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Update: Stalemate In LA -- For Now

ScreenHunter_01 Mar. 06 10.07How anticlimactic.  In a showdown that's fast approaching 2007's $7 million campaign spending record, the teachers union and reform groups each succeeded in protecting one of their key supporters on the LAUSD School Board last night -- but failed to score any decisive victory against the other side.

Board member Steve Zimmer -- one of the main targets of the Coalition for School Reform -- led from the start despite being outspent at every step.  The outside attacks on his performance on the Board didn't stick.  His challenger was a competent candidate who failed to distinguish herself sufficiently from the reasonable-sounding if indecisive Zimmer (who was endorsed by Mayor Villaraigosa the last time around).

Board President Monica Garcia -- the main target of the teachers union -- jumped out to an early lead over her four challengers despite a scathing LA Times endorsement, and kept it throughout the long process as more votes came in. The union's strategy of endorsing three of her four challengers was intended to force a runoff but may have backfired by failing to give Garcia opponents a champion to back. 

There were nasty mailers and misleading TV and radio ads, to be sure, but the candidates didn't fight during public appearances, and the issues over which they disagree -- charter expansion, making student achievement 30 percent of teacher evaluations -- appear somewhat mild on the surface compared to disagreements in other places (or in LA at other times). Conventional wisdom has been that Superintendent John Deasy's job is on the line, though a recent LA School Report story suggests the real question may be how well Deasy can tolerate having one or two Board members who agree with him most -- but not all -- of the time.

There will be a runoff for the third open seat in May.  The union endorsed but didn't fund both of the candidates who made the runoff, but one of the two also won a surprise endorsement (and tons of cash) from the Coalition so it seems likely that the union will focus on supporting his opponent.

Coverage: Incumbent L.A. Unified School Board members poised to keep seats KPCC, In L.A. school board race, 2 backers of Deasy take early leads LAT, Two reform candidates leading in Los Angeles school board race Reuters.


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"reasonable-sounding, if indecisive"? Really?

Thoughtful, yes. Willing to weigh individual issues on their merits? Yes. Inconsistent with any one cause's agenda? Yes. Focused on local concerns and what's best for the kids a trustee is charged with supporting? Yes.

You so frequently implore for less polarization in education policy debates. Yet when an individual with some power makes decisions from a place that weighs each issue through the lens of what is right for these kids, right now -- you brand him as indecisive. Zimmer drives people nuts because he's an independent thinker -- something you pretend to value. Until the deep-pocketed reformers consider him too much of a wild card and an unreliable disciple willing only to vote their party line.

Here and in the LA Report there seems to be an unwillingness to acknowledge why the reform coalition can't stomach Zimmer. And it ain't indecision.

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