Teacher Monica Ratliff, who faced a rival backed both by influential labor unions and the deep pockets of wealthy education activists, appears to be on the verge of winning an open seat on the Los Angeles school board, according to LA School Report and other local media accounts.
Unofficial results posted by the Los Angeles city clerk’s office early this morning showed Ratliff with a narrow lead over Antonio Sanchez, with 52 percent of the votes cast for her, compared to 48 percent for her opponent.
If Ratliff prevails, her victory would mark the second high-profile defeat of a school board candidate whose campaign was largely bankrolled by the Coalition for School Reform, a political action committee aligned with Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. The coalition has thrown its money and clout behind supporting Superintendent John Deasy and his school improvement initiatives, which include overhauling teacher evaluations to include student test scores as one measure of performance and making it easier to get rid of low-performing educators.
The coalition received hefty contributions from New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Los Angeles-based education philanthropist Eli Broad, and the StudentsFirst advocacy group founded by former District of Columbia Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee both for the primary election in March and for the runoff yesterday between Ratliff and Sanchez, a former aide to Villaraigosa. Incumbent board member Steve Zimmer, whose seat was the target of more than $1.5 million in spending by the coalition, defeated Kate Anderson in the primary held in March. Moníca García, the coalition’s other favored candidate and the one targeted for defeat by United Teachers Los Angeles, won re-election in March.
Los Angeles voters also elected Eric Garcetti, a city councilman, as the new mayor of the city. Villaraigosa, who is termed out, was heavily involved in trying to shape education policy during his eight years as mayor. Villaraigosa’s attempt to take over the schools in 2007 made it through the state legislature, but was stopped by a state judge, who ruled that the law enacted to give him control violated the California constitution. He later worked out an agreement with the school district to oversee a cluster of low-performing schools.
A version of this news article first appeared in the District Dossier blog.