On October 13th, 2020, United Way of Greater LA hosted a LAUSD Board District 7 Virtual Candidates Forum in partnership with SBCC, League of Women Voters, CLASS coalition, and the United Way’s Young Civic Leaders Program.

Students, teachers and parents attended via Zoom and Facebook Live with the intention of seeking answers for pressing questions that affect their everyday lives.

Candidates Tanya Franklin Ortiz and Patricia Castellanos spoke passionately about their plans to promote equity for students in distance learning and overall student health. The candidates were asked questions by civically engaged parents with students in the district, Faith Wroten and Hilda Avila. These parents were joined by two high school juniors destined for extremely bright futures, Yairel Juarez and Citlali Rodriguez.

The forum highlighted the fact that only half of LAUSD students meet or exceed standards set for English and only a fourth meet or exceed math standards. Opportunity gaps our students experience are unacceptable. Reading comprehension, math scores and English levels miss the mark especially in schools with primarily Black and Brown students.

COVID-19 threatens to increase these disparities and push the District even further away from equity. This crisis is forcing students into distance learning and extending families past their limits. Our most vulnerable students and families are not receiving the support or instruction they need to continue learning. The pandemic deepened gaps and highlighted the existing disparities.

LAUSD must be accountable to all students. Equity-based approaches need to be at the forefront of school board decisions. During the forum, candidates were asked what they would do to implement a community centered, equity based approach to LAUSD District 7. Both candidates committed to ensure parents and students voices are heard including in how funds are spent.

As we continue to address the digital divide for families throughout Los Angeles and engage them in the civic process, United Way donated 36 chrome books to families in the Board District. This allowed these families to participate in the event.

A full recording of the Forum is available here.