‘We’re fighting over shades of Democrat’ in California
LA School Report | May 20, 2016
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By Laurel Rosenhall
A group that lobbies to change public education is pouring money into a handful of Northern California legislative races ahead of the June 7 election, aiming to influence the kind of Democrats who hold power in the state Capitol.
Democrats make up a solid majority of the Legislature, but they do not agree on everything. A band of business-friendly Democrats has gained enough clout to buck more liberal Democrats on some environmental issues. Campaign spending by EdVoice, an advocacy group that supports charter schools and tying student test scores to teacher evaluations, reveals an attempt to build a cohort of Democrats who might break from their colleagues on some education issues, too. At stake are pressing questions about how to help the most disadvantaged students succeed in the nation’s largest public school system.
“In California, we’re fighting over shades of Democrat,” said political consultant Phil Giarrizzo, who represents Cecilia Aguiar-Curry, one of the Democrats backed by EdVoice.
Teachers unions have been a prevailing influence on Democrats for decades. EdVoice, funded by philanthropists from the business world, is part of a counterforce that often supports policies opposed by organized labor. Unions and school reformers have sparred over charter schools, teacher tenure and how to measure school performance – dividing Democrats at many levels of government.