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Spin Room: Tea Leaves, Wishful Thinking, & Self-Justification

Alexander Russo | March 7, 2013

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Some of the best and worst reporting and commentary since yesterday is rounded up below.

As you’ll see, it includes questions about the ineffectiveness of the attacks on Zimmer, a couple of stories that wonder why the Coalition took Zimmer on in the first place, and some attempts to connect the LAUSD race to education elections in other places.  There are also an awful lot of quotes from USC’s Dan Schnur, and an LA Times headline that comes to a much stronger conclusion about the outcome than anyone else except perhaps Diane Ravitch.

VOTERS DON’T CARE ABOUT POLICY ISSUES:  The Daily News‘ Barbara Jones notes the clear lack of public interest in the policy issues and debates that are of such concern to education insiders, the high cost per vote in some races (especially District 6), and reports concerns about gridlock resulting from the mixed outcome.  “Raphael Sonenshein, head of the Pat Brown Institute for Public Affairs at Cal State LA, said the policy issues that energized reform and teachers groups simply didn’t resonate with local voters.”

REFORMERS MAY HAVE MADE THINGS WORSE FOR DEASY:  Over at EdSource Today, John Fensterwald examines how Steve Zimmer came to be considered “unreliable” and warranted a Coalition-backed challenger — and how Zimmer, “never the UTLA’s favorite school board member,” ended up being the union candidate. As noted here several months ago, making an enemy of Zimmer made the Coalition’s campaign job much harder than it would otherwise have been — and now complicates his relationship with Superintendent Deasy (no matter what the two men say about it.)

REFORM CANDIDATES LOSE IN OTHER PLACES:  The Washington Post‘s Valerie Strauss says there are mixed signals for reformers coming out of the Tuesday voting, linking the LAUSD race to the November elections in Indiana where reform-minded state school superintendent Tony Bennett was voted out, despite a clear funding advantage.  “Apparently, money can’t buy absolutely everything.”

ATTACKS AGAINST REFORMERS  BEAT ATTACKS AGAINST ZIMMER:  The LA Times‘ reaction story wins the contest for most provocative headline —  “Big money doesn’t buy much in L.A. school races” — and (with help from former state senator Gloria Romero) highlights the view that Mayor Villaraigosa and the reform backers got very little for their efforts. Reporter Howard Blume also has a Claremont University professor discussing the issue raised in the Fensterwald story of why the reform coalition took Zimmer on. There’s also a quote from USC’s Dan Schnur — he talked to pretty much every education reporter in town yesterday — about the Coalition’s campaign for Anderson failed to gain much traction.

DEASY TONED IT DOWN LONG AGO:  Blogger RiShawn Biddle has a long post about the implications of the race called “Good News and Tough Lessons” which may be the most interesting of the lot, if only he wasn’t trying to make every possible point. He notes that Deasy isn’t nearly as aggressive a reformer as some may think, and that he’s likely to be hindered in making further moves by Zimmer/Vladovic even if Sanchez wins in District 6.  (He also suggests that Zimmer may be somewhat more careful in his attacks on Deasy in order to avoid another challenger or even a recall attempt.)

TOTAL VICTORY FOR REFORM OPPONENTS:  From her pricey Brooklyn brownstone, former Bush Administration education official Diane Ravitch questions Coalition “spin” about the primary results focusing on Garcia’s victory.  Ravitch also claims that the Coalition spent $5 million against Zimmer, when in fact the Coalition spent $1.4 million to the unions’ $1.1 million.

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