Group battling L.A. teachers union raises $1.5 million for March election
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An outside group seeking to counter teacher-union influence in the March election for the Los Angeles Board of Education has raised more than $1.5 million, mostly from a small group of wealthy donors who helped fund past campaigns.
Education and arts philanthropist Eli Broad leads the way with a contribution of $250,000 to Coalition for School Reform, which includes L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. Also in for $250,000 is billionaire A. Jerrold Perenchio, who headed the Univision network for years.
The coalition is conducting an independent campaign in support of its preferred candidates for three open board seats. Separate independent campaigns are being paid for by the teachers union, unions representing other district employees and the L.A. County Federation of Labor.
The clearest battle lines are drawn in District 4, which stretches from the Westside to portions of the west San Fernando Valley. There, one-term incumbent and former teacher Steve Zimmer faces parent and lawyer Kate Anderson. Zimmer is supported by the teachers union, United Teachers Los Angeles, as well as other influential unions.
Anderson is backed by the coalition, which strongly endorses the policies of L.A schools Supt. John Deasy. Some coalition backers are especially close to Deasy, such as Megan Chernin, who heads a nonprofit Deasy established to raise funds for L.A. schools. Chernin also formerly headed the board of L.A.’s Promise, which has been variously praised and criticized for its management of three large L.A. Unified schools. Steven Prough, a $10,000 donor, chairs the board of L.A.’s Promise.
Another $100,000 donor is Lynda Resnick, the entrepreneur behind POM Wonderful juice and other entities. Investor Marc Nathanson and his wife, Jane, have together given $100,000. Veteran journalist Jamie Alter Lynton also has donated $100,000. She’s married to Michael Lynton, chairman and chief executive of Sony Pictures Entertainment. Like Chernin, she’s on the board of the fundraising nonprofit organized by Deasy.
Lynton’s new venture, launched in August, is the L.A. School Report, which has covered the school-board elections extensively. In a December editorial, she criticized the teachers union for opposing legislation that would speed up the dismissal of teachers accused of gross misconduct, faulting union leadership for continuing “to insist on sacrificing student well-being to protect even pedophiles.”
A sum of $100,000 also came from producer Kathleen McGrath and actress Monica Rosenthal.
Another noted donor is former New York City schools Chancellor Joel Klein, who put in $25,000.
The coalition also is supporting Antonio Sanchez in District 6, in the east San Fernando Valley and Monica Garcia in District 2, which is centered downtown.