The Challengers In The CA-29 Congressional Race Answer Questions About Federal Education Policy

Carl J. Petersen
Feb 3 · 8 min read

“We believe that quality education is a human right.”

- Angelica Dueñas

Barring a cataclysmic event, Tony Cárdenas’ “solid Democratic” seat in the United States House of Representatives is safe. A lawsuit was filed on April 27, 2018, which “alleged that Cárdenas sexually abused a 16-year-old girl in 2007”. Even with that allegation, he won reelection with 80.6% of the vote.

Ballotpedia describes Cárdenas as “an average Democratic member of Congress.” They define as being expected to “vote with the Democratic Party on the majority of bills.” However, it could also describe his political strategy — keep your head down and do not make waves. He is a career politician who has also been elected to the California State Assembly (1996–2002) and Los Angeles City Council (2004–2012). Despite being in the House since 2013, he only sits on one committee, Energy and Commerce.

Like in 2018, Cárdenas’ did not respond to a request for information about his views on federal education policy. When a candidate is expected to win, why take any chances by letting your constituents (or your donors) actually know your views. Like Battotpedia said: “average.”

There are three candidates vying for the second spot in November’s general election. Angelica Dueñas is a Berniecrat who ran for this same seat two years ago as a member of the Green Party. This time around she is taking up the Democratic banner. Michael Guzik is also a Democrat. Brian Perras is the lone Republican on the ballot. All three challengers respected the voters enough to respond to this year’s questionnaire and their answers are presented below. They are presented in the order that they were received.

Question 1: Federal legislation authorizes “Congress to contribute up to 40% of the average per-pupil expenditure” for mandated special education services. Unfortunately, this funding has never materialized. What will you do to ensure that programs and services for those with special education needs are appropriately funded?

Brian Perras (From the candidate’s web site)

Brian Perras: “Special Education needs local, district, state, and federal funds to provide the needed services for those identified special needs students. I need to find the current percentage provided by each of those funding sources. Upon reviewing those numbers, place pressure on those not providing their required share of that funding. This can be done in a number of ways, public pressure, media pressure, political pressure and if need be, legal pressure. All can play a role in securing appropriate funding for federally mandated programs. You used the number ”up to 40%”, which is a wide margin,( 0–40). I need to look into those numbers for a better look at who is responsible for what amount. Hold those responsible, accountable.”

Michael Guzik: “I will be an advocate for those in need of these very important special education services. As a father of a child that utilized these services some years ago, I have seen the benefits of early intervention first-hand. My son was diagnosed with Autism, but he is not Autistic. A label puts an automatic limit on a child even though it does

not define them and when you label someone they are labeled for life. We are well past our days of floor work and speech therapy. However, if services and funding were not available, he might still need an IEP. We as parents acted quickly after a vaccine injury and found the services he required. We qualified for funding for all the services that he required and utilized every opportunity to allow him to shine. Over the final six months of his at-home services, we began to have conversations about the

possibility of his hours being cut due to funding. Luckily my son made it through the programs and transitioned successfully to kindergarten. I saw funding start to go away ten years ago. I can’t imagine what parents go through now to provide these important and necessary services. And this is only my story. That is why I am running; I want to make an immediate positive impact on the lives of children and their parents.”

Angelica Dueñas: “As a mother of a child with special needs I find this issue extremely important. If elected, we will push for audits and for clear legislation that would prevent monies to be mismanaged.”

Question 2: Currently, special education funding is based on the total student population instead of the actual population that needs services. What will you do to ensure that funding is actually based on the number of children requiring services?

Brian Perras: “Another area to look in to would be placing a weighted amount of funding on students with special needs. This is done in many areas and helps with accountability. I can give you more information on this method if you wish.”

Michael Guzik (From the candidate's website)

Michael Guzik: “I will work to engage my colleagues and make this a nonpartisan issue so that the funding is allocated based on the number of children requiring services. Like any man woman and child, you must give them the necessary resources and services required so that they can fulfill their potential. Investing in our children, especially our special needs community, needs to be a top priority if we want to continue to be a global power.”

