If yesterday’s school board races in the state’s largest school district were a proxy battle between well-heeled charter school advocates and deep-pocketed labor groups, no side can claim victory just yet.
At stake for both sides is control of the important Los Angeles Unified School District School Board, which determines key policy issues such as the approval of new and current charter schools and teacher retention – matters that are of keen interest to the big-moneyed backers of yesterday’s primary elections. The three school board seat races generated $6.7 million in campaign contributions – more than $5 million from labor and charter-aligned organizations.
Preliminary results from Los Angeles County election officials show one incumbent who is seen as a supporter of charter schools in Los Angeles – Monica Garcia of District 2 – winning more than 50 percent of the vote, a decisive victory that doesn’t require a run-off election later in May.
The race that generated the most money – $4.7 million – was for control of District 4. Steve Zimmer, the board’s president who benefited from $1.2 million in outside spending from labor groups, is ahead with 47 percent of the vote. In second place is Nick Melvoin, a candidate with more than half a million dollars in support from pro-charter groups. Melvoin won 31 percent of the vote; two other candidates got the remaining support from voters. If the current share of votes cast remains the same, Zimmer and Melvoin will face a run-off in the city’s general elections May 16. Despite millions raised for this race, elections data show just about 60,000 ballots were cast, translating into $78 spent for each vote.
The school board race for the open District 6 seat currently has no candidate with more than 50 percent of the vote. The top two finishers – Kelly Fitzpatrick-Gonez and Imelda Padilla – will likely face off in May if the tally of votes holds. Fitzpatrick-Gonez had major backing from charter groups, while Padilla was endorsed by the United Teachers Los Angeles union.
Mike Sanchez, a spokesman for the Los Angeles County election division, said the results so far are “semi-official.” Though all precincts have been reported, some ballots have yet to be processed.
“The outstanding ballots left to be counted are provisional and vote-by-mail ballots,” he said.
Preliminary figures show voter turnout for the county was at 11 percent, though the city of Los Angeles may have different turnout figures. The county later today will release data on the votes that remain to be counted.