Garcetti wades into LAUSD politics, endorsing Galatzan

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti

Mayor Eric Garcetti, who rarely insinuates himself into Los Angeles public school politics, is endorsing Tamar Galatzan for a third term representing LA Unified’s District 3 board seat.

“Tamar is an innovative problem-solver and a strong and thoughtful advocate for Valley schools and kids,” Garcetti said in a news release from the Galatzan campaign. “She has shown strong leadership on critical issues concerning our students. And she isn’t afraid to make the tough choices about spending taxpayer dollars and fighting for the resources for her schools.”

Garcetti’s endorsement is repayment, of sorts. Galatzan endorsed him for mayor in 2013 when he was running in a close campaign against Wendy Greuel. Greuel, the former city controller, has also endorsed Galatzan, the campaign said.

Of the four board incumbents facing reelection on March 3, Galatzan has drawn the largest number of challengers — five. George McKenna (District 1) is running unopposed. Bennett Kayser (5) and President Richard Vladovic (7) are each facing two challengers.

In any race without a majority winner, the top two candidates will compete in a runoff on May 19.

Galatzan was first elected in 2007,prompted by her concern over the district’s truancy and drop-out problems rates. Re-elected in 2011, she became a strong ally of former superintendent John Deasy, whose management style and battles with other board members led to his resignation in October.

Galatzan, who also serves as a city prosecutor and is the only board member with children in LA Unified schools, often supported Deasy on issues opposed by the district’s teachers union, UTLA.

“The mayor and I each have school-age children, so we both understand what it will take to prepare our kids for college and the workforce,” Galatzan said. “I am honored to have his endorsement, and I pledge to continue the hard work to help our district and our students succeed.”

Garcetti’s endorsement represents his first foray into board politics. A message to his office seeking to learn if he intends to endorse other candidates did not draw an immediate response.

Johnson campaign goes negative, citing the ‘myth’ of McKenna

Alex Johnson George McKenna Negative Mailer LAUSDAlex Johnson has gone negative.

In two recent mailings (here and here) to “most likely” voters in LA Unified’s District 1, the Johnson campaign is questioning George McKenna‘s accomplishments as the two candidates seek the open school board seat.

“We always knew that at some point, our campaign has to address to the myth of George McKenna,” Johnson’s campaign manager, Roy Behr, told LA School Report today. “The real George McKenna is nothing like the myth he likes to spread.”

McKenna has responded with a message on his website, calling Johnson’s tactics a “shameful smear campaign” — with the word “SHAMEFUL” in red appearing across a photograph of Johnson — and asking supporters to donate to his campaign.

In an email to voters, McKenna’s campaign manager, Jewett Walker, wrote, “When a candidate loses a primary by 20 points, like our opponent, there is no clear path to victory in the runoff. Well, over the last several days, our opponent has revealed his plan: smear the good name of George McKenna.”

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PAC spending for Johnson gives him $200,000 advantage

ballot box money JohnsonAs the week comes to a close, Alex Johnson has expanded his overall lead in financial support over George McKenna in their quest to win election as the new District 1 board member in LA Unified, according to the latest figures from the City Ethics Commission.

At mid-day, he held the same ratio of support, about 8-to-1, in individual contributions that he had as the week started — now, $47,646 to $6,450.

But expenditures on behalf of his campaign have jumped considerably.

Today, the figurees show that money spent by outside Political Action Committees on behalf of Johnson’s campaign has doubled, to a $200,000-plus advantage over McKenna from a $100,000-plus advantage early in the week.

Also, with less than a month before the Aug. 12 election, the figures show Johnson holding a sharp advantage in cash on hand. By the latest numbers, he has more than $46,000 to spend while McKenna has only $2,258.

One caveat for all of Johnson’s money lead continues, however: McKenna remains well-known and popular in the district, and voter participation is expected to be lower than the usual turnout for local elections, especially ones that have the day to themselves. 

Also this week, each candidate picked up an endorsement from a sitting board member. Monica Ratliff endorsed McKenna while Monica Garcia appeared at a fundraiser for Johnson.

Previous Posts: Johnson outpacing McKenna in school board race for money; LA Fed’s PAC recommends Johnson for LAUSD board seat; McKenna, Johnson re-launch campaigns for school board seat

Johnson’s internal poll shows gains on McKenna in runoff

LAUSD School Board Candidate Alex Johnson casts vote at election primary

Alex Johnson, District 1 candidate

An internal poll conducted by Alex Johnson’s campaign suggests that he is gaining on George McKenna as they compete for the vacant LA Unified school board seat.

