Ratliff Retires Campaign Debt With Broad Base of Support

Monica Ratliff is sworn in by her mother

Monica Ratliff is sworn in by her mother

Before her election to the LA school board in May, Monica Ratliff was virtually unknown. Now, the race to influence her is on — and all sides have entered.

Ratliff, a former teacher and upset winner over Antonio Sanchez in District 6, has raised just over $30,000 since her election to help retire her campaign debt, according to a campaign finance report just released by the city ethics commission. The donors come from all poles of the education debate, giving her at least a veneer of political nonalignment. Ratliff’s ideological stance — that is, how she might line up on school board votes — has been the subject of much speculation. By some indications, she could be something of a swing vote, like board members Steve Zimmer and Richard Vladovic, even though she received strong teacher support in the general election campaign.

Among post-election contributions, UTLA President Warren Fletcher gave $1,000, the maximum allowable amount in School Board races, while UTLA Secretary David Lyell gave $350, and Brent Smiley, vice chairman of the union’s political action committee and a campaign volunteer, donated $50. The California Federation of Teachers’ Political Action Committee also gave $1,000.

On the other end of the spectrum, the California Charter School Association’s Political Action Committee gave $1,000, while Kathrine Baxter, wife of Frank Baxter, chipped in $500. Both Frank Baxter and the CCSA gave hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Coalition for School Reform, which spent heavily in an attempt to elect Sanchez.

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“Motley Crew” Attend Ratliff Campaign Debt Fundraiser

la-ed-end-lausd-district-6-20130426-001-1Less than a week before she’s due to be sworn in as a new School Board member, Monica Ratliff held a fundraiser at Farfalla in Los Feliz to raise money in order to pay off her campaign debt.

According to sources who attended the lunch, the roughly 20 to 25 people who were there comprised a “motley crew” from both sides of the public education debate — including not only union leaders such as teachers union President Warren Fletcher and UTLA General Counsel Jesus Quinonez, but also charter school operators such as Dixon Slingerland of Youth Policy Institute, Dr. Jacqueline Elliot of PUC, and Liza Bercovici of Gabriella Charter School.

There were also a few education reform donors — perhaps most notably Frank Baxter, the Republican ex-diplomat who gave $100,000 to the Coalition for School Reform, the independent expenditure committee that supported Ratliff’s opponent, Antonio Sanchez.

Baxter told LA School Report that he found Ratliff to be a “very impressive woman. She seems really committed to children-first in LA Unified.”

One other notable attendee was Jefferson Crain, the Executive Officer of the LAUSD School Board, who is in charge of calling the roll, recording votes and making sure that the Board follows proper procedure.

The event was at least partially organized by independent consultant and ex-Board member David Tokofsky, who served informally in Ratliff’s “kitchen cabinet” during the election. A source that was there said the candidate was introduced by Tokofsky, then made a speech which lasted under three minutes.

According to the last campaign finance statement submitted before the election, the Ratliff campaign had nearly $12,000 in debt, although one source said it was closer to $14,000.

Having debt like this is not unusual for a campaign, but fundraisers held after an election to retire the debt presents an early opportunity for people to donate money to a candidate who’s already won.

Previous posts: Ratliff Supports Proposal Linking Teacher Pay to Test ScoresUTLA President Appears at Sanchez, Ratliff EventsDoor-to-Door in Sunland with Monica Ratliff

Reform Coalition Focuses Massive War Chest on Mailers

Close-up of Coalition mailer for District 6 candidate Antonio Sanchez

As of May 4, the independent expenditure (IE) committee known as the Coalition for School Reform had a staggering $850,000 left in the bank, according to papers filed with the City Ethics Commission.

That dwarfs the $55,000 left in the coffers of the Antonio Sanchez campaign, whom the Coalition is supporting, as well as the $21,000 held by the Monica Ratliff campaign.

Both are seeking to win the District 6 (East Valley) School Board runoff election that’s being held May 21.

