LOS ANGELES—On Tuesday, March 7, Los Angeles primary elections will be held for mayor, city controller, city attorney, city council seats, Community College Board of Trustees seats, and Board of Education seats. Among these contests, the race to obtain three of the seven Board of Education seats has garnered attention, with a focus on the future of charter schools.
Charter schools are publicly funded and independently run, with freedom from the traditional regulations of district schools. They are accountable for academic performance and meeting their performance goals. As a majority of charter schools are nonunion, charter expansion may present challenges to teacher unions and funding.
Candidates in support of charter growth include Monica Garcia in District 2, Nick Melvoin and Allison Holdorff Polhill in District 4, and Kelly Gonez in District 6. Along with encouragement from charter families, the candidates have received financial support from former Los Angeles Mayor, Richard Riordan, who donated $1 million to California Charter Schools Assn. Advocates; a committee that controls the funding for pro-charter campaigns.
“In L.A. County, the charter schools do much better than the straight schools,” Riordan said in a Los Angeles Times interview. “It’s not necessarily true throughout the state, but in L.A., the charter schools were way ahead.”
Riordan gave another $1 million to a committee campaigning against Los Angeles Unified School Board President, Steve Zimmer, who is running against Holdorff Polhill and Melvoin in District 4.
Though Zimmer has voted to approve charter schools in the past, he now wishes to limit charter expansion. Zimmer supporters and charter critics are of the opinion that a pro-charter majority on the Board of Education will negatively affect public schools. United Teachers Los Angeles, which represents the certified staff of the Los Angeles Unified School District, faces the challenge of decreasing membership, financial hardships, and program maintenance for students.
Charter supporters insist that families will benefit from charter growth. A pro-charter majority on the school board will allow charter schools to gain access to classrooms on district campuses. The pro-charter candidates stated that “their focus would be on creating and sustaining successful schools of any kind, not just charters.”
In this race for school board seats, the cumulative amount for independent spending was $3,358,847, with $1,256,121 against Steve Zimmer, and $705,157 in his support.