By Woo Han
Pro-charter Forces Take Control of LAUSD
May 18, 2017
FEATURE: In what was the most expensive school board race in history, pro-charter candidates Nick Melvoin and Kelly Fitzpatrick-Gonez come out on top.
In an expensive, pitched battle pitting charter school advocates against traditional school interests, charter supporters scored a stunning victory in the May 16 run-off elections for two positions on the LAUSD School Board.
The Board is now dominated by Charter School advocates, who hold a 4-3 majority.
Nick Melvoin handily won the District 4 seat, which includes West L.A. and West Hollywood, defeating incumbent Steve Zimmer. Melvoin received 57.4% of the ballots to Zimmer’s 42.6%.
The open District 6 runoff was tighter, but again, the charter school-backed candidate prevailed.
Kelly Fitzpatrick-Gonez with 51.5% of the vote, beat Imelda Padilla, who garnered 48.5% of the total vote. District 6 stretches across the East San Fernando Valley and includes Van Nuys High School.
Both sides spent record sums in an effort to win their seats.
Charter school interests that include billionaire Eli Broad and former LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy pumped millions of dollars into both races, allowing Melvoin and Fitzpatrick-Gonez to outspend their opponents by a more than 2-1 margin.
Pro-charter Netflix Chief Executive Reed Hastings was especially involved, donating around $5 million to California Schools Assn. Advocates.
Zimmer and Padilla were strongly supported by teachers and also backed by UTLA and the California Teachers Association (CTA).
Big changes could be coming to LAUSD.
The L.A. Times, whose editorial board backed both pro-charter candidates, speculated that the results of this runoff could threaten the position of current Superintendent Michelle King, since “New boards frequently want to pick new leadership because the ultimate job of a board is to select and evaluate the superintendent.”
The newly picked charter majority board could make it easier to open more charter schools in L.A. as well as renew the five-year operating agreements for existing charter schools.
There is concern from district officials about maintaining more costly programs for students with moderate to severe disabilities or serious behavioral issues.
In a statement directed towards UTLA members regarding the election results, the UTLA officers admits defeat but also makes a calls to arms, prompting educators “to be strike ready by February 2018.”
The statement also expressed the friction between UTLA and pro-charter forces and accused billionaires—Eli Broad, Reed Hastings, Richard Riordan, Walmart heirs, John Arnold of Enron, and others—of buying the seats.