The Johnson campaign says that polling conducted in April and June shows that Johnson’s name recognition has grown to 52 percent, from 14 percent percent.

It also said Johnson’s favorable rating climbed to 42 percent from 12 percent while McKenna’s grew to 49 percent from 29 percent. Each candidate’s unfavorable rating also rose — to 10 percent from 2 percent for Johnson and to 8 percent from 7 percent for McKenna.

The two were the leading vote-getters among seven candidates for the vacant District 1 board seat in the June 3 primary. They’re now facing off in an Aug. 12 runoff.

The Johnson poll, included in a campaign staff memo, was sent, unsolicited, to LA School Report, for the apparently obvious reasons that it shows encouraging results for Johnson, a political neophyte who has been working as an education aide to LA County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas.

The memo said that the campaign has fulfilled the first of two goals, holding McKenna, a former school administrator and the subject of a television movie, under 50 percent in the primary, thus denying him an outright victory. “We knew from the outset that McKenna’s higher initial name ID would virtually guarantee him a first place finish in a multi-candidate race,” it said.

The campaign’s second goal, the memo said, is to turn Johnson’s opportunity into victory by convincing voters he represents “a  new direction for L.A. schools.” The memo said voters are responding favorably to his positions on a series of issues but it offed no polling results showing how they compare with voter sentiments on McKenna’s positions on the same issues.

With the runoff election still six weeks away, it’s hard to assess the true impact of the polling data. McKenna far outdistanced Johnson in the primary, 44.6 percent to 24.7 percent, and as a rule, internal campaign polls usually project good news for the campaign conducting the poll.

Nonetheless, the memo concludes that a third of the voters remain undecided and Johnson “can and will win the runoff.”

LA School report sent a message to the McKenna campaign, sharing some of the numbers in the Johnson memo. The message asked for any similar poll conducted by the McKenna campaign and for reaction to Johnson’s poll.

Jewett Walker, McKenna’s campaign manager, provided an ambiguous, one-word response — “Absurd!.” It was unclear if he were referring to the requests or to the conclusions of the Johnson poll.

He did not respond to another message seeking clarification.

Previous Posts: Labor groups split on support for McKenna and Johnson in runoff, SEIU endorses Alex Johnson for LAUSD school board in runoff, LAUSD candidates McKenna, Johnson set for election runoff

Hudley-Hayes’ edge: no other candidate served on school board

Genethia Hudley-Hayes LAUSD School Board candidate

Genethia Hudley-Hayes

This is the final profile of candidates running for LA Unified’s vacant District 1 board seat. The election is scheduled for June 3, with a possible runoff in August. Genethia Hudley-Hayes is the only candidate who declined to be interviewed for the series. Numerous attempts to reach her and her campaign failed to get a response. 

Genethia Hudley-Hayes has one thing none of the other seven candidates running in the special election for LA Unified District 1 seat can claim: she has actually served on the school board, representing the same south LA district.

She won a narrow victory in 1999 against an incumbent, sweeping into office with a reform slate that was backed by then-Mayor Richard Riordan. Her tenure lasted four years, until she was defeated in 2003 by Marguerite LaMotte. But by many accounts, her term in office, including the first two years as board president, Hudley-Hayes won a reputation as a leader with record of success.

“She demonstrated good judgement, independence and leadership during her time on the board. I saw her in action,” said Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa who took office after her tenure. “She didn’t just do a public service, she did it well. She was a change agent focused on accountability and results.”

Caprice Young, who came into office as a school board member the same year as Hudley-Hayes, says she made every decision based on what she knew was right for children, especially students who were under-served. Young had high praise despite launching a successful campaign to replace her as board president after just two years.

“She fought for the rights of foster children, English language learners, gifted kids, special needs students and, especially, African-American students,” Young told LA School Report.

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At a District 1 forum, candidates sound alike on most issues

Candidates at USC forum district one LAUSD

Candidates at USC forum

When Angela Jauregui arrived Saturday at USC for a debate with five of the seven candidates running for LA Unified’s District 1 board seat, she told her friends she was there to listen.“

Let’s pay attention,” she said in Spanish as she shushed all three, found a seat in the first row of the lecture hall and put on a head set that translated the hour-long event.

What they heard was pretty much the same from each of the five candidates who participated in an event sponsored by Parent Revolution, the Los Angeles Urban League and Students for Education Reform (SFER). The participants: Rachel Johnson, a kindergarten teacher; George McKenna, a former school principal and superintendent; Genethia Hudley-Hayes, a previous board president; Alex Johnson, a deputy to LA County Supervisor Mark Ridley Thomas; and Hattie McFrazier, an educator and health and human services director.

