There are only two candidates on the March 3 ballot seeking to represent L.A. Unified's District 5 election, which stretches from Los Feliz to East L.A. But a whole lot of money is being spent on them.
Admittedly, there’s a lot of money in all the school board races this year. LAist says more than $2.8 million has been dropped by outside political groups on all the School Board races - on pace to break a record for spending. (Four of the seven board seats are up for grabs.)
But District 5 in particular is getting a notable chunk of attention. One contribution of $788,000 from former independent congressional candidate and businessman Bill Bloomfield mostly went for attack mailers against incumbent Jackie Goldberg, according to KPCC and LAist reporter Kyle Stokes.
The big issue seems to be charter schools, with privately owned charter schools and some wealthy campaign donors facing off against public school advocates and the powerful teachers’ union. Goldberg has been famously averse to charter schools, while her opponent, Christina Martinez Duran, has held them out as an option.
Right now, the is school board is virtually split on the issue.
“Three members, all of them incumbents up for reelection, tend to support teachers union priorities, and three others sympathize with the charter school and school accountability movements,” the L.A. Times says. That leaves board Chairman Richard Vladovic as the deciding vote. And he’s leaving.
District 5 covers Silver Lake, Echo Park, Los Feliz, Eagle Rock and City Terrace in the northeast, and southeast cities of Huntington Park, Bell South Gate, Vernon, Maywood,
Christina Martinez Duran has been involved in various facets of education for 30 years, including volunteering as an evaluator for schools seeking accreditation - public schools as well as charter. Her opinion on the charter question is, indeed, more moderate than Goldberg’s. "Options should be offered to all students," she says in her campaign video.
But her larger criticism seems to be that parents' needs have not been addressed.
“I’m running because, after seeing how our children and parents are being treated at a recent board meeting, I realize that we need our voices to be heard,” she told Speak UP. Elsewhere in that interview, she focused especially on special needs students, who she said are not receiving the services they're supposed to.
She also accused Goldberg of calling people "criminals and deviants" when they would not make a Prop. 39 over-allocation fee payment on the spot - and she accused Goldberg of perpetuating a demeaning attitude among the other board members.
Jackie Goldberg (incumbent)
Former teacher, former City Councilwoman, former member of the state Assembly, former (then, after a three-decade break, current) School Board member, Goldberg comes to the race with significantly more political experience than her opponent.
Goldberg returned to the School Board last May in an election to replace Ref Rodriguez, who left office after pleading guilty to conspiracy charges related to campaign finance violations. Goldberg’s victory in 2019 was seen as a blow to charter school interests, particularly since Rodriquez had been a notable proponent for them.
That being said, the Times - which did not endorse Goldberg in last year’s election - is endorsing her now.
The Times notes that she has lobbied for making district finances more transparent, and has developed innovations with board members who are not her natural allies. Her opponent Duran, by contrast, “can’t match Goldberg at articulating a vision for schools or in expertise and leadership.”