Together for the final time before Tuesday’s elections, the three candidates for LA Unified’s Board District 5 seat were determined last night to set themselves apart from each other.
In a small church in a residential neighborhood in South Gate, incumbent Bennett Kayser, and his opponents, Andrew Thomas and Ref Rodriguez, spoke only to the small crowd, rarely acknowledging the others’ statements or accusations. Another forum is scheduled for tonight at the Camino Nuevo Charter Academy, Sandra Cisneros campus in Echo Park, but only Thomas and Rodriguez have agreed to participate.
In last night’s forum, Thomas sharply criticized his opponents for the financial support their respective campaigns have received from outside interests, either the teachers union, UTLA, (Kayser) or the California Charter Schools Association (Rodriguez). Thomas’s campaign has received no outside support.
“The interests that have put people on the school board have spent over a million dollars so far beating each other up,” Thomas told the audience of about 30 southeast LA residents. “And they’re going to continue that fight onto the board when they’re elected.”
Later in the debate he returned to the same theme, arguing “The priorities of the other two candidates are not the same as the priorities of people who are funding their campaigns.”
Thomas also accused Kayser of supporting inefficient spending of new state money available to the district. Looking ahead at future growth, Thomas said, “I’m worried that money is going to be frittered away on programs that already exist and aren’t very effective.”