Rather than airing new ads on television or radio, or going for broke with a door-to-door field operation, Coalition spokesman Addisu Demissie said the group would spend heavily on direct mail.

“The good thing about mail is, we can talk to different people in specific ways,” Demissie told LA School Report.  “It’s more efficient that way. You know how expensive TV can be in Los Angeles.”

The Coalition’s recent mailers have all been positive — in contrast to some of the pieces sent out in the primary, some of which were negative.

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Mayoral Debate: Teachers Give to Garcetti Super PAC

Garcetti meeting with parents of 24th St. Elementary via Parent Revolution

The American Federation of Teachers and its California chapter, CFT, have just given a combined $60,000 to a super PAC named  Lots of People Who Support Eric Garcetti for Mayor.

Although UTLA, the local teachers union, endorsed Garcetti back in February, this is the first time a teachers union has spent any money on the 2013 Mayoral election.

“I think the AFT is sending a loud and clear message that the status quo — ensuring that the worst teachers are impacting students — is still the law of the land,” said political consultant Michael Trujillo, a strong (though unpaid) supporter of Garcetti’s opponent, Wendy Greuel. “And they’re gonna hold Eric Garcetti’s feet to the fire.”

The union contribution may come up later today, when the candidates will take part in an education-focused debate hosted by KPCC.

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Morning Read: Study Praises Teacher Evaluation Tool

First Academic Study of Controversial LA Unified Teacher Evaluation Program
An academic study of a teacher evaluation method that looks at how much teachers are able to improve students’ test scores gave the pilot program a good grade. But the study comes too late — the teacher’s union and Los Angeles Unified School District agreed not to use the measure in the district’s new teacher evaluation protocols. KPCC

L.A. Unified Fight Focuses on Breakfast Program
Los Angeles Unified will eliminate a classroom breakfast program serving nearly 200,000 children, reject more school police, cut administrators and scale back new construction projects unless the school board votes to approve them, according to Supt. John Deasy. LA Times
See also: LA School Report, Sac Bee, LA Daily News, KPCC

‘Super PACs’ Negate Spending Limits in L.A. Mayor’s Race
As groups raising funds for Greuel and Garcetti pour money into the race — a record $6.1 million so far — voter-approved contribution restrictions become meaningless. LA Times

Eric Garcetti for Mayor
Perhaps most important, Garcetti has demonstrated the capacity to grow, learn and improve his performance. He admits mistakes, such as his vote in favor of a settlement allowing, for a time, virtually unregulated digital billboards. LAT (editorial page)

L.A. Schools Finish One-Two in National Academic Decathlon
After months of preparation, Granada Hills Charter High wins the title for the third straight year. Finishing second was El Camino Real Charter High, a six-time national champion. LA Times
See also: Sac Bee

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Morning Read: Did UTLA Leaders Make a Deal With Candidate?

Rumor of Deal Roils Teachers Union
The leadership of the Los Angeles teachers union is roiled over whether its officials made a private deal with a Board of Education candidate whom critics view as an ally of anti-labor forces. LA Times

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg Donates $350,000 to LAUSD Reformer’s Campaign
With the runoff now less than a month away, Bloomberg has given the coalition an additional $350,000 – again at Villaraigosa’s request – to support the election of Antonio Sanchez to the District 6 seat. LA Daily News
See also: LA School Report

Teacher Evaluation Bill Opposed by Unions Dies in Committee
Legislation that would have required more frequent evaluations of educators was killed by a state Senate committee Wednesday under strong opposition from teachers’ unions. LA Times
See also: LA School Report, SI&A Cabinet Report

Jerry Brown Vows Battle With Democratic Critics of Education Plan
Gov. Jerry Brown offered a spirited defense of his plan to overhaul the state’s education system Wednesday and warned Democratic critics of his plan that they were “going to get the battle of their lives” if they attempt to change key parts of his proposal. LA Times
See also: EdSource, Fresno Bee

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Coalition for School Reform Gets Big Donations

Eli Broad

The Coalition for School Reform’s District 6 (East San Fernando Valley) runoff election coffers have been replenished thanks to big donations received from Los Angeles philanthropist Eli Broad and StudentsFirst, Michelle Rhee’s education advocacy group, among others.

