Rally to support STEM schools, defeat ‘boutique’ school bill AB 1217

LOS ANGELES – Educators, students, parents and graduates of district STEM schools will rally TODAY at 4 PM on the front steps of Helen Bernstein High School, home of a successful STEM program, to call out Assemblymember Raul Bocanegra and State Senator Anthony Portantino for their proposed bill that would give away funding and local authority to a boutique, privately-run STEM school in downtown LA.

Assembly Bill 1217 is a secretive, last-minute bill to create a publicly funded but privately operated STEM school, bypassing the local School Board, parents, and educators. If approved, it would take about 800 students from LAUSD but would not operate under the district’s purview. Citing accountability and funding concerns, the California Department of Finance recently issued a report opposing AB 1217. The bill would take away essential per-pupil funding and resources from the 142 STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) programs already run in the Los Angeles Unified School District.

The backers of the bill include Billionaire Eli Broad for years has bankrolled various “some kids, not all kids” schemes to kill the public education system that serves all students in favor of unregulated, unaccountable charter school operators. Ironically, Broad and his cohorts, like the California Charter Schools Association, just spent millions of dollars to buy the LA School Board election — and now he is driving a heavy-handed attempt to circumvent the same board just a few months later. Read LA Times story.

“This bill is an insult to the STEM programs that are in existence at LAUSD schools,” said Ben Kim, who teaches AP Calculus and AP Statistics at the STEM Academy @Bernstein. “Our STEM schools are doing amazing work, despite operating on shoestring budgets. Why don’t they fund these programs before allowing a billionaire-backed school to open up, without proper oversight and accountability?”

TODAY's protest follows a recent campus visit from newly elected board member Nick Melvoin, who praised the STEM @ Bernstein. The visit was then followed by a board vote to undercut funding at the same school, which is in his district. On Tuesday, Aug. 22, the LAUSD School Board voted 4-3 against George McKenna’s resolution opposing AB 1217. Divisive politics is what Nick Melvoin claimed to be avoiding as he voted along party lines, upholding the ‘billionaire bloc’ vote to deny local opposition to the state bill.

“The 4-3 school board vote shows that they are still beholden to their donors,” Kim said. “In their visit to our school, they tell us they support us. When it comes down to it, nice gestures mean nothing if they won’t fight for our public schools.”

Read Capital and Main story

Speakers will include: UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl, Dr. Ruth Montes (STEM graduate), current STEM students and educators, community members and parents who will call on Portantino, Bocanegra, Melvoin to save LAUSD’s STEM programs and kill AB 1217.


PRESS AVAILABILITY (English and Spanish interviews)

What: Rally against AB 1217

When: Monday, Aug. 28, 4 p.m. To 5 p.m.

Where: STEM @ Helen Bernstein High School
1309 N. Wilton Place
Los Angeles CA 90028

UTLA, the nation’s second-largest teachers’ union local, represents more than 35,000 teachers and health & human services professionals who work in the Los Angeles Unified School District and in charter schools.