Preview: Little-Known Candidates Debut at District 6 Forum

Now whittled down to three candidates — Maria Cano, Antonio Sanchez, and Monica Ratliff  — the race for the East Valley’s District 6 features a cast of relative unknowns endorsed by the teachers union.

Left to right: Cano, Sanchez, Ratliff

However, one of them — newcomer Antonio Sanchez — is the front-runner by virtue of the additional endorsements and independent expenditure (IE) committees that have lined up behind him.

“We might be the only ones to have a campaign,” says campaign consultant Mike Shimpcock. “It’s not like any of the other candidates stand out.”

Sanchez’s opponents — Maria Cano and Monica Ratliff — would surely beg to differ, but they did not return our requests for comment.

The three will have their first real chance to introduce themselves to the public at tonight’s candidate forum, which will take place at 5:30 PM at the Boys and Girls Club of San Fernando Valley in Pacoima (see flyer here).

If Sanchez make a positive impression tonight — without alienating his delicate coalition of supporters  — he could very well win enough votes to avoid a runoff.

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Teachers Endorse Garcetti for Mayor

In its first meeting of the new term, UTLA’s governing body (called the House of Representatives) voted to endorse Eric Garcetti (pictured) for Mayor, by a 146 to 12 vote.

“We look forward to working with Eric Garcetti as Mayor.  He listens to teachers,” said UTLA President Warren Fletcher in a statement (download it here).

As the LA Weekly‘s Gene Maddaus reported, Garcetti has been making pro-teacher comments lately. At a debate on Monday night at UCLA, Garcetti said, “I’m sick of us bullying our teachers… We’re so obsessed with firing the bad teachers, we forgot to lift up the good ones.”

One of Garcetti’s opponents, Wendy Greuel, has garnered the endorsement of most of the other public employee unions in the city, including the electrical workers, policemen and firefighters.  However, several SEIU locals deadlocked on Tuesday, notes the LA Daily News.

The UTLA endorsement of Garcetti carries political and financial implications for the LAUSD School Board races. Every dollar that UTLA spends on the Mayor’s race is a dollar it won’t have to spend on the School Board races. In 2005, the teachers union spent $257,346 in support of Antonio Villaraigosa, a former UTLA organizer himself.

Previous posts: Who Will Pick Up the Mayor’s Education Torch?Mayoral Candidates’ Education Views

Morning Read: UTLA Backs Garcetti for Mayor

Teachers Union Backs Eric Garcetti for Mayor
The Los Angeles Teachers Union voted late Wednesday to endorse Eric Garcetti for mayor and Mike Feuer for city attorney in the March 5 primary election. LA Daily News
See also: LA School Report

GOP Legislators Propose California School Districts Arm Teachers
Democratic legislators say bill that would allow districts to spend education funds to train teachers, administrators and janitors in gun use doesn’t have a chance. LA Times

Charter School Growth Fund Paying Off, Study Says
For the past seven years, an organization called the Charter School Growth Fund has been providing those schools with millions of dollars in grants and low-interest loans, after putting them through a screening process to try to gauge whether their promise is worth the investment. EdWeek

Principal at Center of LAUSD’s Latest Sex Abuse Scandal May Lose Credential
The Commission on Teacher Credentialing will decide today whether to suspend a principal for allegedly failing to report abuse by one of her teachers. KPCC

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On the Ballot, Everyone’s a “Teacher”

When it comes to running for School Board, it’s good to be a teacher.

No less than five out of 11 candidates  — Annamarie Montanez, current Board Member Steve Zimmer, Isabel Vazquez, Abelardo Diaz, and Monica Ratliff — are listed on the ballot as “teacher” (whether they’re currently in the classroom or not).

Two other candidates list their jobs as “educator” — Robert Skeels and Antonio Sanchez.  (See full list of city-wide ballot designations here.)

There’s a good reason candidates choose these labels.  So-called “ballot designations” — the brief identifying descriptions that follow each candidate’s name on ballots — can be surprisingly important, according to campaign veterans, and are at least occasionally disputed for being inaccurate.

