The April 11 election for the Los Angeles Board of Education is a critical one. The United Teachers-Los Angeles union is trying to get control of the school board. To be sure, teachers should get higher pay, and they should have an important voice at all levels of policy-making. But the union’s tactics in its current contract negotiations with the school board indicate that it does not fully understand the school district’s financial constraints. UTLA needs to work with the board and the administration; instead, it prefers constant confrontation. The loss is the students’. Their welfare--not the union’s--should be uppermost in voters’ minds.
District 2 --On the Westside, Mark Slavkin, a bright young man and deputy to Los Angeles County Supervisor Ed Edelman, is opposing Alan Gershman, the incumbent, who is a former teacher. Slavkin would bring an energy to the board that the low-key Gershman lacks. But, unfortunately, Slavkin’s election could also give the union that majority it has been trying to get by stalling negotiations and targeting Gershman for defeat. Gershman argues that the board already faces deep cuts in instructional programs as a result of its current salary-and-benefits offer, and that has won him no friends among his former UTLA backers.
A two-term member of the school board, Gershman chaired the committee that drafted the district’s new high school graduation requirements that exceeded those required by state law. He has been active in creating the foreign languages magnet at Venice High School and the music academy at Hamilton High School, as well as adding 11 new elementary music teachers who offer classes to students across the city. He also has helped create the Bellagio Newcomers School for immigrant students. Gershman is not a flashy board member, but he has gotten the job done. He deserves reelection.
District 4 --Julie Korenstein was elected to the board in 1987 to fill out an unexpired term for the West San Fernando Valley seat. Endorsed by the union, her reelection will not, however, tip the balance of the board. Korenstein, a former substitute teacher in the school district, has supported the school-based health clinics, efforts to keep potential dropouts in school and volunteer work by students.
District 6-- Roberta Weintraub, current school board president, has evolved from a one-issue anti-busing candidate into a leavening force in the panel’s deliberations. As she herself puts it, one of the main things she has learned in her 10 years representing the East San Fernando Valley on the board is that one must change as the district changes. Some colleagues on previous boards didn’t; she has.
She has helped get board meetings televised on KLCS-TV, Channel 58, so that the public has a better picture of the board, and she is a firm backer of the important school-based clinics. She also has worked for promotion of more women to administrative jobs in the school system. Of critical importance at this point, she has worked hard to communicate to the press and the public the district’s position and problems during current contract negotiations. Weintraub has proved an especially diligent, energetic board member who deserves reelection.
The first order of business for the board is to resolve the current contract dispute and get on with the big job of improving education for the diverse student body in the Los Angeles Unified School District. We think the best board members to do that job will be Alan Gershman, Julie Korenstein and Roberta Weintraub.