According to reports just filed with the LA City Ethics Commission, Broad gave the Coalition $250,000. StudentsFirst contributed another $100,000. A LA-area business consulting group called Aurora Management Partners contributed $30,000 to the Coalition, and Century City 1800 Partners gave $20,000. As LA School Report reported Monday, the Coalition had $230,000 in its war chest at the beginning of April. These new contributions push that amount to $630,000.

Previous posts: Runoff 2013: Slow Fundraising Start for District 6; Runoff: Union & LA Times Might Shift Endorsements

Runoff 2013: Slow Fundraising Start for District 6

Voters head to the polls in less than six weeks to decide the East San Fernando Valley District 6 School Board runoff between Antonio Sanchez and Monica Ratliff, but things are off to a pretty slow start when it comes to fundraising and spending.

In terms of direct campaign fundraising, Ratliff hasn’t raised any money at all since the primary election, and Sanchez has raised just $15,000 since early March.

As for the IE committees, the latest financial reports from the LA City Ethics Commission cover a time period between mid-February and April 6:

*UTLA-PACE, the teachers union’s political arm, received $237,000 in contributions, as well as $628,000 in “miscellaneous cash increases” but only has $73,000 left for the runoff because the union spent heavily in the weeks leading up to the primary. (See report here.)

*The Coalition for School Reform received $712,000 in contributions during the same time period. But it also spent heavily on the primary, so the Coalition has $230,000 in its account to spend on the District 6 election. (See report here.)

*And the Local 99 branch of the Service Employees International Union collected $398,000 between February and April. It has $261,000 to spend on the runoff. (See report here.)

In terms of spending, outside groups including the Coalition for School Reform and the LA County Federation of Labor spent almost $1.3 million to support Sanchez in the primary, but they have spent only $66,000 on him since then.

LA School Report will keep track of campaign spending and will update you with more up-to-date numbers as we get them.

Morning Read: State Democrats Pass Anti-Reform Resolution

California Democrats Blast Efforts to Overhaul Schools
California Democrats on Sunday condemned efforts led by members of their own party to overhaul the nation’s schools, arguing that groups such as StudentsFirst and Democrats for Education Reform are fronts for Republicans and corporate interests. LA Times

L.A. School Reform Effort Draws Diverse Group of Wealthy Donors
Republicans, liberals, Hollywood notables and global corporate executives are among those who gave to the Coalition for School Reform. LA Times

LAUSD Chief John Deasy Draws Fire as He Pursues Aggressive Reform Plan
The reforms that Deasy enacted – and just how aggressively he’s pursued them – have put the fast-talking New Englander at the center of a heated debate over the future of the nation’s second-largest school district. LA Daily News

Interest in Teaching Continues to Drop in California
Interest in teaching is steadily dropping in California, with the number of educators earning a teaching credential dipping by 12% last year — marking the eighth straight annual decline. LA Times
See also: EdSource

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April 11 Next Disclosure Date for Independent Committees

Now that the dust has started to settle around last week’s LAUSD Board primary election, you might be wondering what outside spending groups have in store for the May runoff election for the District 6 (East San Fernando Valley) Board seat.

However, it may be awhile. The Coalition for School Reform and UTLA-PACE won’t have to report contributions or expenditures again until April 11, when the next round of pre-election reports will be due at the LA City Ethics Commission. UTLA-PACE, which is a longstanding general purpose committee that is active throughout different election cycles, doesn’t have to provide updates until it begins spending, so we may have to wait until after April 11 to see its reports.

