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Decision '93 / A Look at the Elections in Los Angeles County : Los Angeles School Board : 4th DISTRICT : Q AND A

April 11, 1993

CONTENDERS

Douglas Michael Lasken, 47, of Woodland Hills is a second-grade teacher at Ramona Elementary School in Los Angeles. He holds a bachelor's degree in English from the University of Minnesota and a master's degree in educational administration from National University of San Diego. He ran for Los Angeles Community College District Office No. 7 in 1986.

Mark David Slavkin, 31, of Los Angeles was elected to the Board of Education in 1989. He previously worked as a health expert for Los Angeles County Supervisor Ed Edelman. He holds bachelor's and master's degrees in political science from USC.

Judith R. Solkovits, 58, of Northridge is a business agent for a clerical employees union at Walt Disney Studios and Paramount Pictures. She holds a bachelor's degree in education from the University of Minnesota and has done graduate work in education at UCLA. This is her first try at public office.

Campus Safety

Q. How can we economically increase safety on our campuses?

Lasken: Promote laws to hold parents accountable for actions of minor children. Educate students in importance of human life so that the "code of silence" can be broken. Install metal detectors.

Slavkin: I have always supported automatic expulsion for students caught with a gun on campus. I support the use of metal detectors and the "800" tip line. Recently, the board approved my motion creating an Emergency Task Force on Youth Violence to bring all levels of government together to adopt a joint plan of action.

Solkovits: The entire issue in this campaign is how the Los Angeles Unified School District's funds are budgeted. When you have almost $4 billion, there should be enough money to make each campus safe. The incumbent school board has not chosen to do so, and it is easy to see the mess that the members of the board have created through poor decision-making.

District Breakup

Q. Are you in favor of a breakup of the Los Angeles Unified School District? If so, should there be a Valley-wide district or even smaller entities within the Valley?

Lasken: I am strongly in favor of breaking up LAUSD. The new districts should be of a size that enhances accountability to the community. For the Valley, this would most likely involve at least two districts.

Slavkin: I support the elimination of the central school board and the transfer of budgets and decision-making to the local schools, grouped by the 49 high school complexes for coordination and planning. I do not support the creation of more boards, unions and bureaucracies.

Solkovits: Not at this time. With all the work parents, community leaders, the teachers' union and others have put into the LEARN Project, which would decentralize the district, and with the existence of a detailed plan by the teachers' union done over many months to reorganize and decentralize the district, it would be foolhardy not to give these proposed reforms an opportunity to work, especially considering the time and cost of breaking up the district, not to mention the real chance that a breakup would merely create many small bureaucracies, not real educational reform.

Breakup Motivation

Q. Do you believe the breakup movement to be motivated by race?

Lasken: I do not believe the breakup movement has anything to do with race. The Valley is home to many diverse ethnic groups who would be better served by smaller, community-based school districts.

Slavkin: No. I believe the breakup movement is motivated largely by a frustration with top-down decision-making that fails to address the unique needs of local schools.

Solkovits: No. I think it is motivated by politics and misconceptions. Some politicians are cynically using the issue while others seem to be viewing a breakup as a panacea to solve all the problems schools face. It's not a panacea.

LEARN Proposals

Q. Do you support the LEARN proposals to decentralize decision - making by the school site?

Lasken: I support many aspects of LEARN, but I believe LEARN is being overemphasized as a panacea and alternative to breakup. Suggestion: Allocate some of the $3 million in LEARN seed money to buy metal detectors now.

Slavkin: Yes. I strongly support LEARN and was the first board member to publicly endorse the LEARN effort.

Solkovits: Yes. The LEARN proposal offers the LAUSD an opportunity to begin the process of restructuring--a process that should have begun years ago. But some advocate the eventual elimination of the school board--something I view as incredibly dangerous. It's important to have an elected school board that is directly responsible to the voters of the LAUSD.

Pressing Issues

Q. What is currently the most important issue in Los Angeles public education?

Lasken: Low teacher morale is the No. 1 problem in Los Angeles public education. I fault Mark Slavkin and some other board members for losing sight of the paramount role teachers play in achieving our educational goals.

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