Late Gifts Help Secure Pro-Charter Majority on L.A. Board of Education

Late Gifts Help Secure Pro-Charter Majority on L.A. Board of Education

Substantial last-minute donations from Eli Broad and others helped a Los Angeles charter school advocacy group turn around a key school board race and secure a pro-charter majority on the Los Angeles Board of Education, the Los Angeles Times reports.

According to newly disclosed financial reports, California Charter Schools Association Advocates received nearly $1.9 million from the co-founder of the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation and $2.275 million from businessman William Bloomfield, most of it in the final weeks leading up to the May 16 school board election. Overall, outside spending on the school board races totaled $9.7 million from supporters of charter schools, and $5.2 million from teacher unions opposed to charter schools. According to the LA Times, pro-charter spending swamped a key Westside race just as the L.A. teachers union was shifting resources to a race in another part of the city. In both races, candidates backed by charter supporters won, resulting in a pro-charter majority on the city's board of education for the first time ever. CCSA Advocates' previous financial disclosures showed donations totaling nearly $7 million since September 2016 from Netflix founder Reed Hastings, making him the largest contributor to the organization during the school board election cycle.

The latest donation and spending report from CCSA Advocates also shows that the group funneled money to allied or affiliated groups, some with names like the Parent Teacher Alliance and LA Students 4 Change. In addition, the advocacy organization provided $150,000 to the California Democratic Party, which is typically aligned with teachers' unions, and $25,000 to Service Employees International Union Local 99, which represents thirty thousand non-teaching school employees such as custodians and cafeteria workers and was backing a pro-charter incumbent.

In addition, Speak UP, a group launched by Westside volunteers opposed to the incumbent school board president, received $74,000 from CCSA Advocates and $125,000 from the Walton Family Foundation, a major supporter of charter schools. Walton family heirs also donated heavily to CCSA Advocates. The incumbent, Steve Zimmer, lost to Nick Melvoin, an attorney. Speak UP director Katie Braude told the LA Times that her group accepted the CCSA Advocates funding because "our two organizations shared the same goal: to elect Nick Melvoin, a candidate we believe will put the interests of kids before the interests of adults."