How mega-spending and alleged scandals could influence LAUSD school board elections

Howard Blume, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Political News

Despite limited financial resources, Davis and Hendy Newbill may have an opportunity to be heard above the big-money din if voters — and teachers — turn away from Al-Alim.

Both appear to have stature within Black community organizations — and Black voters are the largest voting group in District 1, according to figures compiled by the firm PDI, which specializes in election data and analysis.

Davis has been a principal and senior administrator in L.A. Unified and other school systems; Hendy Newbill, a teacher, dean and department chair spanning a long career at Dorsey High School. They also have helpful endorsements: Davis is supported by law enforcement and some other unions. Hendy Newbill is endorsed by four current board members, including District 1 incumbent George McKenna, for whom she works as a senior aide.

Also on the ballot is home-schooling parent Christian Flagg, a behind-the-scenes figure in community and student activism to boost the district's Black Student Achievement Plan and to eliminate school police — efforts that Al-Alim also has been involved in.

Rounding out the District 1 candidates are John Aaron Brasfield, a longtime special education assistant and athletics coach and tutor and former teacher Rina Tambor.

District 3

In the west San Fernando Valley, two well-funded candidates have an overwhelming advantage over three others. Two-term incumbent Scott Schmerelson has benefited from an independent campaign of more than $580,000 by UTLA. A competing PAC has spent $870,080 on behalf of middle school math teacher and former charter-school executive Dan Chang.

The pro-Chang funding derives from a Sacramento-based political action committee also called Kids First, though it is a different committee than the one supporting Watts in District 1. This PAC is bankrolled mostly by retired businessman Bill Bloomfield, who typically favors the same candidates as charter advocates. .

This race has the classic structure of charter-school advocates versus the teachers union — although Bloomfield has said consistently that he considers more than a candidate's position on charters.

District 5


Here the big money is union versus union. UTLA has spent about $670,000 to back teacher Karla Griego. Local 99 of Service Employees International Union has spent nearly $760,000 in support of Ortiz. Local 99 members include custodians, cafeteria workers, bus drivers, teacher aides and security aides.

The charter advocates appear to favor Ortiz — the Kids First group working in District 1 also endorses Ortiz.

At a Monday campaign forum sponsored by parent groups in Eagle Rock, Ortiz, who also is an elected City Council member in Huntington Park, deflected direct comment on her job-related LAUSD investigation and the civil lawsuit.

"It's political season, right?" Ortiz said. "The reality is that: Don't believe everything you read in the news. The reality is that when it's campaign season, it's always when the media would like to show up and write stories, but whenever we're doing great work in the community — I've been an elected official for nine years and when COVID-19 hit and we can get zero resources" in southeast L.A. County, "the media never came. Never came to talk to us, but here they are now."

Bell City Councilman and longtime high school teacher Fidencio Gallardo has gained the support of some rank-and-file teachers and pro-union parents who have splintered off from UTLA. Gallardo has recently served as a senior aide to retiring District 5 board member Jackie Goldberg, who has endorsed him.

Local 99 has launched a negative campaign against Gallardo, spending $38,441.

Retired principal Victorio Gutierrez is the fourth candidate, describing himself as pro-union but anti-special-interest politics.

District 7

District 7 runs from South L.A. to the Harbor. Only one candidate has big-money support and that's one-term incumbent Franklin. Bloomfield has spent more than $1 million on her behalf, including nearly $350,000 in a negative campaign against Franklin's one opponent, teacher Lydia Gutierrez, who has raised $3,484.

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