With independent expenditures totaling well over $3 million, the Los Angeles Unified school board election has become a battle of special interests — of unions, charter schools, and surprisingly, stadium operators — and the candidate winning the greatest share of that pie is Luis Sanchez in District 5.
At first glance, the race seems to be a battle of the unions. Independent expenditures — both supporting and opposing Sanchez — have totaled about $955,000. More than a third of that money has come from the Service Employees International Union, which raised nearly $335,000 in support of Sanchez. And United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA), which sponsors candidate Bennett Kayser, has spent a little more than $322,000 opposing him.
But the nearly $255,000 spent by the Coalition for School Reform to support Sanchez makes it one of the key players in this election, which is now just a day away. And among the coalition's biggest spenders is Phil Anschutz of the Anschutz Corporation, whose sister company AEG has plans before the city for a $350 million football stadium in Downtown Los Angeles (which could top $1 billion when factoring in interest repayment).
So, what links a major corporation with dreams of building an NFL stadium to a candidate for LAUSD school board? Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.
In the face of severe state budget cuts, the California Teachers' Association has been cozying up to Gov. Jerry Brown to lobby for higher taxes and to help minimize the damage to public education.
The CTA gave Brown $49,300 in campaign contributions for his 2010 gubernatorial run.
Now both want to extend higher sales and income taxes and fee increases for five years to soften projected blows to the education budget. They hope to put their tax extension initiative before voters in a June special election.
But getting the extensions to pass will be an uphill battle, and if they fail, funding for the 2011-12 school year faces a $4.5 billion cut.
As we reported last week, independent expenditures in the four Board of Education races are approaching $1 million. The races are largely a pitched battle between the United Teachers Union of Los Angeles and a group called the Coalition for School Reform.
In three out of four races, the Coalition has heavily outspent the UTLA (see chart after the jump). As of the last filing deadline in January, they'd raised more than $1 million and still had more than $800,000 left. With the UTLA withdrawing support from two of their candidates earlier in the month the Coalition appears to be cruising towards an unexpectedly easy victory.
But where did all that money come from?
Rich people, mostly.
The Los Angeles City Council races aren't the only game to watch in the March 8 citywide elections. In fact, they aren't even attracting the biggest bets.
Independent expenditures in the Board of Education races are about to top $1 million, compared with just over half a million raised in the fight for a city council seat.