In their first face-to-face debates since the primary election, Los Angeles Unified school board candidates Jon Lauritzen and Tamar Galatzan traded cordial remarks Wednesday, in sharp contrast to the lashings they have given each other on the airwaves and in mailers. About two dozen people attended a morning debate moderated by Los Angeles City Councilman Dennis Zine at the Los Angeles Jewish Home for the Aging. Later, about 60 people attended an evening debate at the monthly meeting of the West Van Nuys/Lake Balboa Neighborhood Council. Charter schools – one of the few issues on which Lauritzen and Galatzan find themselves divided – emerged as a key issue at both debates. “Nothing will define this race more than the charter-school issue because I think this is one of the areas (in which) Tamar and I clearly have opposing opinions,” Lauritzen said. Lauritzen, a vocal opponent of charters, downplayed his opposition to the independent schools, saying there are both good and bad charter schools. He said the problem he has with charter schools is that too many are applying to open, but the system to supervise their performance is not sufficient. “The concept behind charters was to allow schools freedom to develop curriculum and ideas that would be a model throughout the district. “That, unfortunately, hasn’t been the case,” he said at the evening debate. But Galatzan shot back that charters have become an option for parents frustrated with low-performing traditional approaches in the Los Angeles Unified School District. “Charters are a cry for help. Parents and teachers are so fed up with the bureaucracy in the district that they are saying, `Set us free.”‘ At the morning debate, Galatzan said she would like to see empty campuses in the West Valley put to better use, including housing charters seeking to grow. “The district has really found a way to stop charter schools – any way that they can,” Galatzan said. “If it’s really true that these (school buildings) cannot be rehabbed, … then I think we should sell them rather than leaving them as eyesores throughout the West Valley.” Lauritzen said the school board is spending $12 million to reopen Enadia Way Elementary in Canoga Park. The LAUSD still has four shuttered campuses in the Valley, but officials maintain that it would cost too much to reopen the schools without financial cooperation from the charter schools. “The reason why these schools are empty is because these students are elsewhere,” said Lauritzen, referring to the area’s declining enrollment over the years. “Many of them have now been opened or are being refurbished to be opened.” [email protected] (818) 713-3722160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!