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Victory for public education: Dr. Rocio Rivas wins LA school board seat

By staff |
December 16, 2022
Centro CSO members and friends canvassing for Dr. Rocio Rivas.
Centro CSO members and friends canvassing for Dr. Rocio Rivas. (Fight Back! News/staff)

Los Angeles, CA - Dr. Rocio Rivas was finally declared winner in the highly anticipated Los Angeles Unified School District board race for District 2. On December 13 she was sworn in at an LAUSD board meeting. Board member and longtime human rights activist Jackie Goldberg gave her the oath of office while surrounded by family.

LAUSD District 2 includes East LA, Boyle Heights and several other east area communities. The LAUSD is the second largest in the nation, with majority Chicano students.

In her acceptance speech, Rivas thanked the community, mothers and union members for running a grassroots campaign, pointing out the key role of women in our history of struggle for equality. She spoke of fighting racism and supporting the working class, and how her and family moved to LA from Mexico and their struggles. Rivas acknowledged the history of struggle for public education by the Chicano movement and acknowledged several activists including Carlos Montes.

Dr. Rivas ran a grassroots race with door-to-door canvassing and local outreach efforts. United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) had also endorsed Dr. Rivas ran an excellent independent campaign on her behalf. As of December 1, votes total showed Dr. Rivas ahead with 55,159 to loser Maria Brenes with 49,927 votes, a clear victory. 

Dr. Rocio Rivas is a parent of an LAUSD student, has a PhD in education, and studied education systems in South America and Europe. She is critical of the neoliberal politics that target privatization of public resources like education. She works with current board member Jackie Goldberg.

The choices were clear, with Dr. Rocio Rivas advocating for public education and holding charter schools accountable. Defeated candidate Maria Brenes had hollow slogans about educational choices, and supported charter schools like KIPP Promesa, which attempted to build a large school in Boyle Heights. Centro CSO organized and sued successfully and in April stopped this KIPP Promesa charter school. 

But the community and public did not fall for the million-dollar campaign for Brenes with four to five mailers per week. Brenes benefited from millions from Netflix owner Reed Hastings and big developers. Toward the end, Brenes started sending false attack pieces against Dr. Rivas, but to no avail. 

Brenes also had an independent campaign effort directed by the same consultant for Sheriff Alex Villanueva, Javier Gonzalez. A former labor activist, Javier Gonzalez sold out for the money and the politics of hate promoted by now former LA Sheriff Villanueva - who lost his reelection bid. Brenes has been employed by the non-profit InnerCity Struggle with her husband Luis Sanchez. ICS is a fake grassroots group that pretends to do social justice advocacy, but in reality, is anti-union and supports the privatization of public education.

The defeat came despite the millions spent on Brenes’s behalf and came ten years after her husband was defeated in a similar race for LAUSD. The unity of parents, teachers and students to fight for public education made it possible for Dr. Rivas’s victory.

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