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All Eyes on LA (& Denver)

“Los Angeles and Denver have pivotal elections this year that will go a long way toward sorting out the longevity of the ambitious reform efforts of their superintendents,” writes Andy “Eduwonk” Rotherham in his recent list of 5 Issues To Watch In 2013:  “Look for a lot of money from all sides, but, after voters have their say, also a signal about the stability of the demand for reform.  Solid pro-reform majorities would have implications in those cities, but also nationally.”

Who Will Pick Up the Mayor’s Education Torch?

Mayor Villaraigosa and LAUSD Supt. Deasy

“For the last eight years, education reformers have had a staunch ally in the L.A. mayor’s office,” writes LA Weekly reporter Gene Maddaus in a recent roundup of the Mayoral candidates’ education priorities.

“But in a few months, Villaraigosa will be gone, and at the moment it appears that his successor will not be as strong an advocate for making dramatic changes to the current public school system as he has been.”

“Eric Garcetti and Wendy Greuel, the top two contenders, talk often about improving education,” notes Maddaus, pointing out that Garcetti is the more union-friendly of the two leading candidates even though he supports charter schools.  “But neither has campaigned on the more controversial elements of the education reform agenda.”  (Read the story at LA Weekly.)

Candidates Tout Their Ideas

Campaign questionnaires don’t always yield reflective or candid responses from candidates, but a majority of LAUSD Board candidates have now responded to a questionnaire on the League of Women Voters’ Smart Voter website and their answers shed some light on what they think are the biggest issues facing LAUSD — as well as what’s needed to improve the district.

Click below for some highlights of what some of the candidates have to say, or click above for the full set of responses.  In the very near future, LA School Report is planning to ask and publish candidates’ answers to more specific education questions. What do you think we should ask? Meantime, don’t forget that candidates for District 6 are scheduled to appear tomorrow, January 31, at the next United Way Greater Los Angeles candidate forum.

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UTLA-PACE: Website Now, Disclosure Later?

Earlier this month, the political arm of the Los Angeles teachers union known as UTLA-PACE unveiled a new “Join PACE” website devoted almost entirely to the upcoming LAUSD elections. But there is no sign yet that it has filed disclosure paperwork with the City Ethics Committee.

As a tax-exempt labor organization, the union is allowed to advocate for teachers. But according to the City Ethics website, once a group spends more than $1,000 advocating for the defeat or election of a candidate, detailed disclosure must follow immediately.

The UTLA-PACE site devotes most of its space to criticizing incumbent School Board President Monica Garcia, who has been an outspoken advocate for school choice and a number of reforms that are opposed by UTLA leadership. So far, UTLA-PACE has reported no spending at all on the School Board race, making the genesis of the newly designed site a bit of a mystery. We’ve asked UTLA-PACE for information and will let you know if we find out any answers.

Previous posts:  Different Rules for UTLA-PACE,  Election ’13: Undisclosed Donors?Dark Money Dominates LAUSD ElectionsUTLA-PACE’s Robust Campaign Chest

Morning Read: CA Charter Law Ranked 7th

Report Ranks California’s Charter School Laws 7th Strongest in Nation
The National Alliance for Public Charter Schools ranked California 7th for its charter school laws among the 42 states and the District of Columbia that have passed laws allowing charter schools. EdSource

L.A. Schools Supt. Deasy, 4 Predecessors Named in Miramonte Lawsuit
The lawsuit alleges that the superintendents created an environment in which administrators were advised to dismiss complaints of misconduct, shielded teachers from scrutiny and kept allegations from being reported to state authorities and law enforcement. LA Times
See also: LA Daily News, AP, ABC LA

Applying for Kindergarten: What to Do If Your Child Is Too Young
It’s that time of the year when parents of four and five year old’s are busy with school tours and applications to secure a kindergarten spot. KPCC

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Not Interested: Union, National Charters

Lots of different folks want to help 24th Street Elementary School turn things around, according to Parent Revolution — including LAUSD itself and a former 24th Street educator.  EdSource notes that Celerity was one of the outfits that expressed interest in Compton back when the trigger was being attempted there.

A number of these outfits will likely drop out by the March 8th deadline for turning in a full proposal, if experience is any guide.

Meanwhile, LA Weekly raises the possibility that LAUSD will fight the trigger petition (though this seems unlikely given how successfully Superintendent John Deasy has pointed the trigger away from itself and towards UTLA).

