Friday, February 22, 2013


Could a single school board race determine LAUSD's future?

Vanessa Romo | Take Two | 89.3 KPCC |

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Adolfo Guzman-Lopez/KPCC - L.A. Unified School District board member Steve Zimmer outside the home of a high school dropout. He and other educators formed one of 10 teams out to "recover" students who'd stopped showing up to school. Zimmer and his team recovered 15 students from neighborhoods near Fremont High School in South L.A.

February 22nd, 2013, 8:56amSchool board races don’t usually garner much attention from the general public. But the races for three seats on LA Unified’s school board are making national headlines. None, more so than the race for District 4 between incumbent Steve Zimmer and lawyer, Kate Anderson.

That’s because people believe the winner of this seat will determine the future of LA’s public schools, and the rest of the country is watching.

Zimmer, 42, calls it a "pitched battle between the Humanists versus the Darwinists" and the "market-based competition over student enrollment."

What Zimmer is talking about, slouched over a plate of Kosher pasta on Valentine’s night, is the great schism among LAUSD’s seven sitting board members; At any given school board meeting the "Reformists", who vociferously support Superintendent John Deasy and an aggressively pro-charter agenda, are pitted against the pro-teacher and organized labor faction.

They’re evenly split and Zimmer, a former Teach for America teacher and school counselor has been the swing vote since he won the seat in 2009. But if he loses to challenger Kate Anderson, both sides agree, that will permanently tip the scales 4 to 3 in favor of a board that pushes for more charter expansion and data based teacher evaluations.

Ultimately, Zimmer said, losing that check and balance is detrimental. 

"Respectful disagreement and give and take between the Superintendent and the school board is actually the healthy relationship and dynamic that needs to exist to have the right type of balanced approach to creating transformational change." Holding his head in his hands he adds, "If I’m taken out, that’s gone. Absolutely gone."

But his opponent, Anderson, 40, has no qualms about aligning herself with Supt. Deasy's vision. "I support the reforms that Supt. Deasy has put in place," she said on a recent afternoon in one of the tiny offices at her campaign headquarters in West LA.

"I support his work to improve our teacher evaluation system, I support his work to bring and support more innovative models to the school system," she said. 

She’s a mother and the LA director of Children Now, an advocacy group for early childhood education and health. With twin girls in public school she said she’s seen enough to know “not every teacher is good.” And neither the district nor students should be saddled with sub-par teachers. Instead, she said, “lets find something else for you to do."

Anderson is not coming at this from the classroom experience. Before she became an advocate most of her career was in the world of politics. She’s a former Congressional staffer for Henry Waxman and Jane Hartman, and a former corporate lawyer.  In 2010 she ran for the state assembly now held by Betsey Butler.

Anderson said those experiences give her an advantage at crucial moment for LA schools.

“It’s a political position and I’m good in those worlds.”

Canvassing for signatures to get on the ballot she took the pulse of her district, a stretch that covers the Westside, east to Hollywood and north into the San Fernando Valley.  Going door to door she became convinced parents would pull their kids from private schools if they had more choices. She argues the greatest demand from parents in the area is for more charter schools.

And this is perhaps the place where Zimmer disagrees with her the most. He thinks that the charter movement is moving entirely too fast. In the last board meeting alone more than a dozen were approved.

And he’s also come out against tying teacher evaluations too closely to student performance. He thinks teaches are being villainized and that long term, that will hurt kids.

“It’s a loss for the concept that we really can have people who are educators serve as decision makers about education, and that’s a real loss,” he said.

On the other hand, what makes him a swing vote is that he’s completely behind keeping staunch reformer Supt. Deasy who is constantly at odds with Zimmer’s backer – UTLA.

“Taking difficult stands, that were sometimes contrary to labor has softened my support.”

Like any political race who wins may come down to who spends the most. And that’s why it’s drawn the national spotlight and why it’s drawn money from as far away as New York. Mayor Michael Bloomberg, just last week, pumped $1 million into the reform candidate’s coffers, ensuring that they’ll maintain much bigger war chest than anyone on the labor slate.

So far spending on behalf of Zimmer and Anderson has been pretty even – about a half a million dollars on each - but with two weeks to go, Anderson has the bigger piggy bank to draw from.

Unlike other races that have multiple candidates the District 4 seat will be decided on Tuesday March 5.  

Los Angeles School Board Election Spending Unprecedented

By Michael Higham |The Independent Voter Network –

1x1.trans Los Angeles School Board Election Spending Unprecedented


02/22/2013  |  While the election season is over for state and federal races in California, it isn’t over for municipal elections in the city of Los Angeles. Three seats up for election on the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) Board, in particular, are drawing attention because of an unprecedented amount of outside spending.

Based on disclosure reports published by the City Ethics Commission of Los Angeles, more than $2.5 million has been spent by outside organizations for the three school board races. Tweet at LAUSD:

In contrast, $4.7 million in total independent expenditures was spent during the 2011 municipal election cycle for four school board seats.

In addition to the pace of independent expenditures, New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg donated $1 million to the Coalition for School Reform. The organization has contributed most to outside spending, thus far, in support of candidates who advocate school reforms such as parent triggers, charter growth, and revamped teacher evaluation. Tweet at @MikeBloomberg:

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa was the active figure in securing Mayor Bloomberg’s donation. Villaraigosa said Bloomberg is “the most important voice in education reform today.”

