Outside spending pours into L.A. school board race
Outside groups are mounting campaigns to influence the outcome of three races for seats on the Los Angeles Board of Education.
The outside donations are helping more than one candidate in District 4, which stretches from the Westside to portions of the west San Fernando Valley. That race pits one-term incumbent Steve Zimmer against lawyer and parent Kate Anderson.
The Coalition for School Reform has spent $144,249 on behalf of Anderson — compared with $129,600 raised by her own campaign. The Coalition, which includes L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, has backed candidates who are expected to strongly support the policies of L.A. schools Supt. John Deasy. The superintendent has pushed for teacher and principal evaluations that incorporate the use of student test scores. He’s also limited the use of a strict seniority system when determining which teachers will get laid off.
Zimmer, who has supported Deasy on some initiatives, is backed by labor unions. The L.A. County Federation of Labor has spent $30,000 on his behalf. He’s also benefited from about $73,000 from Local 99 of the Service Employees International Union, which represents many non-teaching employees in the L.A. Unified School District. The teachers union, United Teachers Los Angeles, also is expected to enter the fray on Zimmer’s behalf. Zimmer’s own campaign has raised just under $31,000.
The county labor federation, Local 99 and the coalition have joined forces in the two other races as well. In District 6, in the east San Fernando Valley, incumbent Nury Martinez is leaving the board. The outside donors have united behind Antonio Sanchez, providing him with more than $231,000. The largest share is from Villaraigosa's coalition. Sanchez’s own campaign has raised $18,075.
The other candidates are Maria Cano ($1,709 raised) and Monica Ratliff ($9,463). Also on the ballot is Iris Zuniga, who raised $19,500 but then suspended her campaign. The teachers union has endorsed every remaining candidate but has not mounted an independent campaign on anyone’s behalf.
A similar front-runner scenario is playing out in District 2, which stretches out from downtown. Incumbent and school board president Monica Garcia has benefited from outside spending of nearly $223,000. Garcia’s long tenure in office has helped her compile substantial resources of her own, more than $260,000 in donations.
The teachers union supports just about anyone but Garcia in that contest, but has not put money into independent expenditures to date. Garcia's challengers are Abelardo Diaz ($3,508 raised), Annamarie Montanez ($8,800), Robert D. Skeels ($14,424) and Isabel Vazquez ($6,999).
All told, independent spending has surpassed $1 million in city and school board races on the March 5 ballot.
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-- Howard Blume
Photo: Los Angeles school board member Steven Zimmer appears deep in thought as the board meets in March of 2012. Credit: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times