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Update: Reform Coalition Faces Power Vacuum

Hillel Aron | June 6, 2013

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CSR logoEducation reformers met Friday afternoon to discuss the disastrous results of the 2013 School Board elections and to consider what form the their efforts should take in the future.

“It was a meeting to discuss what had happened in my election and what we should think about the future of LAUSD,” said Kate Anderson, who unsuccessfully ran for LAUSD School Board against Board member Steve Zimmer.

But other sources who attended the meeting characterized the mood of the meeting  as rudderless.

“Nothing came out of it,” said one frustrated reformer who was there. “It was just another sort of, ‘the ed reformers lost, what can we do about it?’ There’s a lot of those meetings. There’s no clear next actionable plan.”

Those attending the meeting included Ben Austin of Parent Revolution, Ryan Smith* of United Way, Marshall Tuck of the Partnership for LA Schools and Gary Borden of California Charter Schools Association. There were few big-money donors there, with the exception of Frank Baxter, who gave $100,000 to the Coalition.

When reached for comment, Baxter said only, “I’m optimistic about our future.”

Los Angeles has a healthy surplus of non-profits working to reform public education. But when it comes to influencing public policy, they’ve had mixed results.

“We have a strong coalition of civil rights leaders, parents community leaders that wants to see changes in LAUSD,” said Anderson. “We haven’t coalesced together as strongly as we should.”

A key problem the group faces is to figure out who will now lead the Coalition for School Reform, the independent expenditure (IE) committee created by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa that’s been a central vehicle through which reform advocates have pushed their agenda.

One source said Anderson herself was considering taking over as head, but has since decided against it.

Another option that remains under consideration is to add a year-round nonprofit 501(c)(4) advocacy group, with an eye toward pushing ed reform ideas over the long term rather than solely through election-season campaign spending.

In the meantime, sources at the meeting said that if anyone appeared to be in charge, it was the California Charter School Association (CCSA).

“CCSA is taking operational control of the Coalition,” said one source.

Another said: “CCSA is absolutely part of the answer. They have a real vested stake in this stuff. They might have the biggest natural self-interest.”

*A previous version of this post said Elise Buik of United Way was at the meeting; she was not.

Previous posts: What Next for the Coalition for School Reform?How Ratliff Won (& Reformers Lost)*Reform Coalition Focuses Massive War Chest on MailersWhy the Coalition’s Going All Out to Elect Sanchez

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