Previous posts: Union Schedules Special Session To Reconsider Endorsements; School Board Primary Averaged $55 Per Vote

School Board Primary Averaged $55 Per Vote

With low voter turnout and sky-high spending, the cost per vote from Tuesday’s primary election — an average of $55 per vote across three districts — is pretty eye-popping.

However, the rate varied widely across the three races:

According to numbers from the LA City Clerk’s office and the LA City Ethics Commission, the per-vote cost in District 2 (East LA) was the highest, at $71 per vote — the result of low voter registration, 13 percent turnout, and the $1.9 million that candidates’ campaigns and outside groups spent.

The cost per vote was $52 dollars in the District 4 Westside race. Though overall spending was the biggest of the three races — $3 million — so was the turnout, which kept the vote cost from surpassing District 2’s.

In the East Valley’s District 6, where the race will go into a May 21 runoff, the price per vote was, comparatively speaking, a modest $42. The union did not spend any money in this race, and so spending was limited to “just” $1.3 million.

The rates come out even higher when calculated by candidate, as done by the Daily News. The campaign to elect Steve Zimmer cost $33 per vote, compared to the pro-Anderson effort’s $52 per vote.  The effort to support Monica Garcia cost about $85 per vote, and the effort to support Antonio Sanchez cost $90 per vote.

Morning Read: Incumbents Prevail; Runoff for District 6

2 Incumbent LA Unified School Board Members Keep Seats in Costly Races
Los Angeles Unified School Board incumbents Steve Zimmer and Monica Garcia kept their seats in a hotly contested election that attracted nearly $6 million, putting it on track to be the most costly school board election in the district’s history. Zimmer won with 52 percent of the vote and Garcia with 56 percent. A third race for district 6 is headed for a runoff. KPCC
See also: LA Times, LA Daily News, LA Weekly, Reuters, LA School Report, EdWeek

$5M in Outside Funds Helps Reelect LAUSD Board Members
Incumbents Monica Garcia and Steve Zimmer survived a bruising reelection campaign with millions in funds from non-local sources. CBS LA

Dismal Turnout Puts Greuel and Garcetti in Mayoral Runoff, Sales Tax Bombs
After months of build-up and millions of dollars spent on a blizzard of television ads and mailers, Los Angeles voters went to the polls Tuesday and selected Wendy Greuel and Eric Garcetti as their next potential mayor. Turnout in the city races was dismal at 16% in a contested mayoral primary. LA Times
See also: LAist

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Outside Spending Up $400K Since Friday – Nears $5 Million

Outside interest groups have spent $4.8 million so far on the three LAUSD Board races — an increase of $400,000 just over the weekend.

So far, UTLA has spent $994,000 on two races — District 2 (East LA) and District 4 (Westside/Hollywood) — but has stayed out of the District 6 (East San Fernando Valley) race so far. (See spending totals here.) The union hasn’t reported any sizable late contributions.

The Coalition for School Reform has spent almost $3.1 million on three candidates. Late contributions it has received include $300,000 from the California Charter Schools Association (CCSA) and $250,000 from Rupert Murdoch’s News America Inc. (See contributions report here and spending totals here.)

Primary election day — March 5 — is only a day away, but the total amount of outside spending is likely to rise as these groups make their final primary pushes today and tomorrow.

Previous posts: Coalition Fields Effort to Avoid Runoffs; Analysis: Air War Vs. Boots On the Ground

Update: Direct Fundraising Lags Behind

New disclosure reports available from LA City Ethics reveal that direct fundraising by candidates — limited to $1,000 per individual contributor —  continues to lag far behind outside fundraising, which is unlimited. One possible interpretation is that candidates are hoping that outside expenditures will be enough to fuel their campaigns.  Another is that candidates are waiting to see if they make it through the March 5 primary before focusing on direct appeals.

