Jackie Goldberg celebrated Tuesday night after winning a large majority of the election-day vote count. While some ballots remain to be counted, her opponent has conceded the race.
Why is there an election?
Tuesday’s vote is a special election to fill a seat on the Los Angeles Unified School District’s Board of Education. It’s been vacant since July 2018 when board member Ref Rodriguez pleaded guilty to campaign finance crimes and resigned.
Ten candidates were on the ballot in the March primary. None of them captured a majority, so the top two finishers are competing today.
Jackie Goldberg, a veteran L.A. politician who has served on the school board, City Council and in the state Assembly.
Heather Repenning, who most recently served on the Los Angeles Board of Public Works and worked for Mayor Eric Garcetti when he was a councilman and early on during his mayoralty.
Who gets to vote?
In L.A. Unified, voters elect school board members by geography. This election is in Board District 5, an oddly shaped district that includes upscale areas in Silver Lake, Highland Park and Eagle Rock, as well as the lower-income cities southeast of downtown, like Bell, Huntington Park, South Gate and Cudahy.
LAUSD Board District 5
If you are a registered voter living in the area, you are eligible to vote. Polls close at 8 p.m.
Who is expected to win?
Goldberg is the front-runner. In the primary she captured 48% of the vote, while Repenning scraped her way to second with 13% of votes with a lead of just 31 ballots over the third-place finisher.
But anything could happen, as the two have been battling to maintain support in neighborhoods north of downtown, where most of the voters are, while scrambling to capture the primary voters who supported other candidates.
What are the issues people care about?
Before Rodriguez resigned, charter-backed candidates held a slim one-seat majority on the board. Charter schools receive public funding but are run independently. Most are not unionized. Teachers unions and other critics say they erode district-run schools by vacuuming up funding and students.
Goldberg is a major critic of charter schools. She says she is running to prevent charter interests from exerting too much control over the school system.
Repenning paints herself as a neutral voice who does not favor one type of school over another. She says the district should focus on making each school one that parents and students would choose.
A major issue facing L.A. Unified is how to balance the budget. The district has received warnings that it may not be able to meet its financial obligations in three years. Both candidates support a parcel tax that will be put to voters in June.
The southern part of the district is home to some of L.A.'s neediest children. Many of the mostly Latino parents there are concerned about having equal resources and access for students with special needs.
But most votes — and both candidates — come from the district’s northern wing, which is wealthier and whiter than the south. Both candidates acknowledge this mismatch and vow to commit time and resources to the south.
Who’s bankrolling the race?
The biggest funders are the two biggest unions in L.A. Unified, and they’re on opposite sides.
Goldberg has the backing of the United Teachers Los Angeles, the L.A. teachers union, which asserted its power during a January strike to improve working conditions. Many teachers and parents who picketed also teamed up for Goldberg, who union leaders see as the best chance to end a series of losses at the ballot box.
Repenning, meanwhile, has the support of Service Employees International Union 99, which represents classroom aids, janitors and cafeteria workers. Some felt that Goldberg was too focused on teachers at the expense of students and other workers. Repenning also has the backing of her former boss, L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti.
Two pro-charter philanthropists, Eli Broad and Bill Bloomfield, donated to support Repenning. The California Charter Schools Association, which has offered heavy financial backing in past races, did not endorse a candidate.