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Advocacy: Bloomberg Won't Say Much About Contributions

image from mayorschallenge.bloomberg.orgHeading over to the Bloomberg Philanthropies-sponsored reception to start the NewSchools Venture Fund education summit, I thought there was no time like the present to update you on my progress figuring out the ins and outs of outside spending on local school board elections like that being done by NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg.

As you may recall, Bloomberg and others have been giving funds to various local school board candidates over the past few years, either directly to the candidates or via an independent expenditure committee.  The funding is intended to provide a counterbalance to union contributions, local and otherwise, and is entirely legal but raises lots of issues when it is so new and novel (for a school board race) and also when it comes from outside the city or state where the race is taking place.

My issue is not with the campaign contributions themselves, which are perfectly legal, or even with the need for a counterbalance to union power in low turnout events.  The AFT spent $1M to get rid of Adrien Fenty, and the CTA spent $300K to block board members favorable to former San Diego superintendent Alan Bersin.

My question is whether the funding is worth the blowback, and whether reform advocates like Bloomberg (and DFER, and StudentsFirst) will ever figure out a way to tell their story and give their money without spending all their time defending themselves.  I also want to know how much of it is out there, on both sides.

Anyway, after following the LAUSD school board primary in March, I kept hearing that there were situations where candidates and committees formally declined or waved off outside funding, including from Bloomberg, for legal reasons or because of concerns about how it would appear taking money from a far-off billionaire.

I finally got around to asking the Bloomberg folks themselves how much money they'd spent on local school board races and if anyone had ever declined the funding.  The answer -- to both questions?  No comment.

Obviously, Team Bloomberg thinks campaign contributions are a good way to go -- as do most of the reformers I've talked to in LA.  Bloomberg and others have already re-upped their contributions to the LAUSD runoff taking place May 21 and may for all I know be giving to other board races around the country.

Up next?  Finding out if any Denver candidates had a policy of not taking out of state money, or if there was some sort of campaign pledge both sides took.  Also -- maybe someone's already done this -- cobbling together a list of Bloomberg donations to local school board elections, which have to be public record (right?).

Previous posts:  Undaunted, Bloomberg Gives More to LA Board RaceDefiant LA Mayor Has No Regrets Over Bloomberg BacklashCampaigns: The "Other" $1 Million Contribution;  Deasy Vs. BloombergUTLA Denounces, Solicits Outside Contributions

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in This Week In Education are strictly those of the author and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Scholastic, Inc.