Drive to increase charter enrollments triggers massive spending in LA school board race
School board races tend to be sleepy affairs, drawing little attention and even less campaign spending compared to other higher profile races on most local ballots.
Not in Los Angeles, which has become the site of the most heated – and by far the most expensive – battle over charter schools in the nation.
An extraordinary $15.9 million has been contributed to decide who will fill two seats on the seven-person Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education.
The battle, which a Los Angeles Times headline over the weekend described as “brutal, expensive and important,” is coming to a head Tuesday in a runoff election pitting incumbent school board President Steve Zimmer against Nick Melvoin in District 4, and Imelda Padilla against Kelly Gonez in District 6 for an open seat vacated by former teacher Monica Ratliff, who ran unsuccessfully for Los Angeles City Council in March.
The contest has been generally framed as a contest between pro- and anti-charter forces, with Zimmer and Padilla in the anti-charter camp, and Melvoin and Gonez in the pro-charter one. But that vastly oversimplifies the issues at stake in the election.
From a historical perspective, the district can hardly be characterized as hostile to charter schools.