Spending has topped $1.8 million in the race to fill the remaining open seat on the Los Angeles Unified school board, with East San Fernando Valley voters deciding how the transformation of the nation's second-largest school district will play out.
Tuesday's runoff for the District 6 seat has become as much about the future of Superintendent John Deasy's reform agenda as who will succeed outgoing board member Nury Martinez. The winner of the contest between teacher Monica Ratliff and self-described education reformer Antonio Sanchez could become the swing vote as the seven-member board decides contentious issues like teacher evaluations and the growth of charter schools.
"The balance of power on the school board is still the most salient issue in the race," said Tom Hogen-Esch, a political science professor at Cal State Northridge. "You've got a division on the board between people who believe in the market approaches to issues like school choice and testing and accountability for teachers, and critics who think those kinds of approaches create an incentive for things like teaching to the test."
Demonstrating how critical the seat is to the reform movement, political action committees spent $1.2 million