Friday, June 3, 2016

Charter schools and allies pour it on in California legislative races | The Sacramento Bee

Charter schools and allies pour it on in California legislative races | The Sacramento Bee:

Charter schools and allies pour it on in California legislative races

Charter school advocates and their allies, largely bankrolled by a handful of wealthy donors, are dominating the state’s political landscape this primary season, pouring nearly $9 million into legislative races around the state.
Saying they are tired of current conditions in California schools, they are spending in 12 different districts, seeking to elect lawmakers they believe will be more sympathetic to their cause on such issues as teacher performance, tenure and the way schools are governed.
The California California Charter Schools Association, EdVoice and the charter-school funded Parent Teacher Alliance are spending significantly more than those groups committed during the last three legislative primary seasons, through Wednesday spending a third of all outside money seeking to influence legislative elections.
EdVoice, which has spent nearly $5 million in six districts since April 1, is supporting candidates it believes will be receptive to changing the education system, either through charter schools or changes in public schools, said Bill Lucia, the organization’s president and CEO.
12Number of legislative districts where charter schools or EdVoice have spent money.
“It’s about eliminating inequities and providing opportunities to all kids. The Legislature has an important role in that,” Lucia said. “But there are too many who are perfectly fine being defenders of the status quo.”
As they grow in popularity, charter schools have cut into public school enrollment and funding, particularly in larger urban districts like Los Angeles. Their advocates regularly clash with teachers unions in the California Legislature, the state education board and courtrooms.
But any semblance of a campaign fight with teachers unions in legislative races on next Tuesday’s ballot is decidedly lopsided.
Until last week, the 330,000-member California Teachers Association was all but a non-player in primary races around the state, two years after putting more than $5 million outside spending efforts leading up to the June 2014 primary. The group could be saving its money: a top goal for the teachers union this year is to help pass a proposed November measure to extend higher income taxes for the wealthy to support schools and other programs, a campaign that would cost millions.
This spring’s spending disparity increases the likelihood that the November ballot will include multiple candidates, all Democrats in safely Democratic districts, who advance to the fall runoff with the strong backing of self-described education reform groups. Results in the fall election could give the interests a significantly stronger voice in the union-friendly Legislature.
“Right now, we’re involved in just a handful of races in the primary,” said Becky Zoglman, a spokeswoman for the teachers union. “We’ll reassess for the November election,” she said. So far, the union has contributed almost $4 million to efforts to extend a version of the temporary income tax increases in Proposition 30 of 2012.
“It’s definitely a top priority for CTA this cycle,” Zoglman said.
Outside spending by Ed Voice and charter schools
AD43Parent Teacher Alliance$1,261,785Laura FriedmanArdy Kassakhian
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The charter schools association is the sole source of money for the Parent-Teacher Alliance, which has spent $3.5 million in four Assembly districts. The charter schools association itself is spending another $264,000 in two Assembly districts.
More than 80 percent of the association’s donations since last July have come from five people: GAP co-founder Doris Fisher, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, developer Eli Broad, Texas billionaire and former hedge fund manager John D. Arnold and Carrie Walton Penner, the granddaughter of Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton. The association’s own committee hasCharter schools and allies pour it on in California legislative races | The Sacramento Bee:

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