Two other candidates, Omarosa Manigault and Sherlett Hendy-Newbill, had been invited but declined to appear. The special election to replace the late Marguerite LaMotte is June 3.

Between the testimonials from a handful of the Parent Revolutionaries who filled the room, the candidates’ answers differed very little in content, if not style. Often, they began by agreeing with whatever the person before them had just said.

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Rachel Johnson using experience to boost District 1 chances

Rachel Johnson

Rachel Johnson

Beginning today, LA School Report is taking a longer look at each of the seven candidates running for LA Unified’s vacant South LA, District 1 board seat. The series starts today with Rachel Johnson and will continue over the weeks ahead.

After three decades as a LAUSD elementary school teacher and nine years as a member of the Gardena City Council, Rachel Johnson is hoping her extensive teaching and fiscal policy-making background will help her secure a seat on the LA Unified school board.

As one of three teachers among the seven candidates running for the District 1 board seat, left open by the passing of the board’s only African American member, Marguerite LaMotte, Johnson, 54, believes she has the practical and administrative expertise to make a difference.

“Since I put in the time in LAUSD, and I saw how policy that school board members implement and how it directly affects my practice, I said ‘you know, I think I can do better, I think I can contribute, I think I have a voice that would be valuable,’ ” she said in an interview with LA School Report.

Johnson, who teaches kindergarten at Purche Avenue Elementary school, wants to empower educators by raising awareness on several issues impacting District 1, such as why there are so many charter schools in the district.

Johnson believes low-performing traditional schools would greatly benefit if they were allowed to invest in a similar teaching model used by charter schools, giving administrators the flexibility to craft an innovative curriculum that she says would invigorate learning and motivate students to achieve.

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LA County Fed decides not to endorse in the school board race

afl-cio_logoDelegates of the LA County Federation of Labor AFL-CIO, which represents 600,000 workers in the Los Angeles area, decided last night not to endorse any of the seven candidates for LA Unified school board after a motion to endorse candidate Alex Johnson failed to carry a required two-thirds majority vote.

The decision mirrors that of SEIU Local 99, the LA Unified support staff union, which also voted not to endorse anyone in the special election for the South LA seat, left vacant by the death of longtime school board member Marguerite LaMotte.

The vote was a reversal of sorts. Last week, the County Fed’s political action committee, COPE had voted to recommend “no endorsement” in the race, a decision made after interviewing four candidates: Alex Johnson, and the three teacher union-backed candidates, Sherlett Hendy-Newbill, Rachel Johnson and Hattie McFrazier. But a day later, that recommendation was trumped by the Federation executive board, which recommended Alex Johnson’s name be put before the delegates for a vote.

Johnson, an aide to County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, and a product of the LAUSD school system and American University Law School, is the top fundraiser in the election but has little name recognition.

The other three candidates, including George McKenna, considered by insiders to be a front-runner, were not involved in any round of the process because they failed to obtain a required letter of recommendation from any one of the 300 labor affiliates in the federation.

McKenna, a retired administrator, was the subject of a made-for-TV movie and has the backing of the prinicipal’s union, AALA.

Filling LaMotte Seat by Election or Appointment? Board is Decider

LaMotteIf history is any guide, a school board election is in the offing.

As officials at the LA Unified school board scramble to work out options with the city and county on how best to fill the school board seat left vacant last week by the sudden death of longtime member Marguerite LaMotte, they are weighing elements of timing, tradition and of course, politics.

The law relating to vacancies on the school board, written into the LA City Charter, clearly lays out two options for the school board: appoint a replacement or call a special election.

And while appointing someone may seem simpler, cheaper and faster, doing so has big liabilities.

For one, it’s dangerous politically. The seat for school board district 1, which encompasses a wide swath of south LA, extending from Hancock Park to Gardena, has been held continuously by a black woman since 1979. That was the first year board members were no longer elected at-large, a change brought about in part because the black community argued it was under-represented electorally. So having the school board hand-pick an appointee raises red flags in the black community, which is already voicing concerns.

For another, there’s a long tradition of vacancies being filled by election, not appointment. City council seats — which are frequently vacated by members seeking higher office — have uniformly been filled by special election. The last long term appointment was in 1966.

But calling a special election takes consensus, too. The last time a special election was called by the school board was when Jose Huizer vacated his seat after being elected to city council in 2005.

