In a race that is still considered too close to call, Assemblywoman Betsy Butler is trailing her upstart opponent, Santa Monica Mayor Richard Bloom, by just over 200 votes in Assembly District 50, which covers one of the wealthiest areas of the city from Beverly Hills to the ocean.
In the end, the narrow margin may well hinge on a highly sensitive issue for the teachers union – the dismissal process – as well as a boatload of last minute independent expenditure money.
LA School Report has learned that Opportunity PAC, a group funded primarily by teachers and service employees, spent $360,000 in late October and early November to help get Butler elected.
The controversy over teacher dismissals began over the summer with a refusal to vote: Butler and a few of her colleagues in the Assembly killed a bill that would have made it easier to fire teachers who sexually abuse students like those at Miramonte Elementary School.
The bill, SB 1350, had already passed with overwhelming, bipartisan support in the Senate but was stopped dead in the Assembly’s education committee by Butler and three other Democrats, who abstained.
Butler defended her vote by arguing the bill went too far and “would have stripped due process rights from teachers,” but her critics alleged she was protecting teachers at the expense of student safety, and point out that her position mirrors UTLA’s stance almost word for word.
In August, opponent Richard Bloom condemned the vote (LA School Report, Bloom Criticizes Butler) but the story may have stayed quiet had CNN’s Anderson Cooper not picked it up and aired an expose-style report. (see: LA School Report, Lawmakers Won’t Comment On Sex Abuse Vote)
Butler reportedly accused LAUSD of planting the story. (See LA Weekly Will Betsy Butler’s Sex Pervert Vote Kill Her Career?).
According to late filing reports on the Secretary of State website, these $360,00 in funds were spent both to oppose Bloom and support Butler.