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A story by Annie Gilbertson of public radio station KPCC reviews the dramatic increase in national spending on local school board races by the charter industry.
Billionaires like Reed Hastings (Netflix), Eli Broad of Los Angeles, and Michael Bloomberg, former mayor of New York City have spent millions to help candidates take control of the city’s public school system and to expand privatization. L.A. already has more students in charter schools than any other city.
Political action committees are spending 15 times the cash they did six years ago ahead of the Los Angeles Unified school board election on Tuesday.
Just this spring, more than $4.5 million flowed to PACs for glossy mail fliers, robocalls and ads on Spanish language radio in support or against school board candidates.
With runoffs set in west San Fernando Valley, east Los Angeles and South Bay board districts, PAC organizers hope to swing the ideological composition of the seven-member school board to their side, potentially altering the direction of the 650,00-student district and its $7.3 billion budget.
The stakes in this year’s election are especially high because the new board will select the district’s next superintendent. His or her leadership of the country’s second largest school district will be closely watched both statewide and nationally.
Donors looking to influence education policy may be migrating from national to local elections where their dollars can have a greater impact, said Raphael Sonenshein, director of the Pat Brown Institute of Public Affairs at Cal State L.A.
On one side are the billionaires who want privatization. On the other are the teachers who want reduced class sizes, ,the arts, and full services for students.