The health and financial issues behind the Eastside school board race

Bennett Kayser (left) and Luis Sanchez

Voters from Echo Park and Silver Lake to El Sereno and East L.A. will decide on Tuesday which of two candidates – Bennett Kayser and Luis Sanchez – will  take a seat on L.A. Unified’s school board.  As the runoff election for District 5 enter its final hours, the candidates position on education issues have been overshadowed by other topics, ranging from the huge sums of money funneled into the campaign as well as the health of one of the candidates. Kayser, a retired teacher and Silver Lake resident, has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, a brain disorder without a known cure.  His hands shake visibly, a symptom of the disease, and it can be difficult for him to focus.  But, in a recent interview with KPCC, Kayser said his condition will not get in the way of serving as a school board member:

An election mailer for his opponent revealed that he’d failed to pay his property tax bill last year. He says it’s true he was late paying it. That was around the time that Parkinson’s disease was beginning to affect him. During the interview he loses his train of thought. He attributes it to the Parkinson’s. Kayser insists the disease wouldn’t stop him from carrying out his duties if elected. Instead, he says, it’ll actually make him a better board member. “Being able to empathize with the kids and the employees of the district who may have a disability. One of the things I really intend to do is to become an advocate for those people.”

Kayser has the backing of the United Teachers of Los Angeles. Sanchez, who was endorsed by the Los Angeles Times,  has the support of a committee organized by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

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  1. You have certainly misstated and downplayed what was put out there about Kayser and failure to pay taxes. Actually, that mailer, which I have right in front of me, said he failed to pay his taxes on 11 separate occasions since 2007, not simply last year one time!

    It seems to be the routine with him to pay his taxes if and when he’s in the mood. And at least part of those property taxes are on his rental property — he is a landlord of an apartment complex, collects rent, and ignores paying the taxes!

    The flyer said this approach to paying taxes has been going on for at least five years, not just in the past year with Parkinson’s.

    It also points out that while he was not paying his property taxes, he loaned his campaign $8,900 — so it’s not like he couldn’t afford to pay his taxes.

    The Times over the weekend reported that he has now produced a receipt of taxes being paid. I guess since the flyer went out, he rushed out and paid his back taxes to try to cover his ass in the campaign. Kind of too late — his attitude has already been shown.

  2. Tuesday’s election will determine whether we have a LAUSD District 5 school board member who listens to our community and parents or one beholden to the deep pocketed corporate charter school sector.


    Luis Sanchez, paid for by reactionaries Philip Anschutz, Eli Broad, Jerry Perenchio and Reed Hastings.

  3. This is such an easy election. If you think LAUSD is doing a good job teaching our kids then vote for the status quo candidate Kayser. He’s supported by the teacher’s union which likes things just the way they are. If, on the other hand, you think our schools need improving, then vote for reform candidate Luis Sanchez. He is the change candidate who will shake things up.

  4. Back in late April when the detestably desperate and nasty flyers from both smear-proud campaigns first started inundating my mailbox (and have since done so practically every day), rather than right in “Mickey Mouse” or not vote at all I decided to vote for the candidate who sent me the least. Today’s mail hasn’t arrived yet, but right now it stands: Kayser:40, Sanchez: 37.

  5. If by reform you mean pivateering corporate stooge that fixes school selections to favor monied interests over the community, then yes, Sanchez is the reform candidate.

  6. I like Bennett as a person and a community member but I will be voting for Luis for the simple reason that I believe he has a better grasp of the biggest problem- money and (I HATE saying this) employees who are unable to do the job they are being paid for- and the ability for find cures for these problems.
    Is he taking money from groups I don’t care for? Yes, but so are other canidates and elected officials I support. Money is a nasty but necessary part of being elected and re-elected.

  7. It’s one thing to want to improve the unions and the evaluation process of teachers. I support unions and I think there is always room for improvement. It’s another thing to support the deregulation and the privatization of public education. If you don’t believe in the fundamental value of providing an equally distributed and excellent education for all children who live here–including immigrants – then support the candidate who will continue the decimation of public education.

