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Bergeson Rejected for Schools Post

April 29, 1993

Was the rejection by Assembly Democrats of Marian Bergeson partisan? It was partisan to the extent it represented philosophical differences between the parties and their constituencies. Republicans representing affluent and predominantly middle-class suburban districts are not thrilled about the state of our public schools, but basically the schools work for them and their constituents. Their expectations for the state superintendent are modest, and they are satisfied with someone who has experience in education and who will pursue a moderate reform agenda. The calculus for Democrats, especially those who represent urban and inner-city schools, is different. Cities like Los Angeles desperately need someone who will be a fighter for education, who understands that the schools are not working for our children and who will be passionate about pursuing a major reform agenda.

After meeting with Sen. Bergeson to discuss her plans for California schools, I came to the conclusion that she was simply not the superintendent we need to help fight for the public schools that serve the diverse and complex communities of Los Angeles. Sen. Bergeson impressed me as a good, decent and able person, but not as someone who understands the problems of inner-city schools--lack of resources, overcrowding, crumbling infrastructure, rampant school violence, teen-age pregnancy, drug and alcohol use--to name some of the most obvious and troubling issues. Indeed, when asked for her views on her colleague Sen. David Roberti's proposal for the breakup of the L.A. Unified School District, Bergeson indicated that she was not familiar with the mechanics of the plan--a plan that is arguably the most immediate and far-reaching proposal with the ability to undermine even further the quality of Los Angeles inner-city schools.

Bergeson was rejected by the Assembly not because she was a Republican and not because she was Gov. Pete Wilson's choice. Bergeson was rejected because she lacked a vision for our schools and because she lacked the conviction to fight on behalf of those children who need a strong advocate the most.

LOUIS CALDERA

Assemblyman, D-Los Angeles

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