Friday, June 17, 2016

Pro-charter group spends big in Los Angeles-area Assembly races | EdSource

Pro-charter group spends big in Los Angeles-area Assembly races | EdSource:

Pro-charter group spends big in Los Angeles-area Assembly races

Among all the state Assembly primaries last week, none raised more eyebrows in Los Angeles education circles than the race for an open seat in District 43, which includes Glendale, Burbank and parts of Los Angeles. The top two spots went to Laura Friedman, a member of the Glendale City Council, and Ardy Kassakhian, Glendale’s city clerk. Both Democrats, they’ll now face each other in a November runoff.
The seat was deemed important enough to The Parent Teacher Alliance, an independent expenditure committeesupporting the California Charter Schools Association, that it spent more than $1.3 million on behalf of Friedman, part of a campaign in which supporters for both of the leading candidates used an image of Donald Trump to tarnish the other. (The Alliance has no connection to the California State PTA.) 
The level of spending, as well as the links to Trump, made the campaign highly unusual for several reasons. First, education was not a major issue in the race, apart from Kassakhian reminding voters that his mother is a public school teacher. Also, there are no charter schools in Glendale and only one in Burbank. Second, Friedman’s campaign manager, Parke Skelton, said Friedman neither sought nor expected any financial support from a political action committee on behalf of charter schools. The level of support, he said, “was a shock to us.”
And finally, like Friedman, Kassakhian is a Democrat.
Ardy Kassakhian, second-place finisher in Assembly District 43 primary.
Ardy Kassakhian, second-place finisher in Assembly District 43 primary.
Heavy primary spending by the Parent Teacher Alliance – more than $3.8 million overall – comes as the charter association is pushing to meet its newly stated goal of serving 1 million children statewide by 2022, about double the current number. It also spent heavily for open Assembly seat races in districts 27 and 30.
Beyond that, the spending raises the possibility that charter interests will write more big checks next year, when four members of the L.A. Unified board face re-election, and the most divisive campaign issue is likely to be charter school growth. 
Already, L.A. Unified has more charters than any other school district in the country, about 230, with more planning to seek approval in the year ahead. With so many in operation, the district has become ground zero in the proxy war for resources between charters and teachers unions across California. The charters insist that parents need more choices for their children, while teachers unions argue that charters don’t necessarily improve the academic outcomes they promise and they drain valuable resources from public schools. The conflict is playing out as the district faces budget deficits after next year. 
At the moment, charter schools have only two reliable votes on the board — Mónica García, its longest-serving member and former president, and Ref Rodriguez, a former charter school executive who was elected to the board last year after a bruising campaign in which he defeated Bennett Kayser, the Pro-charter group spends big in Los Angeles-area Assembly races | EdSource:
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