Westside from Hollywood to the Pacific Palisades
Steve Zimmer, the incumbent District 4 School Board member, was a teacher with LAUSD for 17 years until he won his seat in 2009. He lists “improving quality of instruction and increasing enrollment” as among his top priorities. An alumnus of Teach for America, Zimmer was originally supported by both unions and education reformers, but his attempts earlier this year to put a moratorium on charter school growth and to introduce his own proposal on teacher evaluations put him at odds with the Coalition for School Reform this time around. Although he says he supports the leadership of LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy, his willingness to criticize Deasy has made UTLA an ally; he has their endorsement and their willingness to spend outside money on his behalf. In addition, Zimmer is getting outside help from SEIU and the AFL-CIO. His opponent, Kate Anderson is benefiting from spending by the Coalition for School Reform. With only two candidates in the running, the District 4 election will be decided on March 5.
For more on this candidate, see: Forum video
ENDORSEMENTS - SUPPORT
Endorsed by: UTLA (teachers union); SEIU-99 (service employees); AALA (school administrators); LACDP (county democratic party); COPE (county AFL-CIO)
1. Do you have children? No _X_
2. Please indicate your three (3) priorities once in office and explain why:
A. Improving student achievement and guaranteeing an excellent teacher in every classroom and outstanding administrator at every school.
B. Increasing parent involvement and investing in proven, instructional programs that provide quality public education choice for all families.
C. Eradicating the opportunity gap by increasing funding to public education and ensuring that there is accountability at every level of our system. We must be relentless as we campaign to fund our classrooms.
3. Quality instruction, reducing class size, adequate funding, school choice and access to quality data have all been cited as policies that impact student achievement. Please rank your opinion of these conditions with 1 being the most impactful and 5 being the least.
Quality Instruction: Rank _5_
Adequate Funding: Rank _5_
School Choice: Rank _5_
Reducing Class Size: Rank _5_
Access to Quality Data: Rank _5_
Comments: Every one of these policies is absolutely essential to transforming LAUSD and ensuring a world-class education for every child
4. How would you as a school board member increase parent and community engagement in schools? What have you done thus far to support your vision?
We must increase parent involvement in our schools if we want to improve student achievement and chances of success after graduation. That is why I co-authored the Parents as Equal Partners resolution, which put in place a plan for improving parent engagement through increased outreach; created – with parent input - a “Parent’s Bill of Rights” to promote shared responsibility with schools for results; established a new position of Chief of School, Family, Parent, and Community Services to direct parent engagement as a top priority for the district; and strengthens support to schools so that school-family activities are linked to learning and achievement, and welcomes all parents and guardians as partners.
I have led the effort to fully fund parent centers and parent education services at every district school with a focus on increasing avenues for engagement for middle school and high school parents. Further, as a long-time advocate of School Based Management and other local decision making models, I insist that leadership and budget decisions at my schools are made with the full participation of parents and the school stakeholder community.
Finally, my Board Office established, in partnership with the Youth Policy Institute, the first Family Resource Center in Hollywood, which is regarded as a national model for how a school district can work with community based agencies to increase family involvement.
5. What, in your opinion, is the pathway toward adequately funding the district? Do you believe the funding structure needs to be overhauled?
Unfortunately, we are subject to the whim of state funding and the subsequent state cuts to our budgets. In my first Board term, I have been relentless in identifying and then campaigning for increased funding to the District from both state and federal sources. I was LAUSD’s leading champion of the Education Jobs Bill that brought over $125 million in new federal funding to the district. I have been the central advocate for increased IDEA funding so that the federal government will pay its mandated share of special education services. I believe we must find more consistent and dedicated streams of funding for our schools, so that our students are not the victims of Sacramento’s budgeting problems. I support Governor Brown’s initiative to move towards a transformed system of school funding and eagerly await our team’s analysis of how we use new formulas to get the most funds to children who need it most.
6. Recently there has been a number of child abuse allocations brought against LAUSD. How would you help protect students from LAUSD employees who may seek to harm students?