Screen shot 2013-12-08 at 11.49.34 PMThat year, the school board fast-tracked a special election in late November by giving notice and approving a motion (seconded by LaMotte) to hold a stand-alone primary the following March and consolidating with a statewide election for a run-off in June 2006.

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Teacher Advocacy Group to Interview Board Candidates

It’s not a live public forum or debate where we can see the candidates answer questions or exchange views in real time, but it’s better than nothing:

Educators 4 Excellence, an organization that advocates for teachers to take a more active role in shaping education policies, plans to host a podcast interview with District 6 (East San Fernando Valley) runoff candidates Monica Ratliff and Antonio Sanchez.

E4E will interview Sanchez and Ratliff, who have both agreed to participate, on May 8. The podcast will available on E4E’s website to stream or download on May 13.

Previous posts: School Board Candidate Praises Deasy’s Efforts to Limit Tenure;  Sanchez Unavailable for Candidate ForumDaily News Addresses Ratliff Union Role.

Reminder: Monday Voting Registration Deadline

The runoff election that will decide Los Angeles’ new mayor, the LAUSD Board member for District 6 (East San Fernando Valley), and several other city offices is now less than a month away.

Monday, May 6 is the last day you can register to vote for the May 21 runoff. If you still haven’t registered, go here to register to vote online.

Click below for other deadlines for applying to vote by mail and to drop off a vote by mail application. Continue reading

Morning Read: Parents Rally to Save Classroom Breakfasts

Parents Rally to Save Classroom Breakfasts
Union officials representing school cafeteria workers led a noisy rally of parents Tuesday to save a Los Angeles Unified classroom breakfast program that feeds nearly 200,000 children but was in danger of being axed after sharp criticism by teachers. Los Angeles Times
See also: LA Daily News, CBS

LAUSD Supt. John Deasy Faces Performance Evaluation by Teachers Union
Barely two weeks after delivering a stinging no-confidence vote on the leadership of Superintendent John Deasy, the teachers union announced it will do a first-ever “performance evaluation” of the Los Angeles Unified chief. Daily News
See also: LA School Report

Voters Can’t Let LAUSD Seat Be Bought: Elect Monica Ratliff
For a glimpse of what’s wrong with politics in Los Angeles, look no further than the campaign to fill an open seat in the LAUSD’s northeast San Fernando Valley district. LA Daily News Editorial

Lawsuit Targets Union Fees Collected from Nonmember Teachers
A conservative organization has joined with a group of California teachers in an effort to overturn laws that allow teacher unions to collect fees from those who don’t want to be members. Los Angeles Times
See also: Bloomberg, AP

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Morning Read: Board Likely to Back Classroom Breakfast

L.A. Unified Board Will Back Classroom Breakfast Program
A majority of L.A. Unified School Board members said they will vote to continue a classroom breakfast program that feeds nearly 200,000 children but was in danger of being axed after sharp criticism by the teachers union. LA Times
See also: LA School Report, KPCC

The Messy Complications of Breakfast in the Classroom
The Los Angeles Unified School District is in a period of tremendous upheaval that, it’s hoped, will result in better education for its students. With so much changing and so much at stake, of course there are more than a few daggers drawn. But when the teachers union and district administration can’t even get together over feeding hungry kids, something sick is going on. LA Times Opinion

Pre-K Funding is Delivered Another Blow
California state funding per child fell by more than than $400 compared with the previous year, and only 41% of 4-year-olds were served by public pre-K programs and Head Start in the 2011-12 school year, the institute reported. LAT

Washington and Sacramento Must End Cold War on Education
It is too late for California to get more than the sliver of Race to the Top funds it has already received. But the administration’s rejection of California’s NCLB waiver request is too important an issue to accept without further urgent efforts on both sides to reach a resolution. EdSource (opinion)

Walton Foundation Gives $8 Million to StudentsFirst
A foundation associated with the Wal-Mart family fortune has expanded its support for the education advocacy group run by former District of Columbia schools chancellor Michelle Rhee. LA Times

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District 6 Candidate Commits to Support Deasy

Monica Ratliff. Via LA Times

Concerned that District 6 (East Valley) School Board candidate Monica Ratliff might oppose the leadership of LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy, the LA Times editorial page secured a commitment from Ratliff to keep Deasy at the helm of the district as part of re-iterating its endorsement:

“Ratliff, who was a public interest lawyer before she became a teacher, advocates smart solutions to vexing issues — such as improving instruction by giving weak teachers time to sit in on the classes of highly effective ones. She is neither a gung-ho member of the school reform movement nor a backer of the union’s anti-reform rhetoric…. [And] if she were in a position to decide on Deasy’s contract today, she would vote to renew it.” [emphasis added]

Previous posts: Board Candidate Changes Position on Deasy (Again);  District 6 Candidate Hardens Position on DeasyUnion Endorsements Unchanged for District 6

Forum Scheduled for District 6 Candidates

District 6 Candidates Monica Ratliff and Antonio Sanchez

The May 21 LAUSD Board runoff for District 6 is less than a month away, and Teach Plus, an urban education advocacy group, is hosting a candidate forum on Thursday, May 2.