Mayor Bloomberg’s press secretary released a statement saying:

“The mayor [Bloomberg] has said he’s going to support efforts and candidates around the country on the issues that he cares about and education reform is one of the issues at the top of that list.”

Mayor Bloomberg has considerable influence in education and school reform as his mayorship resides in the largest school district in the nation. He has pushed for school reforms in New York City similar to those advocated by the Coalition for School Reform.

LAUSD is the second largest school district in the United States, which may become an example of school reform in action. Share the news:

1x1.trans Los Angeles School Board Election Spending Unprecedented

Credit: (click to enlarge)

In LAUSD’s sub-district 2, $707,660 in independent expenditures supported current board president and candidate Monica Garcia. Most of the money was spent by the Coalition for School Reform.

Garcia has also been supported by the AFL-CIO labor union, but is opposed by the United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA). Three other candidates in this race have received support from UTLA. However, their combined $20,000 from UTLA has been dwarfed by Garcia’s supporters.

Sub-district 4 candidates Kate Anderson and incumbent Steve Zimmer have been supported by $655,090 and $463,306 in outside spending, respectively.

Anderson has been supported by the Coalition. Trustee Zimmer has received support from AFL-CIO and UTLA. This race could turn out to be the most contentious and costly of the three. Independent expenditures are nearly matched and Anderson’s supporters are expected to up the ante.

The only candidate in sub-district 6 with independent expenditures recorded is candidate Antonio Sanchez. He has had $696,624 spent on his behalf, but is also supported by the Coalition and labor unions.

The primary election is scheduled for March 5. Candidates who receive 50 percent plus one of the vote are declared winners. Otherwise, the top two candidates advance to a runoff election scheduled for May 21. Share it:

The amount of independent expenditures recorded two weeks before the primary election in Los Angeles supports the notion that education issues are a high priority. LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy has a record of pushing for school reform measures and the composition of the school board can change the way the city forms education policy.

Los Angeles School Board election spending may change drastically leading up to the primary and possible runoff election. The races for these three seats may result in one of the most expensive school board elections.

Donations from independent groups shaping city, LAUSD elections

By Rick Orlov and Barbara Jones, Staff Writer, LA Daily News |

2/21/2013 06:42:54 PM PST  ::  With the primary election just 11 days away, donations to independent campaigns are mounting fast in high-stakes races for mayor and school board.

Donations have topped $20 million in the races for three citywide offices, seven City Council seats and three each on the boards of Los Angeles Unified and the Los Angeles Community College District.

In the reports due Thursday, City Councilman Eric Garcetti reported a cash balance of $1.5 million in his run for mayor, including $450,000 raised in the last month.

Controller Wendy Greuel, another mayoral candidate, reported $1.6 million in cash, after raising $475,000 in the most recent period. She has raised more than $4.7 million for the race.

Greuel also has been helped with independent expenditure committees, which have put in more than $1.2 million, primarily from the IBEW through its Working Californians Committee and the Los Angeles Police Protective League.

The latest campaign figures for Councilwoman Jan Perry, Kevin James and Emanuel Pleitez were not immediately available.

The campaign of James, the former radio talk show host and federal prosecutor, has been bolstered by more than $431,000 in independent expenditures from Republicans.

Independent expenditures continue to dominate the school board election, with reform- and union-backed organizations battling to guide the future of the nation's second-largest school district.

District 2 incumbent Monica Garcia, a reformer who serves as president of the school board, has received $333,000 in cash donations, with the Coalition for Education Reform, the County Federation of Labor and SEUI Local 99 spending nearly $620,000 on her campaign.

United Teachers Los Angeles has spent more than $100,000 to supporting three candidates and oppose Garcia in an "Anybody but Monica" campaign for her Eastside seat.

In District 4, which stretches from the San Fernando Valley to the Westside and Hollywood, the reform coalition has spent $530,000 campaigning for challenger Kate Anderson, who reported $200,000 in individual contributions.

She is challenging first-term incumbent Steve Zimmer, who received early $425,000 in campaign help from organized labor and $70,000 in individual contributions.

The unions also spent $125,000 in campaign mailers opposing Anderson, while the reform coalition has spent $40,000 to fight Zimmer's re-election.

In the West Valley's District 6, schoolteacher Monica Ratliff reported $13,000 in cash contributions while former LAUSD employee Maria Cano reported about $9,000. They have both been endorsed by UTLA, but have received no outside campaign help.

The third candidate in the race, Antonio Sanchez, has been endorsed by both UTLA and the reform group. He previously reported almost $700,000 in independent expenditures, but updated numbers weren't available late Thursday.

Z C & ABM smf: In the West Valley's District 6, schoolteacher Monica Ratliff reported $13,000 in cash contributions while former LAUSD employee Maria Cano reported about $9,000. They have both been endorsed by UTLA, but have received no outside campaign help.”  ●●I don’t know about that – I went to a fundraiser/wine tasting for Maria Cano at The City Club Friday evening – and I wasn’t alone in being helpful or tasting the vino.

I strongly recommend voting for Ms. Cano if you live in District 6 and the 2008 Marlbrough Sauvignon Blanc even if you don’t!

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