Howard Blume wrote an incisive analysis of the race for the LAUSD seat in District 5, where Jackie Goldberg won 48% of the vote in a crowded field. He writes that UTLA put $660,000 into the race on behalf of Jackie, who is a progressive fighter for kids and public schools. She raised another $200,000 on her own. But she did not spend the most. The biggest spender (Heather Repenning) had a kitty of $1 million, contributed mainly by Local 99. Eli Broad put $100,000 into the Local 99 anti-Jackie effort but she received only 13% of the vote. Why did Local 99 spend $1 million to elect a pro-charter candidate? Odd, especially since charters are overwhelmingly non-union. Anyone have answers? Aside from Eli, the rest of the billionaire charter donors apparently decided to wait and see who ran against Jackie in the runoff, but their favorite (Repenning) ran 35 points behind Jackie. Maybe they will let this one go unless they can figure out how to paint a solid progressive as a devil with horns.



LOS ANGELES — Last year, the power of the local teachers union seemed to be on the wane while charter schools’ prospects were rising. Los Angeles Board of Education members backed by charter supporters were in control, and they’d pushed through a new superintendent whose background had nothing to do with education.

On Tuesday, voters showed how quickly things can change.

Jackie Goldberg, the union-backed candidate, easily outpaced nine others on the ballot in a special election that could shift the balance on the school board — thanks in large part to public support cultivated during a six-day strike by teachers in January…

Goldberg, who served on the board for two terms until 1991, proclaimed herself part of a larger movement to bring more resources to education — and also to rein in charter schools.

“This is the beginning and not the end of putting together all those people who came together around the teachers’ strike — not just here but in Oakland and the folks in Madera and the folks in Fresno that are all trying to make these things happen,” Goldberg said. “People moved to California when I was young for our schools. And since then we have starved them, and we cannot continue starving them. This movement is about that.”

It’s not yet clear whom Goldberg will face in the runoff, but it will either be Graciela Ortiz or Heather Repenning, who at last count were separated by 53 votes. Neither would be a clear-cut option for charter supporters. The candidate with the strongest pro-charter position, Allison Bajracharya, finished fifth.

Ortiz is a school counselor and a member of the Huntington Park City Council.

Repenning is a former public works commissioner and longtime senior aide to L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti.

Their order of finish will be settled by mail-in and provisional ballots. The vote count can continue as late as March 19.

Goldberg’s success was partly because of her own brand: She served on the school board, on the L.A. City Council and in the state Legislature; she’s well-known and well-regarded by many.

But her success also was built on teacher activism, including last year’s strikes in other states and this year’s walkouts in Los Angeles and Oakland. Union leaders in L.A. followed up their January strike by immediately launching a campaign that spent about $660,000 on Goldberg’s behalf. She also raised about $200,000 for her own campaign — and she noted Tuesday night that she’d benefited from 1,300 small contributions and 800 volunteers.

Her activism goes back to the University of California, Berkeley free speech movement of the mid-1960s — an era, she noted, in which students paid no tuition for their higher education. The state, she said, needs to find its way back to a deeper investment in its children…

Goldberg aligns with those who say privately operated charters — which compete with district-run schools for students and the funding that goes with them — are undermining public education…

Anti-charter themes were a regular refrain of striking teachers, and they seemed to strike a chord with people who may not previously have been familiar with the arguments.

A survey of L.A. Unified School District residents during and just after the strike found that about 3 in 4 said the focus should be on improving existing public schools rather than on alternatives such as charters, said Brianne Gilbert, associate director of the Center for the Study of Los Angeles at Loyola Marymount University.

Although the charter lobby remains powerful, it suffered a setback at the state level last year, when it ran campaigns on behalf of candidates who lost the races for governor and the state superintendent of public instruction. On Tuesday, Gov. Gavin Newsom — who has signaled his openness to more regulation of charter schools — signed legislation that would compel charters to follow laws on public records and public meetings….

For this week’s primary, charter backers were never able to coalesce around an opponent to Goldberg. Bajracharya, an executive at a charter organization, had substantial support from charter allies but not the overwhelming sums provided by megadonors in recent elections.

Four candidates raised enough money to get their message out: Goldberg, Bajracharya, Ortiz and Repenning. And each also had donors who funded independent campaigns on their behalf. The teachers union’s spending on Goldberg was a relative bargain compared to what it spent in recent races — often in a losing cause.

But the biggest spender in the primary was Local 99 of Service Employees International Union, which represents most nonteaching district employees. It put nearly $1 million into a campaign to elect Repenning, who also had the endorsement of Garcetti.

Part of Local 99’s money paid for a misleading campaign against Goldberg, describing her as a career politician who is “always looking out for #1” and who favored prisons over schools, slashed education spending and presided over a failing school system.

Even if their campaign helped force a runoff, Repenning finished so far back that Local 99 now must ponder how much it wants to continue fighting Goldberg, with whom the union previously has gotten along.

Many observers assumed that the pro-charter funders — organized under the group California Charter Schools Association Advocates — were simply holding their fire till the runoff. Goldberg’s strong showing could affect that calculus.

A spokesman for CCSA Advocates declined to comment Wednesday.