Speaking of UTLA, the union is among those not listed among the entities expressing interest in taking on this responsibility.  Also absent are any of the well-known national charter management organizations like KIPP (who tend to shy away from messy turnaround/takeover situations).

Previous posts: Deasy Visits Trigger SchoolDistrict, Union Face Opportunity from 24th Street Trigger 

Reform Coalition Reports $1.2 Million Raised

The Coalition for School Reform reported over $1.2 million raised during the first 19 days of the year, according to campaign disclosure statements obtained from the City Ethics Commission (download document here).

The Coalition is, which is supporting School Board candidates Monica Garcia, Kate Anderson and Antonio Sanchez, was also major force in the 2011 School Board elections, spending over $1.4 million in total. The independent expenditure committee seems poised to easily eclipse that total this year.

Major contributors include Eli Broad, former home developer, owner of Sun Life Insurance, philanthropist, art collector and frequent school reform donor: $250,000; Jerry Perenchio, former CEO of Univision, frequent donor to Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa causes: $250,000; Megan Chernin, LA Fund board member: $100,000; Jamie Alter Lynton, LA Fund board member, publisher of LA School Report: $100,000; Lynda Resnick, co-owner (with her husband Stewart) of Fiji Water, POM Wonderful and the Franklin Mint: $100,000; and The Whittier Trust Company: $100,000.

Fundraising numbers for UTLA-PACE, the independent expenditure committee supporting Steve Zimmer, Antonio Sanchez, and several District 2 candidates, are scheduled to come online Thursday, January 31 and will be reported here.

Previous posts: Reform Coalition Weighs In for Anderson, Sanchez, & GarciaUpdate: SEIU Spends Big On District 4′s Zimmer,  Different Rules for UTLA-PACEUpdate: Outside Money Pouring InLabor Groups Spend for Garcia & Sanchez

RSVP for Thursday’s District 6 Forum

All three remaining LAUSD School Board candidates vying for a seat representing District 6 are scheduled to appear at the United Way of Greater Los Angeles’ second Board candidate forum on Thursday, January 31.

Ryan Smith, United Way’s director of education programs and policy, told LA School Report that over 150 R.S.V.P’s have already been received for the event, which will feature candidates Maria Cano, Monica Ratliff, and Antonio Sanchez. For full forum details and information on how to R.S.V.P., click here.

District 6 Candidate Says He’s “Honest Broker” LAUSD Needs

District 6 candidate Antonio Sanchez  is vowing to be a new, different kind of School Board member.

Candidate Antonio Sanchez via Coalition for School Reform website

In his second interview with LA School Report, Sanchez listed some fairly standard policy priorities — lowering dropout rates and increasing resources – but also emphasized his youth, enthusiasm, and honesty.

Sanchez argues that these attributes are among the traits that have attracted endorsements and funding from such diverse entities as SEIU, the Coalition for School Reform and the United Teachers of Los Angeles.

“[I’m] honest and sincere with everyone,” Sanchez says.  Everyone “know[s] I am an honest broker who will make sure they are included as we move forward.”

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Morning Read: Who Will Follow Mayor’s Ed. Lead?

Antonio Villaraigosa Led The Way on Education Reform, but His Potential Successors Are Reluctant to Pick up the Torch
For the last eight years, education reformers have had a staunch ally in the L.A. mayor’s office. But in a few months, Villaraigosa will be gone. LA Weekly
See also:  USC Annenberg, LA School Report

LAUSD to Compete With Charters to Run ‘Parent Trigger’ School
The parents at 24th Street Elementary School in Los Angeles Unified will have plenty of choices for an operator to take over their school under the “parent trigger” process they initiated this month. One of the contenders will be the district itself. EdSource
See also: LA Weekly, KPCC

Former State Senator Martha Escutia Calls for LAUSD Probe
In the wake of yet another sex abuse arrest in the Los Angeles Unified School District, former state Sen. Martha Escutia came to a Wilmington elementary school Monday to call for an LAUSD investigation into what she believes is a pattern of such abuse against Latino youth by teachers in low-income areas. LA Daily News
See also: LA Times

Second Parent Says Principal Ignored Concerns About Accused Teacher
Maria Zacapa, whose child is now in the eighth grade, said her son told her four years ago that Robert Pimental had touched a girl in his fourth-grade class in a way that made Zacapa’s son feel uncomfortable. LA Times

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Mayoral Candidates’ Education Views

The race over who will replace Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa in June has thus far focused on non-education issues, but the five main City Hall candidates have taken some positions on education topics and the USC School of Journalism news blog has a quick roundup.

