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June 7, 2016 — California Primary Election
Party Committee

Los Angeles County Democratic Party — Democratic PartyCandidate for County Central Committee, Assembly District 54

Photo of David Lyell

David Lyell

Teacher/Actor
11,072 votes (4.62%)
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My Top 3 Priorities

  • Working to ensure adequate funding for public education and essential public services, which are woefully underfunded in California.
  • Working to repeal Citizens United, so that all voters have a voice in our political process, and not just those with unlimited deep pockets.
  • Working to increase Voter Outreach efforts to ensure that the public has access to participating in our democratic process.

Experience

Experience

Profession:LAUSD Teacher (Long Term Substitute in City of Angels Independent Study)
Substitute Teacher, LAUSD (1998–current)
Elected Secretary, United Teachers Los Angeles (2011–2014)

Education

American Film Institute Master of Fine Arts, Screenwriting (1996)
UC Santa Barbara Bachelor of Arts, English, Journalism (1993)

Community Activities

Board Member, Democrats for Israel (2013–2015)
Vice President, Political, West LA Democratic Club (2013–2013)
CTA 2011-12 Ralph J. Flynn Memorial Award for Websites, CTA (2012–2012)
CFT Early Childhood K-12 Council Emerging Union Leadership Award, California Federation of Teachers (2010–2010)
California State Senate Res. #2252 - Recognition for March for CA's Future, California State Senate (2010–2010)

Biography

In 2010 I marched 365 miles over 48 days with five other activists, from Bakersfield to Sacramento, in the March for California’s Future, an effort to fight for passage of Prop 30 to save our schools and local public safety services. From 2011-14 I served as a full-time release union Officer as the elected Secretary with United Teachers Los Angeles. I am currently a Substitute Teacher with LAUSD, teaching in a long-term position at City of Angeles Independent Study, and I am also an actor. I’ve written about these issues for numerous blogs, and some of those articles, along with my Linkedin professional profile and more information can be found at davidlyell.net

Who supports this candidate?

Organizations (1)

  • Evolve - A Community Organization - http://www.evolve-ca.org

Political Beliefs

Political Philosophy

I believe we should be providing a quality, public education to all, as learning is a pathway to self-awareness and a better life. Among other issues, I also believe as a society we should provide affordable housing, quality healthcare, reasonable voter access (and voice), and a fair tax structure that does not disproportionally burden our most under-served communities. 

 

 

Position Papers

(January 2014) The Recent Supreme Court Decision Gives Even More Power to the Wealthy

Summary

As if the decision in Citizens United weren't bad enough, the Supreme Court just handed more power to the wealthy.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-lyell/the-recent-supreme-court-decision-wealthy_b_5113079.html

 Per-pupil funding in California ranks near the very bottom of all states, and, unfortunately, this isn’t likely to change anytime soon. Thanks to Proposition 13 — which passed as a ballot initiative in 1978 — when the state was flush with cash, longtime land owners such as the Walt Disney Company still pay property taxes on values assessed in the 1970s (Disney pays roughly five cents per square foot for much of their Disneyland property). But working to increase funding for public education just isn’t a priority among those with almost limitless resources, including Eli Broad, ultraconservatives David and Charles Koch, David Welch (funder of the Vergara lawsuit), and other millionaires and billionaires.

Thanks to their efforts and those of others, unions have had to play defense and respond to each and every attack just to maintain the very few job protections public employees actually do have. In 2012 it was Prop 32, which, among other provisions, would have prohibited unions from using payroll deduction for political purposes. This spring it’s the Vergara trial, which seeks to eliminate seniority provisions and due process related to the hiring and firing of teachers.

Teaching is a thankless job. Though Prop. 30 provided a windfall to schools and it’s been nearly seven years since LAUSD employees have seen a raise, the school district has yet to even propose any sort of salary increase for employees.

Though the voices of the working class are often already ignored by management, astonishingly, it could get worse. With the Supreme Court’s recent ruling that caps on political contributions are unconstitutional, individuals and unions could be in an even more imbalanced fight for our very survival. Though the ruling affects a limited number of wealthy individuals — lifting a cap of $123,000 in campaign contributions to congressional candidates — the decision shows that the court may take even more drastic steps to eliminate all contribution limits in the future.

Representing the majority, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote:

Spending large sums of money in connection with elections... does not give rise to quid pro quo corruption. Nor does the possibility that an individual who spends large sums may garner influence over elected officials.

Ever since their formation, unions have been under attack by those seeking to weaken the voices of workers, and the movement has survived by advocating for the reasonable: a fair wage, adequate working conditions, and due process protections to ensure that management is acting responsibly when disciplining employees.

 

Yet for the U.S. Supreme Court to rule that money doesn’t buy influence just shows how far out of touch the majority is with the interests of Americans. Who has $123,000 in pocket change to donate to political campaigns? Anyway, it’s more important than ever that we vote and that we do everything possible to increase voter participation to try to level the advantage that money and power buys.

