Los Angeles mayoral candidate Eric Garcetti mingles with his supporters. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles…)
Los Angeles mayoral candidate Eric Garcetti picked up the backing of school board member Tamar Galatzan on Friday and responded to criticism over his statements on a measure targeting low-achieving schools.
Standing outside a school in Porter Ranch in the San Fernando Valley, Galatzan – who has been on the school board since 2007 -- praised Garcetti as someone who would work closely with Los Angeles Unified School District.
Minutes before Galatzan spoke, rival Wendy Greuel’s campaign sent an email asserting that Garcetti had given mixed messages on the so-called “parent trigger,” which allows parents at a low-performing school to force aggressive changes, such as handing it over to an outside operator.
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Garcetti told the L.A. Weekly in February that he was not sure the parent trigger “on its own" would provide "systematic and meaningful parent involvement and local control" to improve schools. Weeks later, Garcetti endorsed the parent trigger outright.
Greuel spokesman Dave Jacobson called that a flip-flop and said Garcetti “can’t seem to quite figure out where he stands" on the measure. "When it comes to school reform, it seems clear we can't trust anything Eric Garcetti says," Jacobson wrote in the email.
Garcetti said he supports the parent trigger but believes it can't be used to improve the majority of L.A. Unified campuses.
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“I support anything including the parent trigger that helps empower parents,” he said. "What I have said also consistently ... is that a parent trigger or something like that on its own is not going to single-handedly reform education, that those are going to be the exceptional cases. We have to look at comprehensive tools for all of our schools, not just those that are the most failing, where the parent trigger may come in."
Jacobson, the Greuel campaign consultant, highlighted Garcetti's support from United Teachers Los Angeles, saying the union “staunchly opposes” the parent trigger. In his email, Jacobson noted that "school reformer" Monica Garcia did not get support from Garcetti in her recent school board campaign.
That label for Garcia was much more positive than the ones used by Jacobson's firm, Shallman Communications, earlier this year. Working as a campaign consultant for UTLA, the firm called Garcia a "failed school board president" who is "breaking our schools."
Shallman's mailers also criticized Garcia for supporting charter schools. "Why did Monica Garcia give so many of our local schools away?" read one mail piece, which featured faces of several sad-eyed children. "We need to be supported, not abandoned."
Jacobson said he saw nothing problematic with highlighting Garcetti's ties to UTLA while also working for the union this year. "The only thing inconsistent is Eric Garcetti's position on issues," he said.
The school board, including Galatzan and Garcia, allowed the parent trigger process to move forward at 24th Street Elementary School two months ago. Parents will vote Tuesday on the school's future -- including whether a charter should run all or part of the campus.