Charges of Anti-Semitism Further Mar an Already Ugly L.A. School Board Race

The ideological battle between charter school advocates and public school advocates is heating up in the West Valley

An effort by West San Fernando Valley charter school supporters to replace Los Angeles school board member Scott Schmerelson with a local charter school proponent turned ugly last week when Schmerelson’s political enemies distributed a mailer depicting him wearing a gold dollar sign necklace and clutching a cigar and a fistful of cash, the Los Angeles Times reports.

The image, which was condemned by teachers union President Alex Caputo-Pearl and others for being anti-Semitic, is accompanied by the title, “Scott Schmerelson’s Guide to Get Rich Quick (at the expense of our kids).”

Gregory McGinity, executive director of California Charter Schools Association Advocates, said that members of the L.A. school board “clearly do not want high-quality charter schools operating in this city. They have pushed forward, where they can, to find opportunities to harass charter schools and to look to close them down and take away those opportunities from students… That’s why we’re engaged in this election.”

To that end, the pro-charter political action committee has backed district parent and charter school outreach worker Marilyn Koziatek in the March 3 election to the tune of over $2 million, nearly $900,000 of which funded the Schmerelson attack mailers, according to the Times. Schmerelson, the teachers union’s pick, has just $570,000 to work with—mostly provided by the union.

If Koziatek wins, the board may lean toward expanding privately run, non-union charter schools, which opponents say unfairly drains the public system of students who are the easiest and least expensive to educate. About one in five district students attend charters.

Koziatek is trying to put space between herself and the attack blitz, saying, “I thought the mailer was done in a crude and inappropriate manner. This is just another example of the sad reflection of the polarized climate of LAUSD politics that is not good for our kids.”

The mailer with the Schmerelson caricature also features the false claim that he voted to triple his own salary, and says he “double-dipped” by earning a pension and a board salary. Schmerelson does get both, but so have board members that CCSA Advocates has endorsed in previous elections.

Other ads accuse Schmerelson of profiting off deadly vaping products that target kids because he has owned stock in Altria, the tobacco company that bought 35 percent of Juul. His detractors also say he has an unhealthy alliance with McDonalds because he owned stock in the company and backed fellow principals’ tradition of holding school fundraisers at the fast food giant’s franchises. The rest of the board voted to end the practice.

Charter supporters contend that it’s the other side that stoops to anti-Semitic stereotypes, painting charter backers as “greedy, corporate billionaires.”

In a statement on his campaign site, Schmerelson reacted to his depiction in the mailers, writing, “This seems to be a time in our country when Democracy is being shredded by spineless leaders, and their billionaire supporters, who believe that there are no lies, no distortions, no attempts to divide communities that are off limits as long as really rich people can pay.”

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