Some highlights:

Councilmenber Eric Garcetti supports a school funding revamp to “get more per-pupil spending up front.” City Controller Wendy Greuel has a son at Colfax Elementary and says her experience gives her an edge over the others. Former Assistant US Attorney Kevin James supports district-wide open enrollment, including private schools, and the parent trigger. Councilmember Jan Perry has focused on healthy eating guidelines and equal funding for charter schools.  Former Obama Administration advisory board member Emanuel Pleitez graduated from LAUSD and includes pension reform as a top priority.

We’re planning to have more about the candidates’ views on education in the coming days.  Meantime, you can read the Annenberg blog post here: L.A. Mayoral Candidates’ Education Proposals Explained.



Reform Coalition Weighs In for Anderson, Sanchez, & Garcia

Late on Friday, the Coalition for School Reform, an Independent Expenditure (IE) committee, filed paperwork indicating that it had spent its first money:  $45,457 for District 4 candidate Kate Anderson, $33,431 for District 6 candidate Antonio Sanchez and $29,238 for District 2 incumbent Monica Garcia.

Most of the money went to The Feldman Group, which has also done polling for Garcia and Sanchez on behalf of the SEIU. The Coalition has also finally redesigned its website, indicating that Jerrold Perenchio and Eli Broad are among its top contributors (as they were in 2011).

That means that three major IE campaigns — LA County Fed, SEIU, Coalition — have now started spending the money they’ve been raising in recent weeks.  Where is UTLA’s IE, UTLA-PACE, when will it start spending — and does it have enough to keep up with the others? We’re doing our best to find out.

Previous posts: January Contribution Reports, Part 2Update: SEIU Spends Big On District 4′s Zimmer,  Different Rules for UTLA-PACEUpdate: Outside Money Pouring InLabor Groups Spend for Garcia & Sanchez

Employees Contribute to Zimmer, Skeels, & Garcia

The latest campaign contribution disclosures filed with the City reveal that LAUSD employees are not shy about kicking in money to support their favorite School Board candidates — a practice which is legal as long as the contribution is not solicited:

Steve Zimmer, the incumbent running on the Westside for the District 4 seat, has received $7,000 from LAUSD employees, making up 23% of the $30,900 he has raised directly for his campaign thus far. (See full list here).

Robert Skeels, a candidate for East LA and downtown’s District 2, has collected $4,500 from those who list themselves as employed by LAUSD – a whopping 56% of his total of $8,300 (subtracting his own contribution to his campaign). (See full list here).

School Board President Monica Garcia herself has raised almost as much as Skeels from LAUSD contributors in terms of raw dollars, but the total comes to less than 2% of the $260,000 she has raised so far. (See full list here).

Previous Posts: Latest Reports Trickle In, Contribution Reports Part 2, Senior District Employee Gives to Garcia

Morning Read: Incumbents Lead on Direct Contributions

LA Election Fundraising Tops $18M
In races for the Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education, incumbents easily outpace challengers. LA Daily News

L.A. Unified’s College-Prep Push Is Based on False Data
San Jose’s school district, which requires all students to pass the classes necessary to apply to California universities, initially reported strong results. But its success was overstated. Those results should raise warning flags for other school systems, including Los Angeles Unified, that based key policy decisions on San Jose’s misreported data. LA Times

LAUSD Plans to Add 1,000 New Campus Aides for Security at Elementary Schools
The Los Angeles Unified School District plans to make more than 1,000 new hires to bolster security at hundreds of campuses in a move some critics have called “security on the cheap.” LA Daily News
See also: KPCC, LA Times

State Legislators Seek Crackdown on Expensive Form of School Finance
Two state lawmakers moved on Friday to crack down on a costly method of finance that hundreds of school districts have been relying on to pay for new construction. LA Times

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