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Another election day with low turnout has come and gone, and with it, a new day has dawned for charter school supporters on the seven-member Los Angeles Board of Education. A pair of candidates backed by charter-school proponents, will be taking over seats on the Los Angeles Unified School District board. The new members signal a possible major policy shift in the nation's second largest school district.
LAUSD President Steve Zimmer couldn't repeat his earlier primary success in Tuesday's runoff and was soundly defeated by teacher/attorney Nick Melvoin. Zimmer conceded the race early on Tuesday night saying, "I may not have been successful tonight, but ... we the teachers, we the students, we the families of this district, we are not a failure."
Zimmer was supported by labor unions, Mayor Garcetti as well as other elected officials, but, charter-school backers poured millions of dollars into the race on behalf of Melvoin.
In District 6, another charter-school supporter prevailed in a tight race. Kelly Gonez defeated Imelda Padilla in a battle for a seat that became vacant after Mónica Ratliff departed.
Gonez and Melvoin join two other charter-school supporters on the board, creating a four member majority for backers of charter-school expansions. Between unions, and the deep pockets of charter-school advocates, the Tuesday runoff is estimated to be one of the most expensive school board elections in history with around $15 million being spent on the race.
Charter-school advocates say that students who attend charter schools tend to perform better and provide more choices for parents. Opponents disagree, saying charter schools have at times, had questionable management practices and lack proper oversight and liability. Critics contend that too many charter schools will drain resources from public schools which would be a big financial loss to LAUSD.