  8. Perhaps the right-wing reactionary @Mark can explain to us how the current LAUSD board, which holds a 6 to 1 majority in favor of the lucrative charter-voucher school industry, will somehow “shake things up” by replacing one privatizer (Yolie Flores, off to enjoy her rewards from the Gates Foundation) with another privatization minded member in Sanchez? Moreover, Sanchez is LAUSD Board President Monica Garcia’s chief of staff, so Sanchez changing positions “shake[s] things up?”

    The status quo in LAUSD is the board being bullied by hedge fund managers, bankers, tycoons, and other plutocrats including Philip Anschutz, Eli Broad, Jerry Perenchio and Reed Hastings — who just so happen to be Luis Sanchez’s biggest campaign contributors. On local issues, Kayser supported the public school LD4 & Echo Park Community Partners Plan, Sanchez refused to comment. On keeping the democratic Advisory Vote for the PSC process, Kayser supports it and wants it to be more binding, Sanchez refused to comment. I think it’s safe to say that since Sanchez always puts the interests of well heeled charter school executives above those of our communities, that his reasons for refusing to comment are pretty obvious.

    Eastsider LA readers should familiarize themselves with Philip Anschutz’s politics and who he funds aside from Luis Sanchez. Such knowledge would guarantee they wouldn’t vote for Sanchez (well, with the exception of teabaggers).

  9. Like Will Campbell, I too decided to vote for the person from whom I received the least number of annoying flyers. I’m voting for Bennett Kayser! (Guess Will’s mailbox got hit more often than mine!)

  10. Windy O'Malley

    My dear friends and neighbors, please join me and Jackie Goldberg and vote for Bennett Kayser in TUESDAY’s election. Please vote tomorrow for Bennet Kayser to the LA School Board — this is the most important vote of this year.

    Neighbors and friends,
    As you all know I have been recently very active in our Local schools. Throughout the last 8 months I have been able to meet Bennet Kayser, and he he has so impressed me with his passion for education, his love for our neighborhood and his guts to take on Luis Sanchez and the HUGE political machine that has built and support him. I don’t want to get into the negatives about Luis Sanchez, but I personally have been very upset and offended by him. During the Cres#14 debacle and since, L. Sanchez did not return one phone call or email to The Echo Park Mom’s and Dad’s for Education. He did not attend any community meetings and yet was a part of the group that handed our $69 million dollar new school to a private group who is not serving our community. He also has never been an educator, he has not had one single day as a teacher and has no idea what we and our children need and experience. His political ties and connections to private money is very, very concerning for a person who will be representing our area, our schools and the $ contacts that will be awarded. Luis Sanchez means to reward his friends for the millions paid into his campaign and to use the School Board position to launch his political career.

    Bennet on the other hand attended many meetings regarding Cres#14 and offered his help in any way he could. Something not mentioned about him is that he has Parkinson’s disease and this will likely be his last service to our community. He is looking to serve us as our School Board rep in the best way a human can and not use us and our schools as a ladder. Most of us have probably met Bennet as he has been a parent and active member of our community. If you haven’t had the opportunity to meet him, please take it from me he is a very nice and honest man who is only doing his best to be a civil servant and help the community he lives in and loves.
    Please PLEASE Vote for Bennet tomorrow. Windy O’Malley

    Please forward this to everyone in the area. SB 5 area includes Los Feliz, Silver Lake, Highland Park, Atwater, Mount Washington, Eagle Rock, and many more see area 5 in white:

    Positive facts Facts about Bennett:

    Bennett has lived in the same house in the Echo Park/Silver Lake area for the past 34 years. He and his wife Peggy have raised two wonderful children, Nathan and Noah, who attended Ivanhoe Elementary, King Middle School, and graduated from John Marshall High School.
    Bennett Kayser served as a LAUSD middle school and science teacher for more than 14 years before retiring. He taught in regular classrooms and in an independent study program with students at risk of dropping out of school.
    As a District teacher, Bennett saw more and more waste of resources that could have been used in classrooms, but were instead squandered away.
    As a result of cutbacks to classroom funds, Bennett had a budget of $1.95 per student to teach seventh grade science and health – not enough to buy even the most basic of supplies.
    Along with prioritizing classroom funding, Bennett wants to be a school board member in order to recreate an environment where teachers can use their creativity and skills to make kids life‐long learners, not just proficient test‐takers. He will push for curriculum with more flexibility. Bennett believes that every student should graduate with the knowledge and skills necessary to enter the job market and lead successful, healthy and productive lives.

