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Show Up or Shut Up

School board candidates owe voters an open and honest public debate on the failures in the Los Angeles school district, a district that can boast a small group of outstanding schools but where two out of three children cannot read at grade level by the end of the third grade.

The Committee on Effective School Governance, a broad-based group of civic leaders, is holding community forums next week to explore needed reforms in the district in anticipation of the April 13 election. Forums are scheduled for the four contested board seats: District 1, which covers South and Central Los Angeles; District 3, which covers Hollywood, Silver Lake, West Hollywood, mid-Wilshire and parts of North Hollywood; District 5, which covers Northeast Los Angeles and the eastern San Fernando Valley, and District 7, which covers Watts, the Harbor and the South Bay. The forums will start at 7 p.m. to allow parents and others who work to attend.

The first forum is scheduled Monday at Nightingale Middle School, 3311 N. Figueroa St. in Cypress Park. First-term incumbent David Tokofsky, the only incumbent up for reelection who seems to fully comprehend the depth of the problems in the Los Angeles Unified School District, is scheduled to meet challenger Yolie Flores Aguilar.

The second debate is set for Tuesday at Walter Reed Middle School, 4525 Irvine Ave. in North Hollywood. Two-term incumbent Jeff Horton will engage Caprice Young, an IBM executive who already has endorsed the committee’s common-sense recommendations to put student achievement first.

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The third debate will be Thursday at Fleming Middle School, 25425 Walnut St. in Lomita. Will the forum sponsors need only one chair? They have not heard from the incumbent, George Kiriyama. Mike Lansing, a former parochial school teacher who runs the San Pedro Boys and Girls Club, will be there.

The fourth debate, scheduled for Friday at the Foshay Learning Center, 3751 S. Harvard Blvd., near USC, also might be marred by a no-show. Incumbent Barbara Boudreaux has missed several opportunities to engage in dialogue with Genethia Hayes, the executive director of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

Voters should turn out for these forums because the quality of public education matters. It affects the quality of life and the opportunities of all the people who live here. Candidates who care about the public they hope to serve will make sure they attend these public forums. Those who don’t bother will be sending the message that meeting with concerned voters somehow wasn’t worth their time.


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