More at Stake in this Election than Charter vs. Traditional

Juan Trujillo, incoming first-year student at University of California, Davis

The LAUSD school board runoff election on May 16 is shaping up to have a major impact on the district, particularly in District 4 where Nick Melvoin and Steve Zimmer are the frontrunners. The race is largely being framed as a contest between teacher union supporters versus charter school advocates. In reality, there is much more at stake for the future of the district than the administrative details of school type. The real issue is how the district is going to provide a quality K-12 education that prepares underserved students like me for college. As a first generation college student born and raised in South Gate, I am throwing my support behind Nick Melvoin because he is the candidate who will make real progress.

I was lucky enough to attend a quality pilot high school in the district — International Studies Learning center — located in a predominantly Latino, low income community. The academic and enrichment opportunities there were endless. I was fully prepared for the college application process (as evidenced by the 16 applications I completed). I was accepted to 12 schools, and finally chose one to attend this fall.

For many students in LAUSD, however, making a decision is not an option for them. According to the California department of education data reporting center, an astonishing 52% of the district seniors graduated with UC/CSU required courses in the 14–15 year. While the district claims to have made progress with graduation rates, no one should be satisfied with these results. Part of the increase over the past year is the lowering of standards in A-G requirements. The district lowered the passing grade to a D, a disservice to students because that is not enough for students to truly be prepared for higher education.

Following the momentum of activism in this country since the 2016 election, I am doing my part by encouraging people to vote on May 16 and raising awareness of the importance of school board elections in the community. I joined a fellowship this year to learn about the electoral process and the importance of education advocacy. We endorsed Melvoin because he puts kids first. He plans to allow schools to have local autonomy and believes that schools should have the option to create policies that meet the specific needs of their students. Based on my own school experience, I know this is true.

All students deserve to have the same opportunities that I had by attending International. In order for students to have a quality education, voters must choose their candidate wisely. This upcoming election is very important and the stakes are high. The better educated our students are, the brighter our future will be. Please vote on May 16.

Juan Trujillo will attend UC Davis next fall and is a member of Students for Education Reform Action Network.