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Mayoral Debate: Teachers Give to Garcetti Super PAC

Hillel Aron | May 7, 2013

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Garcetti meeting with parents of 24th St. Elementary via Parent Revolution

The American Federation of Teachers and its California chapter, CFT, have just given a combined $60,000 to a super PAC named  Lots of People Who Support Eric Garcetti for Mayor.

Although UTLA, the local teachers union, endorsed Garcetti back in February, this is the first time a teachers union has spent any money on the 2013 Mayoral election.

“I think the AFT is sending a loud and clear message that the status quo — ensuring that the worst teachers are impacting students — is still the law of the land,” said political consultant Michael Trujillo, a strong (though unpaid) supporter of Garcetti’s opponent, Wendy Greuel. “And they’re gonna hold Eric Garcetti’s feet to the fire.”

The union contribution may come up later today, when the candidates will take part in an education-focused debate hosted by KPCC.

The disclosure of AFT’s donation came on the same day that both candidates visited 24th St. Elementary, the site of a recent “parent trigger” petition, a controversial parent empowerment mechanism that both Mayoral candidates have endorsed.

Though UTLA has been relatively quiet in its opposition to the trigger concept in recent weeks, the national union has been (and presumably still is) bitterly opposed to it.

During the primary, the five leading Mayoral candidates took part in one education debate at the United Way Education Summit.

More recently, Sunday night’s televised debate at USC showcased the reality that Greuel and Garcetti agree on nearly every policy issue — as they themselves admitted.

Education is no different. Both candidates support Superintendent John Deasy, both support the parent trigger law, and both support teacher evaluations that use pupil progress.

Nevertheless, the candidates will try to draw contrasts based on past positions and experience at today’s debate.

Greuel meeting with 24th St. parents

Greuel will remind voters that she is a mother of a boy in LAUSD.

“Wendy has never wavered in her support of school reform,” said Greuel spokesperson Connie Llanos. “I don’t believe that councilman Garcetti has been as clear on what his vision of education reform.”

A little known fact is that Garcetti has, in the past, been a foster parent to children who attended LAUSD — although he hardly ever talks about it.  He currently has a 16-month-old adopted daughter.

Garcetti spokesman Jeff Millman said that Greuel “hypes herself” as a school reformer but doesn’t “deliver anything.” He added: “Eric’s principal position is that he’s an advocate for kids.”

The new teachers union contribution may also come up. Garcetti has focused much of his recent campaign, including his latest TV ad, on blasting the Department of Water and Power union for spending millions of dollars on a pro-Greuel Super PAC, arguing that the money makes Greuel beholden to the union.

This debate, which will be broadcast live on KCRW 89.9 from 2-3 PM, was scheduled after Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa chided the two candidates for not focusing enough on education.

After Garcetti spokesperson Millman suggested the debate, Greuel challenged Garcetti to a debate at Camino Nuevo Charter School — with just two hours’ notice.

After a bit of inter-campaign squabbling, the two camps agreed to the KCRW debate.

“We put this thing together,” said Millman. “She called a flash mob debate. And we put together a real debate.”

KCRW news program director Gary Scott said he hopes today’s debate, to be held at the Peterson Automotive Museum at 2 PM and hosted by Warren Olney, will draw contrasts between the two candidates.

“The game here is, let’s not have them on same side,” he said. “Let have them distinguish themselves. That’s the goal.”

Indeed, there are a few things we still don’t know about the candidates’ education positions, including where they stand on the controversial No Child Left Behind “waiver” that LAUSD is trying to get from Washington, whether they support SB 441, the teacher dismissal bill going through the state legislature, and — perhaps most important — which candidate they support for the District 6 School Board runoff.

Previous posts: Handful of Education Issues Could Split Mayoral CandidatesGarcetti and Greuel to Meet With “Trigger” ParentsGarcetti Praises Partnership School, Differs with UTLA PollGreuel Endorses New Teacher Evaluation Plan.

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