Low voter turnout is not just a problem in public elections. In the first round ofvoting in the recent UTLA presidential election conducted through a mailed ballot to members’ residences, only 22 percent (or 7,099) of the 32,000 eligible members voted, which represents only a small increase in participation over the 2011 UTLA elections, when roughly 17 percent of all members participated. By contrast, in March 2013, more 17,000 members participated in school site based voting in the “no confidence” vote on LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy.

Elections have a price. Making a decision not to vote should not be celebrated as some sort of statement of rebellion or independence. People have literally fought and died for the right to vote, and it’s important to not just remember that, but to defend that sacrifice by encouraging others to participate in our democratic processes. It’s incumbent on all of us to do everything possible to make sure that, however citizens cast ballots, whether they are on the right or wrong side of an issue, that they vote.

 

 

(January 2014) Would You Like Fries With Your iPad?

Summary

On LAUSD's technology plan to provide an iPad to every student while our most under-served communities continue to go without.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-lyell/would-you-like-fries-with_b_4628325.html

 

Prior to the LAUSD vote January 14, 2014 to approve Phase II of the district’s $1 billion iPad project, I shared the following remarks with school board members during the three minutes allotted each speaker during Public Comment:

 

Good afternoon, board members, Superintendent, sorry about that [jumping the gun], I was looking for my iPad. Part of this discussion about iPads has been framed as — I’m David Lyell, UTLA Secretary — it’s been framed as a debate about who should and should not have access to technology. No one is opposed to providing students with access to technology. This project really isn’t about technology. This is about providing a vehicle for students to conveniently complete common core state standards testing.

The problem with this whole focus on testing is that taking tests in and of itself doesn’t really teach you anything other than how to press a button or how to fill in a bubble. It doesn’t teach you critical thinking skills. And, speaking as an individual, that’s part of the problem with Common Core State Standards. We had No Child Left Behind and then Race to the Top. Now we have Common Core State Standards. Because they say, well, it’ll be transformational. Because, after all, if students can’t pass the current tests, the solution must be to give students different tests. Obviously, that’s completely not true.

The iPad project goes to the heart of this issue and instead we need to focus on teaching students the basics of learning how to read, write, add, and subtract, and develop critical thinking skills. Those skills are developed through asking questions. Those questions only get asked when you lower class size, fully staff campuses, honor due process rights, pay employees a fair living wage, and expose students to a well-rounded curriculum. Yet teachers in LAUSD remain near the bottom of all teacher pay in LA County, due process is often not being honored, and the idea of providing students with essential supports and services — smaller class sizes and fully staffed campuses — have all but been dismissed by the board.

Computers are everywhere nowadays. But in the end, in and of itself, giving students iPads isn’t going to necessarily help them learn how to use computers. If you go to a fast food restaurant, the person who takes the order is going to do so by pressing a button on a computer. On an iPad.

There’s a great documentary called The Lost Interview, and the subject is Steve Jobs, one of the founders of Apple Computers. And in the documentary, he says at one point, when he talks about computer science and his desire to learn computers, quote, ‘It had nothing to do with using [programs] for practical things, it had more to do with using them as a mirror of your thought process. To actually learn how to think. I think everyone in this country should learn to program a computer. Everyone should learn a computer language because it teaches you how to think. I think of computer science as a liberal art.’ End-quote.

So by giving students iPads, are we training them to develop critical thinking skills, or are we just preparing them for a life working in fast food restaurants?

As a district, in order to improve student achievement, we need to maximize every last tax dollar at our disposal, and spend that money in a responsible way. Responsible policy means focusing time and energy on lowering class size, making sure every student has access to a full-time nurse, librarian, pupil services and attendance counselor, psychiatric social worker, arts, etcetera. I see my time is up, so in closing, with all due respect, for this and other reasons, while I’m glad to see the district slowed down on this proposal, it just doesn’t feel like it’s been handled in a very responsible manner. Thank you.

 

After I finished my remarks to the Board, Superintendent Deasy took the time to respond to my call to lower class size, raise teacher pay, and restore positions (I must have pushed some of his buttons). He insisted that my remarks were off base because the bond money being used for iPads can’t fund those things, but he ignored what we know to be true: Once the bond money dries up, the District intends to use general fund dollars to pay for the iPads (L.A. Times:http://lat.ms/1f6jedi). Raises, rehiring staff, and lower class sizes do come from general fund money.

Here’s video of my remarks, as well as his response: (Youtube:http://bit.ly/1e9eAZW)

With rare exception, school board meetings are calendared during the day, so teachers involved with Phase I of the project haven’t even had an opportunity to address the board, and numerous other questions have arisen about the lack of responsible oversight concerning this project. A few examples...

The district only reluctantly admitted to paying for a three-year software license before it had even actually seen what it was purchasing (L.A. Times:http://lat.ms/1akJZgA).

It was also recently revealed that some staff members were given free iPads a year before the board voted for Phase I of this project, at a pitch meeting by software peddler Pearson. (KPCC: http://bit.ly/1dKDm7S).