District 2 (Downtown – East Los Angeles): Robert Skeels has raised a total of $19,000, adding $2,000 since the last reporting period last month; Annamarie Montanez has raised $9,200 altogether, adding less than $100 since last month; Abelardo Diaz has raised $3,900 altogether, adding only a few dollars to his coffers since last month. Isabel Vazquez, has raised $15,200, up $2,000 from last month. Incumbent Board President Monica Garcia has raised $430,000 so far, adding $100,000 since late last month.

District 4 (Westside to Hollywood): School Board member Steve Zimmer has raised $82,000 for his own campaign, adding $12,000. Kate Anderson has raised $251,000, adding $50,000 since the last reporting period late last month.

District 6 (East San Fernando Valley): Antonio Sanchez has raised $55,000, up by $15,000 since late last month. Maria Cano has raised almost $17,000, a big jump of $8,000 from last month. Monica Ratliff has raised $14,000, adding just $1,000.

Previous posts: Update: Robust Fundraising Numbers for Candidates; Fundraising: Latest Reports Trickling In; January Contribution Reports, Part 2; Outside Spending Tops $2 Million, Grows Negative; Campaign Consultants Win — Either Way

Morning Read: All Eyes on School Board Primary

National Attention and Cash in Los Angeles School Vote Much of the attention will also be on the three races for the school board, a battle that involves the mayor, the teachers’ union and a host of advocates from across the country — including New York City’s billionaire mayor — who have poured millions of dollars into the races. NY Times

Outside Cash Prominent in L.A. School Board Races Outside spending is dominating campaigns for three seats on the Los Angeles Board of Education, surpassing $4.4 million through Friday. LA Times

Profiles of Candidates for Los Angeles Board of Education A brief look at candidates for three L.A. school board seats. LA Times

Tuesday’s Election Could Redefine Los Angeles City Government In an election that will redefine Los Angeles for up to the next eight years, voters on Tuesday will have the rare opportunity to elect three new citywide leaders, plus a majority of the City Council and the board of the Los Angeles Unified School District. Daily Breeze

Election 2013: Reform at Center of LA Unified Race The race for three seats on the LAUSD board has shaped up into a pitched battle for control of the city’s public schools, with reform-minded candidates hoping to maintain the momentum of Superintendent John Deasy and union-backed rivals trying to halt it. LA Daily News

Candidates for Mayor Take Different Tacks on Education Eric Garcetti has the backing of the teachers union and wants to unite the union and reformers. Wendy Greuel wants local decision-making. Jan Perry wants a non-voting seat on the board. LA Times

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Insider Predictions: Two Runoffs & A “Jump Ball”

Predicting the outcome of any political campaign is notoriously difficult — and predicting closely contested School Board races may be especially so.

The turnout is generally low, and the polling is weak.  The majority of voters tend to make up their mind while they’re looking at the ballot, and forget who they’ve voted for 10 minutes later.

Undaunted, LA School Report talked to a few campaign consultants and insiders to try to get a sense of what knowledgeable observers expect to happen when the votes are counted late Tuesday night. The predictions we got — tentative as they were — included a decent chance of runoffs in Districts 2 and 6 and a District 4 race that’s too close to call.

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Morning Read: Will Board Race Motivate Voters?

Races for LA Unified’s School Board Attract Millions; Will They Also Attract Voters?
Based on the media coverage and celebrity endorsements this LAUSD school board election has received, you’d think sitting on the seven-member panel was one of the most glamorous jobs in LA. KPCC

How Outside Spending Is Changing the Race to Represent Northeast San Fernando Valley Schools
Sanchez has been able to hire three paid staff members, had more than a dozen mailers go out on his behalf and was the subject of a commercial that aired during Lakers games. KPCC

Steve Zimmer and Kate Anderson Face off on AirTalk
Both candidates talk about where they stand on Deasy, why Zimmer does not agree with charter school expansion and Anderson is pushing for it, and if teacher evaluations can be tied to student performance.. KPCC

