Election 2020: Your Guide To The Race For LAUSD Board District 3

A Los Angeles Unified School District bus idles on the curb on Aug. 9, 2018. (Photo by Kyle Stokes/KPCC) (Kyle Stokes/KPCC)

This year could potentially be the most expensive LAUSD election ever, and it's in part because of the spending going into the race for District 3. Both the L.A. teachers' union and charter school advocates are vying for control of the board, and together have spent more than $2.3 million in independent expenditures to try to get it — and this is just the primary.

The seven-member board is ultimately responsible for more than 587,000 children who attend an LAUSD school; Los Angeles is the largest school district in the country with an elected board. Whoever wins the seat will be part of a body responsible for overseeing a $8.2 billion budget, establishing the school district's priorities and policies, and opening (or closing down) charter schools.

Below is a brief guide to the three candidates in the running for the seat in District 3, which encompasses the West San Fernando Valley, plus Sherman Oaks and Studio City. The candidates are listed in alphabetical order by last name, along with a quick summary of their backgrounds and notable donations or endorsements. If nobody gets more than 50 percent of the vote in the March primary, the top two will advance to a runoff in November.

ELIZABETH BARTELS-BADGER

Background: Badger is the founder and CEO of Minority Outreach Committee, a nonprofit organization that helps with economic, political and social development within minority communities in the San Fernando Valley. She previously ran for the District 3 seat in 2015, placing fourth. She also ran unsuccessfully for City Council and state Assembly in 2013. She has six children, one of whom currently attends an LAUSD school.

Endorsements and Funding: See the full list of Bartels-Badger's endorsements.

Campaign Website: https://www.elizabethbadgerforlausd.com/

MARILYN KOZIATEK

Background: Koziatek leads the community outreach department for Granada Hills Charter High School, and is the chair of the education committee for the Valley Industry Commerce Association. She has two children who attend an LAUSD school in Chatsworth.

Endorsements and Funding: Koziatek has the endorsement of the California Charter Schools Association, making her the only LAUSD board candidate in this year's elections to have received a CCSA endorsement. As of Feb. 21, CCSA has thrown more than $1.05 million in independent expenditures to support her candidacy. The L.A. Daily News has also endorsed her. See the full list of Koziatek's endorsements

Campaign Website: https://www.marilynforvalleyschools.com/

SCOTT SCHMERELSON

Background: Schmerlson is the incumbent for the District 3 seat, having won the election in 2015. He's a former LAUSD principal, counselor and teacher. Schmerelson voted against the hiring of current LAUSD superintendent Austin Beutner, and has become a reliable vote on the board for allies of L.A.'s main teachers union. He openly supported United Teachers Los Angeles during their 2019 teachers' strike.

During the campaign, Schmerelson has faced criticism over his personal investments. He owned stock in the Altria Group, a tobacco company which owns a stake in vaping giant Juul at the time he cast a vote for an anti-vaping resolution. After the pro-charter advocacy group Speak Up criticized his vote as hypocritical, Schmerelson sold the stock, saying his broker purchased it without his knowledge. Speak Up has since filed numerous complaints with the state's Fair Political Practices Commission over what they allege are discrepancies in how Schmerelson reported his personal finances, including the Juul stock purchase. One case resolved with a warning as the only sanction against Schmerelson.

Endorsements and Funding: Schmerelson has the endorsement of UTLA, which has also spent around $554,000 in independent expenditures to support his campaign. The L.A. Times has also endorsed him. Meanwhile, as of Feb. 21, the California Charter Schools Association has spent about $751,000 on negative campaign ads against him.

LAUSD Website: https://achieve.lausd.net/schmerelson

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*Note: Some of the interviews and profiles linked in this section were conducted by activist/advocacy groups