust Prop 13, we’re not going to be able to pay teachers what they deserve or need, and that’s a tragedy. But the school board can only allocate the pot, and there’s only so much to go around — and further, some is restricted on where it can be applied. There’s lots of railing against Deasy’s iPad plan. Well Deasy is gone, and things are being reevaluated.

I just can’t build up the enthusiasm for this one. Unless someone convinces me otherwise, I’m either going to abstain (leaving it to the parents with kids in the system to decide) or go for the incumbent.

Conclusion: Abstain or Galatzen

Los Angeles Community College District

Talk about a contest with even less interest that LAUSD — how about community college. We have four seats : 1, 3, 5, 7 and candidates I know nothing about. Not a lot of incumbents here, and not a lot of issues I know about. This is where I’m going to depend on the research of the LA Times staff and their recommendations:

Seat 1:  Andra Hoffman

Seat 3: Sydney Kamlager

Seat 5: Scott Svonkin

Seat 7: Mike Fong

In general, I agree with the Times reasoning.

Charter Amendments 1 and 2

Both of these charter amendments have the same goal: eliminate the silliness of the off-year election that everyone ignores. They move the city election dates and schedules, and the LAUSD dates and schedules, to align with Federal and State elections (i.e., even years). This means that in 2015 and 2017, candidates will have 5½ year terms to bring them into alignment with even years, and have everything line up in 2020.

I think this is a good idea, but there’s one shortcoming: What about the LA Community College District? Imagine the waste if that is the only thing on odd year ballots. I urge those to be aligned to even years as well.

Conclusion: For 1 and 2.

And that’s it. This election is a yawn.