In the LAUSD race for the District 6 seat that represents the San Fernando Valley, there will be a runoff between charter-school-backed teacher Kelly Fitzpatrick-Gonez and activist Imelda Padilla, who was supported by United Teachers Los Angeles, the union representing LAUSD teachers.
Rounding out the field of candidates were former Assemblywoman Patty Lopez, parents/activists Gwendolyn Posey, Araz Parseghian, and animal-rights activist Jose Sandoval.
The San Fernando Valley Sun/El Sol asked Patty Lopez what she thought accounted for her loss, and she replied with one word, “Money.” Lopez didn’t actively fundraise and instead took her signature approach for “grassroots” campaigning and door knocking, but this time around the David vs. Goliath approach didn’t work.
Incumbent district Board Member Monica Garcia was celebrating her re-election in District 2, but board President Steve Zimmer — who was the target of a well-financed opposition campaign in District 4 funded largely by charter-school backers — appears headed for a May runoff.
Zimmer led a field of four candidates, but his 47.47 vote percentage (28,186) fell short of the more than 50 percent needed to win re-election outright. He will square off against Nick Melvoin, a teacher/attorney, who placed second with 31.22 percent the vote (18,532) in the race ahead of Allison Polhill, a former president of the Palisades Charter High School board, and public relations executive Gregory Martayan.
Backers of charter schools, hoping to gain a majority of supporters on the seven-member LAUSD board, threw their financial might behind Melvoin and Allison Holdorff Polhill in hopes of unseating Zimmer.
Garcia, a supporter of charter schools, fended off challenges for her seat from teacher Lisa Alva and businessman Carl Petersen.
If charter-backed candidates prevail in the two pending races, they would team with Garcia and board member Ref Rodriguez to create a majority on the seven-member board.
Charter supporters — including former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan and philanthropist Eli Broad — contend that charters tend to have better results for students and provide more choices for parents, but opponents point to sometimes-questionable management practices, alleging that some of the schools hand-pick higher-performing students to the detriment of others.
Critics also contend a proliferation of charters — which are publicly funded but often operate free of unions and some regulations that govern traditional public schools — would be a financial hit to the LAUSD, which receives state funding based on enrollment.