So, who’s investigating? LAUSD’s Office of the Inspector General. In other words, when possible impropriety arises, the district has authority to investigate itself.

As if all of this isn’t alarming enough, LAUSD announced this past week that the only committee charged with overseeing the iPad rollout is set to be disbanded. (LATimeshttp://lat.ms/1aFsYeO).

California is facing many challenges, and bond measures will be needed to be approved in the future. But when LAUSD conducts business behind closed doors — in secret — as it did so in voting to extend the Superintendent’s contract, and only agrees to release that board vote after being threatened with possible legal action, for this, and the aforementioned reasons, as well as other concerns, these actions only further erode an already tenuous relationship between the board and an already skeptical electorate (L.A. Times: http://lat.ms/1ihjVFE).

I know board members care deeply about public education. But as recently deceased board member Ms. Marguerite Poindexter LaMotte said about students, and I think you could apply this to the board’s relationship with the public: “They don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” Ms. LaMotte will be greatly missed.

(March 2014) Bill Gates: Another Company With Connections Makes Millions While Schools Go Without

Summary

LAUSD's Misplaced Budget Priorities.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-lyell/bill-gates-another-compan_b_4951428.html

 

At the March 4 Los Angeles Unified School Board meeting, the Board approved a five-year contract for $2.45 million for American Institutes for Research. According to LAUSD’s two-page description of the contract in the 452-page Board meeting materials distributed to the public, the contract is “for the evaluation of the Common Core Technology Project (CCTP),” and “the evaluation of the CCTP from an outside evaluator is at the request of the Superintendent and Board of Education.”

Prior to Board approval, I shared the following remarks with School Board members during the three minutes allotted each speaker during public comment:

 

“Good afternoon Board members and superintendent. I’m David Lyell, teacher and elected secretary of United Teachers Los Angeles. You’re about to vote on a $2.45-million contract for American Institutes for Research, or AIR, to study and evaluate Common Core Technology Project implementation.

This contract is problematic for a number of reasons.

The District received $113 million in one-time funding from the state of California for Common Core State Standards implementation. As part of the budget recommended by the superintendent, and adopted by this Board, instead of using this money to train teachers in CCSS implementation and pay us at our regular rate, the adopted budget stipulated that, for the training, teachers would either be paid $17 or $25 an hour. This is one of many reasons UTLA has encouraged school staff to download and use our Common Core Training Rate Boycott Toolkit from utla.net. Paying teachers a substandard rate for training is insulting. What other professional would be expected to be trained for less than their hourly rate during non-work hours?

Frankly, it’s this sort of management style that led to a vote of no confidence in the superintendent last year, when 91 percent of the 17,000 UTLA members who participated cast a vote of “no confidence” in Superintendent Deasy.

So aside from asking teachers to work for a fraction of our regular rate, you’re now about to spend nearly $2.5 million on a contract to study Common Core technology implementation.

The group you’re contracting with, AIR, has received at least several million dollars in grants from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, one of the superintendent’s former employers. While that in and of itself may not constitute a conflict of interest, AIR’s relationship with the Gates Foundation is problematic because Bill Gates is clearly not neutral when it comes to his views on how to improve schools.

Mr. Gates is seemingly interested in implementing merit pay and weakening due process protections, and he doesn’t seem interested in what our students most need — smaller class sizes, fully staffed campuses, fair treatment for teachers, and a fair wage for employees. So if you’re contracting with an organization that has received millions in funding from his foundation, how can you reasonably be assured that the conclusions reached will be neutral, fair, and unbiased? In closing, for these and other concerns, please vote against this contract.

Thank you.”

 

Despite these concerns, the Board adopted the contract by a consent vote — meaning it was adopted without discussion.

As if these red flags weren’t alarming enough, Mr. Gates openly admits to helping fund the development of CCSS. Though in the same article he attempts to refute allegations that CCSS was developed without input from teachers, parents, state, or local governments, in fact, his foundation has given millions to the four principal organizations responsible with developing CCSS.

We’ve been down this road before. We had No Child Left Behind and then Race to the Top, and each focused on high-stakes testing and uniformity — and each created more work and more bureaucracy for teachers, administrators, and communities — which meant less individualized instructional time with students.

No one is opposed to standards, yet standards don’t transform education — teachers and communities transform education. I met a fourth-grade teacher recently who had 38 students in his class. I visited a school recently that doesn’t have a full-time librarian — and these conditions are not merely isolated situations.

What our schools don’t need is more bureaucracy from outside interests. The children of millionaires and billionaires attend private schools with small class sizes and fully staffed campuses. Why is it that what’s good enough for the children of millionaires and billionaires isn’t good enough for all students?

Given that AIR has received millions in funding from the Gates Foundation, will anyone be surprised if AIR produces a report that concludes that CCSS and LAUSD’s Common Core Technology Project is wonderful and amazing and transformed public education?

Somebody is getting rich off all these contracts, and it’s not students.

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