As many voters will admit, the Los Angeles Community College District elections are a lot more low-key, and possibly a lot less interesting to many people, than most of the other races on the spring ballot. In fact, it’s likely that many voters haven’t even heard of any of the current candidates, and are not really sure why they should be bothered to vote in these races, especially if they’re not community college students or parents of community college students.
- The LACCD operates 9 colleges in greater Los Angeles: East LA College, Los Angeles City College, Los Angeles Harbor College, Los Angeles Mission College, Pierce College, Los Angeles Southwest College, Los Angeles Trade Tech College, Los Angeles Valley College and West Los Angeles College.
- Although the major mission of these schools is to prepare young adult students for successful transfers to four-year colleges and the degrees they can earn there, the LACCD schools are also – even more basically – dedicated to lifelong learning, and are, in fact, open to learners of all ages and all types.
- More than half of LACCD students are over the age of 25…and 25% are over the age of 35.
- 80% of LACCD students are from under-served populations, and half live below the poverty line.
- A new program will offer a free year of tuition to all LAUSD students who graduate this year.
- Local students in grades K-12 may also enroll as part-time LACCD students (to make up credits, or to accelerate their learning) free of charge.
- In addition to degree- and credit-oriented students, the schools serve those in workforce development programs, those wanting to change careers, and anyone, from any walk of life, who simply wants to expand their knowledge and horizons.
- The schools serve a total of more than 230,000 students each year, and over the last 77 years have educated more than 3 million Angelenos.
This amazing public resource is governed by an 8-member board (7 elected members and one student member), who oversee budgets, operations and current and future goals for the Community College system. All board members are elected at large, to four-year terms, with half of the board up for election every two years.
It’s also interesting to note that because these elections are so low-key, they tend to be very accessible to people interested in running for elective office for the first time – in fact, the first elected position Governor Jerry Brown held, back in 1969, was an LACCD seat. So it’s also possible that newcomers to the LACCD races this year could be faces to watch in other elections, for other bodies, further down the line.
This year, three LACCD seats are turning over, with issues of fiscal responsibility. expansion of services, and the goal of establishing free tuition for more (if not all) learners as major issues in the races. Here’s who’s running for the seats:
Steve Goldstein – Listed in the official city ballot as a “Community College Advocate,” online searches turn up no other information about him.
Steven Veres – If Veres’ name sounds familiar to local voters, it’s because he was one of the many candidates vying for former City Council District 4 representative Tom La Bonge’s seat in 2015. Before that race, he served one term on the LACCD board (during which he also served as president), and he’s now looking to return. He is endorsed by the L.A. Times, and by the Los Angeles Democratic Party, although this is not a partisan position. Veres is also a former teacher and currently works as an aide to State Senate Leader Kevin de León.
Sergio Vargas – Listed in the official city ballot as an “Education Advocate,” Vargas is another candidate for whom no relevant information exists in public searches.
Thomas J. Norman – A management and marketing professor at Cal State Dominguez Hills, Norman has also been a Commissioner for the California State University system. His goals for LACCD include expanding access for non-traditional students, and providing two years of free higher education to all residents of the LACCD.
Dallas Denise Fowler – A former Commissioner on the Los Angeles Board of Police Commissioners Permit Review Panel and Commission on the Status of Women, Fowler is also active on the boards of several arts and community organizations, and with several local Democratic Party and Democratic Club groups. She is endorsed by 25 current elected officials, including U.S. Representative Karen Bass, seven current members of the Los Angeles City Council, and the Los Angeles County Democratic Party.
Ernest H. Moreno – A former president of the East Los Angeles Community College, a retired district administrator, and the incumbent in this race, Moreno won the endorsement of the LA Times, which called him “the clear choice,” and says he has “an impressive level of institutional knowledge, albeit heavy on the financial and operational side.”
Gabriel Buelna – A Chicano Studies lecturer at California State University Northridge, and the executive director of Plaza Community Services, Buelna is endorsed by both the Los Angeles County Democratic Party and the L.A. Times, which praised his student-oriented perspective gained through his other two current positions.
Nancy Pearlman – Perlman, the incumbent in this race, is a 16-year veteran of the position and has championed sustainable buildings and operations for the District. She also has long experience, according to her LACCD bio, as a journalist and environmentalist.