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Charter group makes initial spend for Rodriguez LAUSD board seat

Vanessa Romo | March 30, 2015

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Ref Rodriguez

Ref Rodriguez

They’re off… and spending.

Over the last 10 days the California Charter School Association political action committee has resumed pumping in money to help Ref Rodriguez win the District 5 seat on the LA Unified school board in the May 19 runoff.

The group has spent $18,347 on two flier mailings and one phone banking session. It is the first spend in the three board runoff races so far and the start of what is sure to be a high-dollar showdown in District 5, given the hundreds of thousands of dollars the charter group spent to help Rodriguez win the March 3 primary and the hundreds of thousands the LA teachers union, UTLA, spent to help its most trusted ally on the board, Bennett Kayser.

Rodriguez, a charter school operator, is trying to deny Kayser a second term. The winner will represent the interests of a district that includes parts of Bell and Maywood in the south, Los Feliz, Eagle Rock and parts of El Sereno in the north. The winner will also serve an extended 5 1/2 year term since voters passed a city charter amendment to align school board and state elections.

The race for District 5 is considered a potential game changer for so-called education reform advocates who favor charter school expansion, merit pay for teachers and teacher evaluation systems partially based on student test scores. A victory by Rodriguez would shift the balance of the board to a pro-reform majority from what is now, a consistently pro-teachers union majority.

Kayser faced the same challenge four years when he finished second, only to rebound in the general election to win the seat by less than three percentage points.

In the other May runoffs, board president Richard Vladovic is facing teacher Lydia Gutierrez in District 7, and District 3 incumbent Tamar Galatzan is up against retired school administrator Scott Schmerelson.

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