Pass / Fail

So Cal education, LAUSD, the Cal States and the UCs

Readers quiz: LA Unified school board candidates

Alex Johnson (L) and George McKenna (R) are running to represent a swath of South Los Angeles at the LAUSD board.
Alex Johnson (L) and George McKenna (R) are running to represent a swath of South Los Angeles at the LAUSD board. Annie Gilbertson, KPCC

While the rest of us will have to wait for November to cast our next ballot, Tuesday is election day for one slice of Los Angeles.

Voters in South L.A. will choose between Alex Johnson and George McKenna for the open seat on the Los Angeles Unified school board. They replace Marguerite LaMotte, who died unexpectedly in December.

With only one question on the ballot, fewer than 10 percent of South L.A. voters are expected to turnout to Tuesday's election, making each vote extremely valuable. 

Neither candidate garnered enough votes to claim victory in the primary election last June - though McKenna raked in almost twice the number of votes as Johnson did. 

Tuesday's winning candidate will join an ideologically split school board.

Johnson, an education policy advisor, is the favorite for self-described school reformers, who favor tying teacher evaluations to test scores and champion charter school growth. 

McKenna, a retired school administrator, was endorsed by United Teachers Los Angeles, which advocates for smaller class sizes and more school jobs. 

KPCC reached out to readers for their questions for the candidates. Many of the respondents were educators themselves, closely watching the election and the opportunity to shift school board politics. Here are some of their questions - and the candidates' answers.

1. Brent Smiley, U.S. history teacher, Lawrence Middle School:

What lens (teacher, parent, student, policy maker) are they going to use to make their decisions?

Johnson: My goal would be to engage teachers, parents, administrators and policy makers around some the core issues that we face.

McKenna: I'm not myopic, I'm not monolithic. I approach it through my experience. I wear a multiplicity of hats consistently.

2. Stephen Rochelle, school administrator, L.A. Unified:

Give an historical perspective of Black student achievement in LAUSD. Talk about this group and strategies for improvement.

Johnson: There are a lot of factors that have kept students behind. Part of it relates to the historic vestiges of segregation that have not been fully eradicated in African American communities. Strategy number one - early childhood education. I think that's a sound investment.

McKenna: We have not come to grips with damage that has been done to the black community  over the years. We think that, because the law has changed, we have a level playing field. Our expectations for ourselves are often hindered by the limits that others place on it. We just have to have access to resources. We deserve it, because we've been kept down by law.

3. Kay Brown, artist, Venice:

What further action will you take to improve education - even if you are not elected?

Johnson: My commitment to education has been to childhood to present. I was student in LAUSD who was able to go on to college and law school. I've worked on education policy. This is not something I intend to end once this election is over.

McKenna: I’m not disappearing. I’m not that old soldier who faded away.  I've been an activist since I was 14 years old. For rights. For freedom. And even to get a quality eduction.

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