"This is a testament to the voters. Voters put their belief in skills and expertise.... It sends the clear message that school board seats are not for sale." -- Monica Ratliff.Fifth-grade teacher Ratliff gave the corporate school "reformers" a real kick in the butt this week when her popular, but poorly-funded campaign for school board ended in victory. Her opponent in the race to represent east San Fernando Valley, described in the Washington Post as, "the well-connected Antonio Sanchez" received some $2 million from donors including the Coalition for School Reform, the political-action committee started by outgoing Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and funded in large part by wealthy outside reform advocates.
Ratliff and Sanchez were thrown into a run-off in March elections for three school board seats, one of which went to a supporter of school reform and the other to an opponent. Those elections were marked by big money given to the reform candidate who lost – despite a $1 million donation from New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and $250,000 from Michelle Rhee’s StudentsFirst organization.Ratliff had no paid staff and no meaningful help from her own politically active teachers union, according to the L.A. Times. Ten to 20 faithful volunteers knocked on doors every weekend. The teachers union endorsed both candidates in the East Valley race, even though Ratliff is a highly regarded teacher and union leader at her school. The neutrality of United Teachers Los Angeles was a huge advantage to Sanchez because it cut off Ratliff from her best hope of major support.
She won anyway.
Another reason why we need an elected school board in Chicago. With all the big money pouring into elections behind corporate/reform candidates, especially since the Citizens United court decision, organization combined with a just cause can still win out. That's more that you can say for a mayor-appointed school board.
Then there was the L.A. mayor's election between Tweedle-Dum and Tweedle-Dee candicates Garcetti vs. Greuel. Garcetti, the anti-union candidate won by 4 percentage points in the most expensive mayoral race in L.A. history. The race generated a record $33 million in spending, including outside money from political action committees. It also generated one of the lowest turnouts in history.
Hmm, this seems to be a trend.