Posted by Steven Levin on February 03, 2015 at 9:30 AM
Last week, CCSA Advocates’ locally sponsored independent expenditure committee, Parent Teacher Alliance, authorized, funded, and distributed a mailer to voters in LAUSD Board District 5 illustrating a troubling record of votes cast by L.A. Unified school board member Bennett Kayser against the interests of Latino students over the last four years.
While it is not our belief that Mr. Kayser personally harbors racist views, the implications of his policies have by no means been race-neutral. In fact, Mr. Kayser’s votes have wielded a disparate impact on the educational outcomes of Latino students and it is incumbent upon us to educate voters about Mr. Kayser’s record.
“The stakes are too high to sugar-coat Mr. Kayser’s record of failure. The facts are the facts and voters deserve to have them before they vote,” said Carlos Marquez, Political Director for CCSA Advocates. “The facts of the mailer in question are indisputable and serve as a public service announcement to Latino families whose children have as much right to attend quality schools in any neighborhood they choose as anyone else."
As referenced in the mailer, in an effort to give every student, irrespective of zip code, the opportunity to attend high-performing schools, the LAUSD board considered removing attendance boundaries in 2012. Mr. Kayser opposed the mere notion of a study to examine the removal of attendance boundaries, despite its promise of reconciling racial enrollment inequities. That same year, Mr. Kayser opposed a redistricting plan drafted by a citizens’ commission that would have resulted in a greater number of Latino residents in his district.
And despite a recent finding by the Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) at Stanford University that Latino students in poverty experience an additional 6 months of learning in math and an extra 3 months in English Language arts for every year enrolled in a charter school in L.A. Unified, Mr. Kayser has fought to close nearly every charter public school that has sought renewal.
“Mr. Kayser is categorically opposed to charter public schools and he’s been virtually unable to square his ill-informed, reflexive anti-charter ideology with the fact that 73% of students at independent charter schools in L.A. Unified are Latino, 33% are English learners, and 78% live in poverty,” said Marquez.
“Mr. Kayser chooses to ignore the fact that 76% of students who graduate from charter schools in L.A. Unified are eligible for college admission, compared to just 18% of students who graduate from district schools,” Marquez continued. “He either doesn’t understand or doesn’t care that charter schools are providing what Latino and low-income parents want for their children: a path to college. For Mr. Kayser to build walls between Latino students and the schools that are best serving them is simply indefensible.”
Mr. Kayser firmly opposed the Vergara lawsuit, filed by Latino students on the grounds that California law denies them equal access to high quality teachers. The judge, who ultimately sided with the students in a ruling last year, wrote that state laws on teacher hiring and firing disproportionately harm poor and minority students. “The evidence is compelling,” the judge stated. “Indeed, it shocks the conscience.” But Kayser continues to this day to defend these state laws, even after a judge deemed them discriminatory and unconstitutional.
Finally, Mr. Kayser has pulled out of two public candidate forums, denying hundreds of Latino families the opportunity to hear his views on the education issues they care about most.
“After reviewing Mr. Kayser’s record in the light of day, we are left with a preponderance of evidence that suggests Mr. Kayser is, at best, out of touch with the educational hopes and aspirations of the Latino students in his district and at worst, dismissive of them entirely,” said Marquez. “In the weeks ahead, we expect Mr. Kayser will hide from the facts. He and his allies will distort Dr. Ref Rodriguez’s character and record of results for students. They will characterize Dr. Rodriguez as a Republican, even though he is a lifelong Democrat who was recently endorsed by the Los Angeles County Young Democrats and is a trusted appointee of Governor Jerry Brown to the California Commission for Teacher Credentialing. They will accuse him of privatizing schools, even though every one of the charter schools he founded is public and tuition-free. They will draw voters’ attention away from the inequities facing Latino children in Los Angeles and from Mr. Kayser’s inexcusable record.”