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Attack on Zimmer Wasn’t from Anderson Campaign

Samantha Oltman | February 13, 2013

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Steve Zimmer and Kate Anderson

LA School Report has learned a little of the backstory behind a recent election-focused post that was published on former Assistant Secretary of Education Diane Ravitch’s blog.

As you may know, Ravitch urged her readers to support District 4 (Hollywood and Westside) incumbent Steve Zimmer and oppose his challenger Kate Anderson, based in large part on an email from a Zimmer supporter who accused Anderson’s canvassers of “spreading lies” — specifically, that “Zimmer is against the arts.”

The email Ravitch posted came from a former LAUSD employee, and the canvasser wasn’t with the official Anderson campaign. The Coalition for School Reform won’t verify it was one its canvassers, but the claim against Zimmer resembles its most recent District 4 TV ad. The Zimmer campaign claims that its candidate is a strong supporter of the arts.

A longtime school reform advocate who worked in the Bush Administration before changing her views on education issues, the New York City-based Ravitch shared an email about an upsetting encounter with what was presumed to be an Anderson canvasser:

“Yesterday, one of her (presumably paid) canvassers made the unfortunate mistake of knocking on our door and telling my husband to vote for her because “Steve Zimmer is against the arts”!

LA School Report tracked down the author of the email, Robin Lithgow, who is the recently retired head of LAUSD’s arts education branch.

Lithgow says she never meant for her email to reach the media, and that she’s “sorry I wrote that before I’d spoken with the campaign.” She says she wrote the email because she used to work closely with Zimmer, and that he “was one of the Board members the arts branch could always rely on.”

“Anderson’s campaign called me back and said the canvasser wasn’t one of theirs, and that they would never say that,” Lithgow said.

Indeed, Anderson’s campaign manager, Madeleine Moore, confirmed it: “No, it was not someone from our campaign.”

LA School Report contacted the Coalition for School Reform, which made a similar claim about Zimmer in a just-launched TV ad, which says Zimmer “voted… to cut basics like art.” However, the Coalition would not verify that its canvassers discuss Zimmer and the arts.

When asked to comment on this story, Zimmer’s campaign manager, Ari Ruiz, said that “Steve Zimmer is a supporter of the arts,” pointing out that Zimmer was one of the co-sponsors of LAUSD Board Member Nury Martinez’s Arts Core Resolution, which established the arts as a core part of the curriculum in LAUSD schools.

Previous posts: Coalition TV Ad Attacks Zimmer over Robert Kennedy School; District 4 Candidates Air YouTube Ads, Schedule Appearances

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