Angelica Dueñas: “We believe that quality education is a human right. This means that we need to be able to service all of our students at the level of their needs. If elected we will push for legislation and will put pressure on local representatives and LAUSD to ensure that we are looking at holistic solutions. It is not fair for those who do not have the need for special education funds to receive funds that should be servicing the population intended.”

Question 3: More than 35 percent of charter schools funded by the federal Charter School Program (CSP) between 2006 and 2014 either never opened or were shut down, costing taxpayers more than half a billion dollars. What will you do to ensure that federal education funds are not wasted on this program?

Brian Perras: “You have raised several real concerns here. Let me start with Charter Schools in general. The need for most Charter Schools was formed years ago to provide assistance with programs that the Public Schools could not or would not place the necessary funding into. This has progressed to large companies, relatives of wealthy folks and or those politically connected into gaming the system. In some school districts that grant charter school applications, those districts have some strong requirements. Having two-thirds of their Board of Directors for the charter school be local residents and a percentage must be parents. No state or district funds will be released until certain requirements are met. For example, the Makeup of the Governing Board, percentage of required funding in the bank before opening their doors, names and student number with parent consent signed before opening doors. There are a number of things that may be done, the existing problems stem from political interests in areas they should leave to educators…Nobody should be making money off of our students. We owe them the opportunity and the best education we can provide. If public education was doing their job, there would be no need or demand for charter schools, other than those hoping to make money from the system.

Our public education system needs a lot of attention. Our local schools were the building blocks of our neighborhoods for students and parents to trust and to be a gathering spot to come together. Every local school deserves the funds, equipment, and leadership to develop educational opportunities for all students. The need to bring back respect, discipline, strong educational standards, and a safe place to learn and come together as was a focal point years ago. We have lost that and need to get those back for the benefit of our students and our communities for a better future. I also support trade schools as well!

Michael Guzik: “I feel that the onus needs to be on the States to hold the Districts accountable for any mishandling of these funds. When you see that 35% of Charter Schools are no longer or never did meet the needs of the community then it is time for further oversight.

The reason that I am running is that I plan on leaving this country and planet in a better place than we currently sit today. All the main issues I am taking on have one thing in common: children. Housing creates stability in one’s life, so they are ready to learn. Healthcare for all allows for a healthy body that is ready to perform in school. Gun safety can get high caliber, high capacity weapons off the street and out of our schools. Creating positive steps towards reversing the effects of climate change will immediately begin to create a better air quality for all.

The one issue that I see as a real investment into the mind of a child is through fully funding schools including special education programs, increase teacher and administrative staff pay, offering tuition-free college and canceling all current student loan debt. If we plan to stay competitive in the field of STEAM — Science, Technology, Engineering, The Arts and Mathematics — we must properly fund our children’s education. Education is the key to all.”

Angelica Dueñas (from the candidate’s website)

Angelica Dueñas: “We will work to ensure that no public schools are privatized or taken over by corporate charters that end up running schools like a business. We oppose charter schools that don’t agree to their districts’ collective bargaining agreements with classified workers and teachers. Charters shouldn’t be used to bust unions. We also share concerns about some charter schools that have served as vehicles for the enrichment of real estate speculators.”


Carl Petersen is a parent, an advocate for students with special education needs, an elected member of the Northridge East Neighborhood Council, an appointed alternate to the LAUSD’s CAC, and was a Green Party candidate in LAUSD’s District 2 School Board race. During the campaign, he was endorsed by the Network for Public Education (NPE) Action and Dr. Diane Ravitch called him a “strong supporter of public schools.” His past blogs can be found at Opinions are his own.

Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash
Carl J. Petersen

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Parent, special education advocate and former LAUSD School Board candidate. Still fighting for the children.

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