It is never acceptable for our students to be in danger, and that is why I responded quickly and forcefully to those allegations, and will continue to fight to ensure our students are safe, and their safety is never a subject for compromise.
I supported Senator Padilla’s bill to deal with this issue, recently voted to support its new version, SB 10, led efforts to ensure that all files of all certificated employees in the district were reviewed immediately in order to identify problems, and will continue to work with our partners in Sacramento to overhaul the current imbalanced system to ensure that criminals never endanger students.
We must continue to pro-actively work to guarantee student safety and remain constantly vigilant on behalf of students.
7. Should LAUSD have a goal of bringing more students back into public education from private and home schools? If so, how would you suggest going about this?
Yes, and that’s why I authored the Expanding Enrollment Initiative, which creates a plan for investing in and expanding access to programs like dual immersion schools, schools for advanced studies, and the International Baccalaureate Curricular design. I’ve also worked to create more SPAN K-8 schools and expand choices for magnet schools, all programs designed to provide more choice, parent involvement, and expand enrollment in LAUSD schools. Local, stakeholder engaged decision making and a system that is finally responsive to families will also go a long way towards bringing families back to the district.
Through Laurel SPAN School, The Mandarin Dual Immersion program, expansion of Magnets and SAS programs, we have brought families back to the district even in the midst of this economic crisis.
8. What steps need to be taken to continue to challenge high achieving students? Are we doing enough to support these students?
I’ve championed real programs to help high achieving students excel in LAUSD schools, such as expanding choices for magnet schools, creating more dual immersion schools, and creating more challenging curriculums like the International Baccalaureate Curriculum. As we begin to identify additional funding and resources, fully supporting increased enrichment and specially designed curricular and extra-curricular programs will be important supplements to rigorous instruction in every classroom.
9. What role will you have in addressing the resource and opportunity gaps for low-income students?
My background and history is deeply rooted in increasing opportunities for low-income and atrisk students.
As a counselor and teacher for seventeen years, I worked hard to increase rigor and support services:
• Established first on-site health and mental health clinics, and led efforts to expand these across the district.
• Expanded and championed community-based option programs throughout the district, helping keep more kids in school and helping them graduate.
• Leader in advocating for the Dream Act.
• Co-founder of the Elysian Valley Service Center, providing after school resources, job training, and tutoring for local students. This helped raise graduation rates for students in a very low-income community from just over 50% to more than 75% now.
10. What do you think of the teacher evaluation agreement reached between the District and LAUSD labor partners? Explain it and share your thoughts on it.
Any evaluation model must make students and their needs the top priority. This teacher evaluation agreement does just that, and has been held up across the political spectrum as a national model for management and labor to collaborate on a system that puts students first. I believe it puts student achievement at the forefront of the way LAUSD evaluates and supports its certificated employees.
12. What is your position on school choice for parents and families?
I support school choice for parents and families. This has been a central focus of my first board term and will continue to be a key priority throughout the district.
13. What is your opinion on charter school growth within the district? Should we limit or promote charter school growth?
I support allowing more charters in the district, but we must ensure they are reaching the students and communities that need them the most, and are serving the interests of students. We must also ensure that choice is accessible to every family and that charter schools serve all children. It is appropriate for the Superintendent to have a strategic plan as choice continues to expand in the district to make sure district programs are able to compete and have the necessary resources as enrollment numbers continue to decline.
14. How will you engage the community to inform your policy positions and understand the implications of board decisions on the educational experiences of the families and students you serve?
Since being first elected, I’ve worked tirelessly to be in the community I represent, meeting with parents, teachers, administrators, and others in the community to ensure that they are fully informed of district policies, but more importantly I am hearing and seeing first-hand the needs of the students, parents, and schools.
15. How will you work with other members of the board, the administration and members of the community to ensure EL students are reclassifying and gaining access to A-G courses?
I began my career as an EL teacher, and I understand and prioritize the needs of English language learners. I’ve fought, and will continue to fight, to ensure EL students have access to A-G requirements and we are efficiently targeting resources, providing early intervention, outstanding teaching, and access to support systems immigrant students and families need to fulfill the American dream through public education.
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