    Bennett was named “Teacher of the Year” by Chadwicks of Boston. Before becoming a successful teacher, Bennett had served in various roles within the technology and medical fields:
    – Information Technology Director for the Pasadena USD Executive Director of the Southern California Renal Disease Council o ESRD (End‐Stage Renal Disease) Coordinator for Children’s Hospital Los Angeles

    Bennett has an extensive background as a community leader and advocate.
    Bennett chaired the Committee on a More Responsive City Government with an Involved Citizenry.
    He served as one of 15 commissioners elected to reform the Los Angeles City Charter. This Commission was charged with reforming Los Angeles city government by updating and rewriting the City Charter (constitution).
    Some of the changes included:
    – Equal benefits for domestic partners and married couples working for the city
    – Neighborhood councils as a local voice for communities
    – At least a “living wage” rather than a minimum wage for City workers and contractors who do business with the City.

  11. Go Bennett!!!!!!!

  12. Wish I lived in the district that has the school board seat up for voting. I’d vote for Kayser, who would like to keep public schools PUBLIC.

  13. I think this quote from a commenter on the Patch sums it up quite well:

    “Luis Sanchez, despite the claims by [Anthony Krinsky] of his being a ‘long shot’ and the subject of a ‘smear campaign,’ is the hand picked favored son to his benefactor, Monica Garcia who presided over the board which was honored last year by the Chicago-based National Assn. of Charter School Authorizers for authoriz[ing] more charter schools than any other school district, nation-wide! This is private enterprise killing and profiting from the aspiration of equitably distributed public education.

    Where is the voice for equal quality education for all children in Los Angeles?”

  14. This is a very hot button issue. I see both sides. Ive gotten tons of mail. Ive done my research. I may not know everything but my vote is for Sanchez. Im a proud democrat but the UTLA seems to only be looking out for their own intrests instead of those for the students. Sanchez seems pretty legit. He started that “Summer Night Lights” program where they keep the lights on at local parks and recs areas, so that kids have organized activities. Obviously millions of dollars have been spent on this race. Most of the mail from Kayser just bashed Sanchez but never really pointed out the positives of himself? This election will come down to voter turnout and the Latino vote. We will see.

  15. Whomever you choose to vote for in this election, I don’t think whether any charter schools will be running some of the schools will really be affected. Charter schools are MANDATED by law here now, law which the voters previously voted for. Whether you favor or oppose charter schools, the school district is under legal requirement to bring in charter schools. This election will not affect that.

    The only issue that might be in play is exactly how those charter schools are implemented.

    Mind you, in the discussion of the new school by Sunset and Alvarado, the issue wasn’t charter school or public school. The teacher’s union was not proposing a public school, but a charter school run by the union — which certainly was to protect union benefits.

    So, pick your candidate on some issue other than whether you favor or oppose charter schools.

  16. @Tom — you are absolutely right. This vote is about the process of implementation of charter schools (and there needs to be a distinction made between professional charters and charter schools that reflect the original vision of the the charter school movement as a way to improve public education, not privatize it). Villaraigosa has stacked the school board with members who are set on dismantling the “public” of public education, who are making deals to give away new LAUSD campuses to Professional Charters before communities have the opportunity to voice what they want, and who are next week eliminating the community/parent advisory vote. Luis Sanchez may have started some great programs but as an LAUSD board member, hand picked by super pro charter supporters, who is he really going to represent?

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