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L.A. Unified board member Monica Ratliff eyes City Council campaign

Los Angeles school board member Monica Ratliff is looking to make the switch to City Hall.

Ratliff, a grade school teacher who scored a significant upset in the 2013 election, filed initial paperwork Monday to run for the San Fernando Valley seat being vacated by Los Angeles City Councilman Felipe Fuentes.

Ratliff did not respond to requests for comment. To compete in the March 2017 council election, she will have to give up her seat on the seven-member at the end of her term. Los Angeles Unified School District board. Candidates cannot simultaneously run for two seats in the same L.A. municipal election.

Fuentes represents Sylmar, Pacoima, Lake View Terrace, Sunland-Tujunga and other Valley neighborhoods. His four-year term ends in June 2017. Since he announced his decision to step aside, 13 people have turned in papers to raise money for his seat.

Ratliff represents some of the same neighborhoods as Fuentes.

Three years ago, she pulled off an impressive election victory. Backers of her opponent, Antonio Sanchez, spent more than $2.2 million. Ratliff prevailed with a bare-bones campaign that sent out $5,000 worth of fridge magnets.

Ratliff, who won without any meaningful help from the teachers union, has been a moderate voice on the school board.

A decision by Ratliff not to seek reelection would likely spur another expensive campaign battle between United Teachers Los Angeles and charter school advocates, who argue that the board has been hostile since the release of a plan spearheaded by the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation.

A draft of the plan proposes vastly expanding the number of charters in Los Angeles by enrolling half of the district’s students in the publicly funded but privately-run schools over the next eight years. 

Supporters of the proposal say they seek to improve options for parents unsatisfied with traditional public schools. But L.A. Unified leaders have said the plan threatens the sustainability of the district and could hurt its ability to serve students.

The debate over charter school growth would make an election to fill Ratliff's school board seat a big deal, said Charles Kerchner, a research professor at Claremont Graduate University.

"Almost anything happening in Los Angeles will be a tactical or strategic event in the charter school war," Kerchner said.

david.zahniser@latimes.com

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Editor’s Note: The Times receives funding for its Education Matters digital initiative from one or more of the groups mentioned in this article. The California Community Foundation and United Way of Greater Los Angeles administer grants from the Baxter Family Foundation, the Broad Foundation, the California Endowment and the Wasserman Foundation to support this effort. Under terms of the grants, The Times retains complete control over editorial content.

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times

Update

1:57 p.m.: This article has been updated to include additional information about when Ratliff would have to give up her seat on the school board.

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