LAUSD school board member Jackie Goldberg on the budget, Beutner, and more power for principals

Jackie Goldberg’s campaign pamphlets. Photo credit: Saul Gonzalez

Jackie Goldberg is returning to the LAUSD school board after a major victory in Tuesday’s special election. She beat Candidate Heather Repenning with 71.6% of votes (not including mail-in and provisional ballots).

This also means a victory for the teachers union. Tens of thousands of district teachers and staff went on strike in January, demanding better salaries, reduced class sizes, and more counselors, nurses, and librarians. Goldberg fought for these demands during her campaign, and promised to bring more funding to the district.

Now as a school board member, what’s her number one priority? Examining the budget thoroughly, she tells KCRW. She also wants to look at what residents in southeast LA have been claiming: that the district doesn’t spend the same amount of money there compared to northwest LA.

The County Office of Education have said that the district will go broke in three years if it doesn't change its ways.

Goldberg is skeptical that will happen. “They’ve said that every year for probably the last 40 years... And it's because you project a recession when you do that. You project the worst case scenario. Now I don't mind them doing that. But I think it is the worst case scenario. And we don't seem to be in a recession right now or in the immediate future. Does that mean we don't need a reserve? No it doesn't. There was $2 billion in surplus. I felt that $1 billion should have been put away and the other billions spent on reducing class size.”

Her criticism of Superintendent Austin Beutner

Austin Beutner has been criticized for not knowing much about education when he arrived on the job. He came from the corporate world, finance, and philanthropy.

Goldberg believes educators should be running school districts, and isn’t sure Beutner is the solution.

“My biggest problem with him is transparency and the lack thereof. ...The private sector doesn't share what they're thinking or their plans or their strategies with the public. And that's what I want him to do,” she says. “If you want to be talking about a major overhaul of how the district is organized, you can't keep it secret until you're ready to spring it on people. And you should start first by listening to people before you start doing that. So I want to help him.”

She hopes the board will set “specific, attainable, and measurable goals” for Beutner for the coming year, then evaluate his performance on those goals.

Jackie Goldberg at her campaign office in Silver Lake. Photo credit: Saul Gonzalez.

Her stance on charter schools

There are more than 270 charter schools in LAUSD right now, with more than 130,000 students enrolled.

Goldberg acknowledges that charter schools are not going away, but she says she wouldn’t mind a temporary halt to new ones.  

She points out that LAUSD started seven new charters during this school year, and one-third of independent charters in LA have vacancies of at least 25%, and a few have waitlists.

“We have to make this a more rational and reasonable system right now because there are virtually no rules… I think that the governor and Tony Thurmond in Sacramento are working on that, and I certainly know that there are a lot of people in both the Assembly and the Senate who are,” she says.

Photo: Jackie Goldberg and her staff at their campaign office in Silver Lake. Credit: Saul Gonzalez.

Goldberg’s other goals

Goldberg wants principals, teachers, and other classified employees to have more power to run their schools. For example, they shouldn’t have to seek permission to shift from a six-period day to a seven-period day at middle and high schools. “I've been told by principals that it may take five or six people touching a piece of paper downtown before you can get permission for something. I want to reduce that to one person,” she says.

She also wants to make sure there’s a credentialed teacher at every school, particularly in the southeast; many more special education teachers (and assistants for them) hired; more psychiatric social workers on campus to meet needs of children who are living with trauma. She believes these goals are attainable within a year and a half. “If you do those things, then the other things that we all care about, which is scores and graduation rates, they all go up.”

Lastly she adds, “One of the other goals of mine is to say to the legislature in Sacramento, ‘You finally have two-thirds vote in both Houses. Raise the taxes on the rich and reinvest in our children again.’ They've been held down too long by Proposition 13… It's not a Robin Hood strategy. It's a strategy that says if you became wealthy here, give something back… We're not robbing them. They have made untold billions of dollars in property tax savings since 1978.”