Thursday, March 05, 2015


3 stories from LA School Report |

Posted on March 4, 2015 1:48 pm by Craig Clough

LAUSD school board candidate Ref Rodriguez and his mother outside a polling station yesterday. (Via Twitter @DrRefRodrguez)

LAUSD school board candidate Ref Rodriguez and his mother yesterday. (Via Twitter @DrRefRodrguez)

Voters overwhelmingly voiced support yesterday to moving the LA Unified school board elections to November, which some say will increase voter turnout while others argue that it will give greater advantage to special interest groups and well-financed candidates.

With a low voter turnout and some candidates raising large sums of money, yesterday’s primary elections for LA Unified board seats is likely to do nothing more than add fuel to both sides of the argument. But did money buy voter love?

Let’s take a look at some of the numbers.

In the competitive District 3, District 5 and District 7 races, candidates raised a total of $649,556 in individual contributions through Feb. 25, according to the Los Angeles City Ethics Commission. With 62,456 votes cast in those races, that breaks down to $10.40 per vote, and that excludes the considerably larger chunk spent by outside groups.

Money played the biggest role in District 5, where challenger Ref Rodriguez and incumbent Bennett Kayser went 1-2 to head for the May 19 runoff. Kayser raised $13.35 for each of his 7,623 votes, and Rodriguez raised $15.33 for each of his 8,217.

As far as voter turnout, Rodriguez raised the most money of any candidate in any race, with $125,942.

In District 3, the top two fundraisers, incumbent Tamar Galatzan ($37,314 and 12,029 votes) and Scott Schmerelson ($31,609 and 6,136 votes) equalled $3.10 per vote for Galatzan and $5.15 for Schmerelson. They will face each other in a runoff.

Money did not necessarily equal electoral success in District 7, as challenger Lydia Gutierrez ($18,325 and 4,007 votes) forced incumbent Richard Valdovic ($108,288 and $4,554 votes) into the runoff despite raising the least in the three-way race. Gutierrez raised the equivalent of $4.57 per vote to Vladovic’s $23.77.



Charters set to spend more for LAUSD board, teachers undeterred

Posted on March 4, 2015 12:45 pm by Vanessa Romo

Anti-Kayser ad chartersCharter school supporters battling for a stronger influence over the LA Unified school board have the checkbook ready again.

<< the infamous Broken Cup Ad. The “Parent Teacher Alliance” is NOT the PTA!

After providing heavy financial support for newcomer Ref Rodriguez, winner over District 5 incumbent Bennett Kayser last night, the charter group is weighing how much to spend for Rodriguez in the weeks leading to the May 19 runoff.

“We absolutely consider this a success,” Gary Borden, Executive Director of California Charter Schools Association Advocates, a political action committee told LA School Report, stepping away from the Rodriguez celebration late last night.

The next step, he said, “is to assess what we end up doing for the general election.”

The charters pumped nearly $800,000 into the primary’s three contested races, also backing Tamar Galatzan and Richard Vladovic, who won their respective primaries and are headed for a runoff. But the vast majority of the spend, nearly $600,000, went to support Rodriguez, whose election in May would change the political leanings of the seven member board if the other two incumbents prevail.

Rodriguez finished slightly ahead of Kayser in the primary vote, 38.6 percent to 35.8 — a virtual tie that almost certainly means the teachers union is gearing up for a battle with the same intensity.

And why not? While it is not uncommon for the charter school group to outspend union-backed candidates by millions, it seldom guarantees success.

Last year, for example, the charters outspent forces helping George McKenna by three-to-one in the District 1 special election, yet McKenna prevailed. And two years ago, union-backed candidates Steve Zimmer and Monica Ratliff overcame the same kind of charter and reform-based financial onslaughts.

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3 LA Unified board incumbents heading into May runoffs

Posted on March 4, 2015 8:30 am by LA School Report

heading to a runoff


LA Unified’s election season moved into runoffs last night with no candidate in the three contested races winning a majority of votes for a board seat and the 5 1/2 year term that voters approved yesterday.

A low turnout of 8.2 percent sent three incumbents — Tamar Galatzan in District 3, Bennett Kayser in 5 and board President Richard Vladovic in 7 — into the May 19 general elections and gave two of them, Galatzan and Vladovic, Republican opponents.

George McKenna, running unopposed, won the District 1 seat.

Galatzan and Vladovic finished first in their races as expected. But it was a victory by Ref Rodriguez, a charter school executive, over Kayser that raised eyebrows the highest last night and made it a big night for the California Charter Schools Association.

In his first run for public office, Rodriguez won 38.6 percent of the vote to Kayser’s 35.8, assuring another 11 weeks of the proxy war between the charter association and the teachers union, UTLA, for greater control of the seven-member board.

“We are going to change LAUSD for the better,” Rodriguez said in a statement this morning. “Our children deserve high quality schools, and we are on our way to achieving that. I am very proud of the campaign we are running, and I’m looking forward to fighting and winning the general election.

The charter group worked mightily to deny Kayser a second term, spending almost $600,000 (through last month) for campaign material, including harsh attacks that suggested Kayser was a racist.

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