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LAUSD Election Could Shatter Spending Records — Again

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This year’s election for the LAUSD board is on pace to set another record for campaign spending.

With less than a month until election day, outside political groups have spent $11.3 million trying to influence two competitive races.

For now, the 2017 campaign holds the spending record, with outside groups reporting more than $14.8 million in “independent expenditures” during that cycle. But if the pace of spending in this year’s races continues, the 2017 record might not last for long.

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Once again, charter school proponents and LAUSD’s main teachers union are driving most of this spending — and increasingly, the financial battle between the two is becoming one-sided:

  • Advocates aligned with charter schools have spent $8.6 million. That total includes $3.8 million from the California Charter Schools Association. Netflix founder Reed Hastings and another pro-charter school donor, Bill Bloomfield, have pooled funds in a new group called “Kids First,” which has spent more than $1 million so far. On his own, Bloomfield spent $3.8 million in the March primary.
  • United Teachers Los Angeles has spent $2.3 million. The candidates UTLA is supporting are also getting help from other labor unions — about $226,000 from the L.A. County Federation of Labor and SEIU Local 99.
  • Charter advocates have devoted $3.8 million of their spending to negative ads. The charter association has spent more than $1.7 million trying to sway voters against District 3 incumbent Scott Schmerelson, who represents the west San Fernando Valley. Meanwhile, Bloomfield and Hastings are targeting candidate Patricia Castellanos, who’s running for the open District 7 seat that represents South L.A. and San Pedro.
  • UTLA has devoted around $350,000 of its spending to negative ads. It’s trying to defend Schmerelson from challenger Marilyn Koziatek. The union’s ads have also backed Castellanos in her race against Tanya Ortiz Franklin.

Why are they spending so much? Both UTLA and charter school groups are trying to secure friendly majorities on the school board. This year’s results could tip the balance of power.

The board’s swing vote, Richard Vladovic, is termed out of his seat in District 7 in December. Schmerelson is one of three board members whom UTLA considers friendly to its cause.

We’ll be releasing Q&As with each of the four candidates soon — and keeping an eye on the campaign finance totals.

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