California Forum

In California governor’s race, let’s focus on what’s really at stake

Democratic gubernatorial candidates Gavin Newsom, left, and Antonio Villaraigosa shake hands after a debate at the California Theatre, Tuesday, May 8, 2018, in San Jose, Calif. The former mayors have differing approaches to charter schools. (Aric Crabb/San Jose Mercury News-Bay Area News Group via AP)
Democratic gubernatorial candidates Gavin Newsom, left, and Antonio Villaraigosa shake hands after a debate at the California Theatre, Tuesday, May 8, 2018, in San Jose, Calif. The former mayors have differing approaches to charter schools. (Aric Crabb/San Jose Mercury News-Bay Area News Group via AP) AP

Claiming that charter public school supporters are a faction trying to hijack the governor’s race is not only false, but it completely ignores the millions spent by various other interest groups for their preferred candidate. What’s worse, is that it ignores the most important issue in this race: California’s kids. (“Don’t let charter schools cloud the race for Brown’s successor. Vote Newsom or Chiang,” Editorial, May 6)

Kids, not money or political wars waged by adults, must be our focus. Ensuring that they have access to the best education possible must be our priority.

Charter public schools aren’t clouding the race for Brown’s successor. Instead, the charter school community is coming together to shine a light on what’s really at stake: Our kids.

The top two candidates for governor have starkly different records when it comes to prioritizing public education and making sure California’s kids are succeeding academically.

While they both served as big city mayors who inherited communities with many failing public schools, the similarities end there. One candidate decided to do something about the problem, while the other did nothing and is now protecting the status quo.

As mayor of Los Angeles, Antonio Villaraigosa didn’t ignore the issue of failing schools. Instead, he created the Partnership for Los Angeles Schools and turned around LA’s lowest performing schools and significantly improved graduation rates, which continue to rise today. Villaraigosa’s commitment to students is clear, and he will continue to create opportunities by improving access to high-quality public education options.

It’s far different in San Francisco. During Gavin Newsom’s tenure as mayor, graduation rates dropped dramatically and inequality, especially for African-American and Latino students, rose significantly. So much so, that civil rights groups are now calling for a “State of Emergency” over the city’s stark racial achievement gap.

Villaraigosa saw a crisis unfolding and got involved. That made all the difference. Newsom walked away, and students are failing because of his inaction.

California’s students and families, including those living in our inner cities and rural communities, deserve to know what’s at stake in this gubernatorial election. Charter public schools aren’t clouding the race for Brown’s successor. Instead, the charter school community is coming together to shine a light on what’s really at stake: Our kids.

Jed Wallace is a California Charter Schools Association Advocates board member and CCSA President and CEO. Reach him at communications@ccsaadvocates.org.

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