L.A. Unified, Other School Districts Seek New Measures of Success
Nine California school districts, including Los Angeles Unified, will apply to the U.S. Department of Education for relief from rules that, over time, have labeled most schools that receive federal funds as failing, officials announced Thursday. LA Times
See also: LA Daily News

Arne Duncan’s Education ‘Sequester’ Claims Questioned
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has long been seen as an administration asset. But this past week, he’s also been the chief spokesman for the White House claims about the potential impact of sequestration on education jobs. Now those estimates have run afoul of fact-checkers. EdWeek

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Zimmer Irate Over Reform Coalition Attacks

Zimmer, Villaraigosa, and Sullivan

It was perhaps no surprise that District 4 School Board member Steve Zimmer was visibly upset when he happened to run into Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s Deputy Mayor for Education, Joan Sullivan, at today’s United Way education event.

“RFK, Joan? Really?” said Zimmer as the two rode the escalator together. “That’s just wrong.”

“I don’t know what you want me to say, Steve,” responded Sullivan.

The exchange, followed by harsh remarks from Mayor Villaraigosa about Zimmer later in the day, reveals just how antagonistic things have gotten between City Hall and the District 4 incumbent who was once considered something of an ally.

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Coalition, SEIU, County Fed Spend on Candidates

With the March 5 election day now less than a month away, the Coalition for School Reform, the LA County Federation of Labor, and the Local 99 branch of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) have each kicked their LAUSD School Board spending up a notch, but UTLA-PACE — a major player in past elections — still hasn’t reported spending anything significant. Also worth noting is that none of the outside campaigns have reported any spending on negative advertising, either, though that is almost certain to come.

As of February 5:

The Coalition spent $73,000 each on consulting services for Monica Garcia, Kate Anderson, and Antonio Sanchez, adding up to $219,000. This raises the amount the Coalition has spent so far in the election to $329,000.

The LA County Federation of Labor spent almost $19,000 each on consulting services for Monica Garcia and Antonio Sanchez, totaling $38,000. The County Fed spent an additional $30,000 for scripted telephone calls supporting Steve Zimmer. (To read the script, click here.) So far, the County Fed has spent $118,000 on its three endorsed candidates.

SEIU Local 99 spent a $1,000 each on phone banking for Garcia, Zimmer, and Sanchez. This increases its election spending to $167,000.

In response to a LA School Report story on Friday, UTLA recently declared that it was following campaign disclosure laws. Yesterday, UTLA secondary Vice President Gregg Solkovits told LA School Report that defeating School Board President Monica Garcia was a top priority.  But the group has yet to declare any substantial campaign spending.

UTLA Focus: Defend Zimmer, Defeat Garcia

As KPCC reported on Friday, United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA) has endorsed Eric Garcetti for Mayor but has no plans to spend any money to campaign for him.

“We’re focusing our money on the School Board races,” UTLA secondary Vice President Gregg Solkovits explained to LA School Report.

But UTLA won’t be focusing equally on all three races.

Solkovits said that in the next month leading up to the March 5 primary election, UTLA will focus on the Eastside’s District 2, currently held by School Board President Monica Garcia, and the Westside’s District 4, currently held by School Board member Steve Zimmer. For now, at least, the union won’t campaign heavily the East Valley’s District 6, where it has endorsed all three candidates that are still in the running.

“Districts 2 and 4 will be the most important to us,” said Solkovits. “We’ll be equally engaged in both.”

The decision to endorse but not fund Garcetti shows that UTLA cares much more about gaining influence on the School Board that gaining influence in the Mayor’s Office (which has no direct control over the school system).

The decision — as well as the strategy of focusing on just two of the three open School Board races — may also be an indication that its Political Action Committee is relatively underfunded.

Endorsing multiple candidates in District 2 is either a savvy campaign maneuver on the part of UTLA or a function of a divided teachers union, according to political veterans and LAUSD insiders LA School Report talked to for this story.

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