Late cash poured into L.A. school board races

Mil­lions from Eli Broad and other char­ter ad­vo­cates helped shift power.

Los Angeles Times - - CALIFORNIA - By Howard Blume

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-

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