Karen Wolfe: Why the Billionaire Boys Club Won the Los Angeles Election

Karen Wolfe is a parent activist and blogger in Los Angeles. She interviewed several of the leading figures in the recent school board elections and shares her thoughts about why the board president Steve Zimmer lost and his billionaire-backed challenger Nick Melvoin won. [Sorry for original error; Freudian slip.]

Back in the distant past, a person could raise $30-50,000 and run for school board. This race cost millions of dollars. The billionaires spent four times as much money as the supporters of Zimmer. Zimmer was backed by UTLA (United Teachers of Los Angeles), Melvoin was backed by billionaires like Eli Broad, Michael Bloomberg, Alice Walton, Reed Hastings, and others with no connection to the schools other than their desire to put one of their own in control. It was the most expensive school board race in history (as the referendum last fall about the expansion of charter schools was the most expensive ballot question about schools in history–the billionaires hand over a million or two without thinking twice, when charters are involved.)

Melvoin had another advantage besides copious cash for TV and print advertising. He was able to spend full-time campaigning every day for the last 18 months, while Zimmer had a day job.

Melvoin and his campaign also lied shamelessly. They blamed Zimmer for John Deasy’s $1 billion iPad scandal. Deasy is now working for Eli Broad. Now, that’s chutzpah. Or a bald-faced lie.

Karen Wolfe is not as impressed by the power of the money and lies as I am. I think that Melvoin is a puppet of Broad, and his campaign excelled at mud-slinging and succeeded in depressing the vote.

My take: Steve Zimmer, an honorable and decent man, failed to present a sharp alternative to Melvoin. He was always on the defensive. He supported charter schools, but thought they should be held accountable. He did not make a compelling case for the importance of public education and the dangers of privatization. He had one foot in each camp. That’s not good enough. I wish he had come out against charter schools for draining hundreds of millions from the district and luring away the easiest to educate students. I wish he had called them parasites.

Now the new board president is likely to be run by Ref Rodriguez, who runs a charter chain that was recently under investigation. He has contracts with the board. He shouldn’t even be on the board. Doesn’t California have conflict of interest laws? Guess not.

What is the future of public education in Los Angeles? Ask Eli Broad. He considers privately managed and unaccountable charter schools to be “public schools.” There will be many more of them in the near future. That’s why the billionaires invested.

from novemoore http://ift.tt/2rQuQ1z


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