Both candidates Monica Ratliff and Antonio Sanchez have been invited, but only Ratliff has confirmed her participation so far. The event is interactive, and audience members will have opportunities to ask the candidates questions and offer input on education issues in LAUSD.

The forum is aimed at LA-area teachers, but Teach Plus said other members of the community won’t be turned away at the door if they show up. See full event details here.

Morning Read: Classroom Breakfast Program in Peril

L.A. Unified Classroom Breakfasts May Be Axed, Deasy Says
An L.A. Unified classroom breakfast program feeding nearly 200,000 children but sharply criticized by the teachers union will be eliminated next year unless school board members vote to reinstate it, Supt. John Deasy said Thursday. LA Times

Decrease in Pink Slips Thanks to Prop 30
The sharp decrease in the number of pink slips from 20,000 last year to 3,000 this March can be directly attributed to the historic passage of the CTA-supported Proposition 30 in November. CTA Blog

Senate Counters Governor’s Funding Plan for Disadvantaged Students
Brown wants to make sure disadvantaged students get more of the funding pie, but the Senate disagrees with the formula the governor wants to use. KPCC
See also: LA TimesEdSourceSI&A Cabinet Report

Endorsement: Monica Ratliff in L.A. Unified District 6
She would, she said, terminate Supt. John Deasy’s contract and initiate a new search for a superintendent, in which he would be invited to reapply. That would be a mistake. LA Times Editorial

LAUSD Reassigns Valley Superintendent, 3 Other Administrators
Four senior Los Angeles Unified officials, including the San Fernando Valley’s local superintendent, have been removed from their positions pending an internal investigation into “a confidential personnel matter,” a district spokesman said Thursday. LA Daily News
See also: LA Times, CBS LA

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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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Early Voting Starts Today, Can Determine Elections

Monday, April 22 is the first day Los Angeles voters will receive and can apply for vote-by-mail ballots for the May 21 East Valley District 6 runoff election, which means that campaigning will finally begin in earnest. (Go here to apply for a vote-by-mail ballot.)

The election will pick between Monica Ratliff and Antonio Sanchez for the LAUSD Board’s District 6 seat representing the East San Fernando Valley. Voters will also elect LA’s next mayor and a number of other city offices.

Early voting might seem like a sleepy issue, but it plays a big role in election outcomes. In the LA Daily News, Rick Orlov wrote about its “increasingly important role in all elections,” making up 46 percent of the total vote in the primary election. We saw  proof of the impact of vote-by-mail ballots in the March primary, when District 4 (Hollywood/Westside) LA School Board incumbent Steve Zimmer beat his challenger Kate Anderson thanks to a significant early voting advantage. (Read the story here.)

Previous posts: Calendar: Registration & Vote By Mail Schedule; How Steve Zimmer *Really* Won

Morning Read: District 6 Runoff Ramping Up

In L.A. School Board Race, Sky-High Spending Continues
Record spending will continue in the last remaining race for a seat on the Los Angeles school board, as a political action committee has put together a war chest of about $600,000 to use on behalf of a candidate endorsed by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. LA Times
See also: LA School Report

State Probes Burbank Third Grade Cheating Report
Burbank school officials say a third-grade teacher has been put on leave after a student reported a got help with answers on state standardized tests. KPCC
See also: LA Times

State Toughens Regs for Interns Teaching English Learners
The California Commission on Teacher Credentialing will now require non-credentialed Teach For America teachers and other intern teachers to receive more training in how to teach English learners and to get weekly on-the-job mentoring and supervision. EdSource

Democratic Party Schism Over Scandalous Schools: Gloria Romero, Slimed by Teacher Unions, Says Sober Up
A few days ago, the teachers union wing of the California Democratic Party tarred the growing numbers of breakaway Democrats who, in sync with President Obama, point the finger at teachers unions as a big obstacle to fixing crappy schools. LA Weekly

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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