Late cash poured into L.A. school board races
Millions from Eli Broad and other charter advocates helped shift power.
A charter-school advocacy group relied on major last-minute donations to help turn around a key Westside school board race and propel its favored candidates to a majority on the Los Angeles Board of Education, newly disclosed financial reports reveal.
The contributors in the final stretch of the L.A. Board of Education campaigns included philanthropist Eli Broad, who gave nearly $1.9 million in April and May to California Charter Schools Assn. Advocates, and Manhattan Beach businessman William Bloomfield, who overall contributed $2.275 million, the vast majority in April and May.
In the last weeks before the May 16 election, procharter spending swamped the Westside race just as the major spender on the opposing side, the L.A. teachers union, was shifting resources to the other school board contest in a different part of the city.
Candidates backed by charter supporters prevailed in both races, leading to the first board majority with major pro-charter financial support.
Charter schools are privately managed and mostly nonunion; locally, most operate as nonprofit organizations. L.A. Unified has more charters than any other school system. Backers say they provide high-quality options for families while spurring traditional schools to improve through competition. Critics counter that the charters often don’t serve the most challenging students and that their rapid growth has undermined the solvency of L.A. Unified.
In all, outside groups — mainly charter backers and teachers unions — spent nearly $15 million, a record, on behalf of candidates in three school board races. (The candidates spent $2.2 million on their own campaigns, with many contributors similarly invested for or against charters and unions.)
More than $1.4 million reached CCSA Advocates after the deadline when the contributions would be disclosed before the election.
CCSA Advocates spent much of its money directly. It also funneled dollars to al-