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Valley school board candidate drops out of race

January 23, 2013 |  5:05 pm

A candidate for the Los Angeles Board of Education has officially dropped out of the race, although her name will remain on the ballot.

Iris Zuniga, a senior administrator for a nonprofit that runs schools and provides services to others, announced Wednesday that she had suspended her campaign to represent District 6, which stretches across the east San Fernando Valley.

“I have decided that now is not the right time for me to pursue elected office,” Zuniga posted on Facebook. “I remain more committed than ever to improving our public schools and giving parents more choices for educating their children. Our families deserve nothing less.”

Zuniga is chief operating officer for Youth Policy Institute, a local nonprofit that manages charter schools, an academy at a district middle school, and after-school programs and services for students and their families. Charters are free, public schools that are not directly controlled by the district that authorizes them.

Her campaign was expected to draw strong support from charter supporters, a segment with growing clout. She also had other political connections and could contend for union endorsements. Her supporters included outgoing school board member Nury Martinez, whom she had hoped to succeed.

But Zuniga failed to land key union endorsements. She wasn't endorsed by the teachers union, which supported other candidates in the race, most likely because of her ties to charter schools. And she fell short with Local 99 of Service Employees International, which represents most non-teaching, union employees at schools. Local 99 endorsed another candidate, Antonio Sanchez, as did the L.A. County Federation of Labor.

L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa praised Zuniga in a statement as one of the city’s “true education reform leaders.”

Zuniga could not be reached for comment.

The two other candidates in the March 5 primary are Monica Ratliff and Maria Cano.

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-- Howard Blume

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