Outside spending is dominating campaigns for three seats on the Los Angeles Board of Education, surpassing $4.4 million through Friday.
The outcome of Tuesday’s primary is expected to shape the path of improvement efforts in the nation’s second-largest school system.
The costliest race is in District 4, which spans the Westside and the western San Fernando Valley. There, one-term incumbent and former teacher Steve Zimmer faces parent and attorney Kate Anderson.
The pro-Anderson and anti-Zimmer effort has spent more than $1.1 million. Also, Anderson’s campaign has raised more than $250,000.
Conversely, the pro-Zimmer and anti-Anderson independent campaign has spent more than $950,000. Zimmer’s campaign has collected $82,406.
Zimmer benefits from an independent campaign by employee unions and the L.A. County Federation of Labor. Anderson is backed by a coalition of wealthy donors, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and advocates for independently managed charter schools.
The coalition is the biggest money player, having assembled more than $3.2 million.
Spending in the other two races reflects campaign strategies of the coalition and the teachers union, United Teachers Los Angeles.
In District 2, which stretches outward from downtown, the coalition supports two-term incumbent Monica Garcia. She is the mayor’s closest ally on the school board and a steadfast supporter of L.A. schools Supt. John Deasy.
The coalition hopes to push Garcia to victory on Tuesday by helping her capture more than 50% of the vote in a field with four challengers. The coalition has spent the lion’s share of a $1.2-million independent campaign; some unions also have chipped in with significant contributions. Garcia’s campaign has raised nearly $430,000.
Garcia’s challengers have raised a combined $46,000. The teachers union has divided a modest $18,000 among three of the challengers. Its goal is to force a runoff, and to that end, UTLA launched an anti-Garcia campaign at a cost of $90,000.
District 6, in the eastern San Fernando Valley, is an open seat. There, the coalition hopes to sweep Antonio Sanchez past two other candidates. Independent campaigns on his behalf — including support from some labor unions — have logged more than $1 million in expenditures. Sanchez’s own campaign has reported donations of close to $55,000.
There are no independent campaigns on behalf of Monica Ratliff, who has raised about $15,000, or Maria Cano, who has raised about $17,000.
Hoping to preserve campaign resources, the teachers union has not helped fund a candidate in this contest, although it endorsed all three.