The LA teachers union, UTLA, voted last night to endorse George McKenna for LA Unified’s District 1 board seat in the August runoff election.
McKenna, a retired administrator, had no direct ties to the union and in his winning primary campaign struck a note of independence in assessing various issues.
But in the end, said Marco Flores, chairman of the union’s political action committee, PACE, members of the union’s House of Representatives “overwhelmingly” preferred McKenna over Alex Johnson, a legislative aide to LA County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, for two reasons.
First, Flores said, McKenna “stood with us” in the aftermath of the Miramonte child abuse scandal, openly opposing Superintendent John Deasy’s decision to pull all teachers out of the school.
“That was inhuman and degrading, and that stuck with our teachers,” Flores said. At the time, McKenna was a superintendent for a region that included Miramonte.
The other reason, Flores said, is that McKenna has emerged as the District 1 community’s favorite, by virtue of his many years as a school administrator and his strong victory in the primary last week. He won with 43.7 percent of the vote to Johnson’s 24.4 percent.
In the primary, the union had endorsed three teacher candidates — Sherlette Hendy-Newbill, Hattie McFrazier and Rachel Johnson — but none of them reached double figures in percentage of the vote. The union supported each with a $1,100 campaign contribution, the maximum, and Flores saids McKenna would get $1,100 from UTLA, as well.
Flores said that a motion was raised tonight to not endorse anyone in the runoff. “But that,” he said, “was overwhelmingly defeated.”
Flores described McKenna as “the choice of the community” and as someone who would work smoothly with the union’s new leadership team “which is all about grass roots.” President-elect Alex Caputo-Pearl takes over on July 1.
“It was a natural conclusion,” Flores said. “We stand for community.”
He also said some members held it against Johnson that the majority of independent expenditure money spent on behalf of his primary campaign, more than $54,000 of $80,000, came from a group affiliated with the California Charter Schools Association.
But the choice was more a pro-McKenna vote than anti-Johnson, Flores said.
“Alex is bright, articulate and intelligent,” Flores said. “He’s a good politician. But at this point, we don’t need a politician. We need an educator.”
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