Scurrilous flyers have been peppering LAUSD 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 and Elizabeth Bartels-Badger, a long-time political and community activist. 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 opponents, neither of whom are educators though one is 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 the 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, the charter school advocate’s candidate 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:

Contributors-to-Charter-Public-Schools-PAC-since-2007-single-page

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):

Contributors-to-Charter-Public-Schools-PAC-since-Dec-2019

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

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 of personally (b) profiting from stocks in a private fund under his inattentive care, at the expense of teenagers’ health.

It’s worth noting that a charter school advocate filed complaints against Schmerelson claiming he was profiting because he owned stock in a company that makes vaping products and also holds stock in McDonalds. Both complaints were dismissed in advance of the flyer by the state’s Fair Political Practices Commission. All the same the accusations continue – even while Schmerelson, were he conflicted, by voting against vaping in schools and for a lawsuit against vaping companies, would have been voting against his financial interest.

Certainly our public works should 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 LAUSD. 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.