If you live in Los Angeles in one of the districts where there is a run-off, please vote for Steve Zimmer or Imelda Padilla.
Don’t let the billionaires buy control of the public schools. They don’t want to improve them. They want to turn them over to the unregulated, scandal-ridden charter industry.
Don’t be fooled: charters and choice and privatization are the Trump-DeVos agenda!
Howard Blume reports in the Los Angeles Times on the flood of outside money that is flowing into the high-profile run-offs for two crucial seats on the Los Angeles school board. The charter billionaires are dumping millions into the campaign to defeat Steve Zimmer, president of the school board, and into the race between Imelda Padilla and charter supporter Kelly Fitzpatrick Nonez.
The election is May 16. It will determine whether the charter industry can buy control of the nation’s second largest school district.
The owner of Netflix, billionaire Reed Hastings, has gifted $5 million to the California Charter School Association. Hastings memorably told a meeting of CCSA that he looks forward to the day when there are no more elected school boards in the nation. Democracy is a problem for corporate reformers. It is so much easier to just buy up the competition, instead of giving ordinary people a vote that is equal in power to the vote of a billionaire.
Two members of the billionaire Walton family from Arkansas have given to the charter candidates. They are part of America’s wealthiest family, whose riches were gained by paying low wages to their non-union employees.
Teachers unions have supported Zimmer and Padilla, but the unions’ money comes from their hard-working members, not from a family fortune or billionaires with no limits on what they spend.
Outside spending for Melvoin has surpassed $4.25 million; for Zimmer, $2.16 million.
Both charter-backed candidates have raised more money for their own campaigns than their opponents have.
Charters are privately operated public schools that are exempt from some rules that govern traditional campuses. Most are nonunion.
CCSA Advocates can use donations for any political purpose, but the L.A. school board race — the most expensive in the nation — has been its primary project.
Besides having money, Hastings is a desirable donor for the charter side in left-leaning California. He’s been a regular and reliable contributor to Democratic causes and candidates. That’s a valuable attribute given the state’s anti-Trump political climate — because the Trump administration has made increasing the number of charter schools a central goal.
Like Trump’s Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, Hastings is an ardent, longtime advocate for charters and a major donor to charter causes. (California Gov. Jerry Brown also strongly supports charters, though not as a big-money contributor.)
The teachers union casts donors such as Hastings in the role of outside billionaire trying to buy a local election. Hastings has insisted he simply wants to support meaningful steps to improve public education.
The “outsider” tag also applies to some other donors; some are notably associated with conservative or anti-union politics, or both.
Major CCSA Advocates donors since last September include:
Former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan: $1 million. (Riordan gave another million to a second, allied campaign to defeat Zimmer.)
Conservative GAP co-founder Doris Fisher: $1.05 million
Walmart heir Jim Walton: $500,000
Philanthropist Laurene Powell Jobs (whose late husband, Apple founder Steve Jobs, was assertively anti-union): $250,000
Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg: $200,000
Walmart heir Alice Walton: $200,000…
United Teachers Los Angeles ended 2016 with about $366,000 in a political action committee established to support its candidates, according to public filings.The union also had $286,000 in a fund for “issues” messages. That latter fund has been tapped to put out flyers with messages such as, “Thank Steve Zimmer for student recovery day.”
Issues advertising cannot refer to an election or an election date. Nor can it urge voters to vote a certain way. But there’s a clear political benefit for the union-backed candidates.
UTLA also collects an average of $9.50 a month from the 22% of its 32,000 members who have agreed to contribute, totaling about $67,000 a month from January onward, said union political director Oraiu Amoni. This money is split about 60-40 between candidate and issues messages.
And last week, union members voted to borrow $500,000 from their strike fund for such messages. Past debts to the strike fund will not be paid off until 2020, according to Amoni.
UTLA also is spending a smaller but undisclosed amount as part of a “We Are Public Schools” media campaign, which includes billboards with positive messages about public schools. Some feature pictures of Zimmer or Padilla.
Besides the American Federation of Teachers, other unions have kicked in for those candidates — notably the National Education Assn. with $700,000 and the California Teachers Assn. with $250,000.
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