The odd bit about the school board election in L.A. is that money, a lot of it, is being funneled into the race by people seemingly without any direct connection to L.A.
There are 3 seats up for grabs in next Tuesdays election. Normally, one would think it would be a rather local affair. That would seem to be wildly incorrect.
Michael Bloomberg, the mayor of New York City, donated $1 million. The money was sent to a coalition formed by Antonio Villaraigosa, mayor of L.A. Michelle Rhee, the slash and burn ex-chancellor of the Washington D.C. school system, who formed a lobbying outfit called StudentsFirst, put in $250,000.
The L.A. teachers union, United Teachers Los Angeles, has thrown $450,000 at the race. Their effort is aimed at backing the candidates they endorse for the 3 available seats.
Villaraigosa, the mayor, sees this election as a way to establish his legacy. He is termed out, and his time as mayor is coming to an end. His view is that if his slate isn't elected, educational reform in L.A. is done for.
That is his stated reason for having "...raised as much money across the country as I have is because people get that." It's unclear if he is referring to the residents of L.A.
The union president, Warren Fletcher, had this to say: "We don't elect a superintendent, but school board races are a way to take the temperature of whether people like the direction schools are going in. This is a race for Los Angeles, not the school board race of America. It would be really tragic if the voices are drowned out by folks who have no sense of what is going on here to begin with."
There seems to be a drive by big city mayors to want to control the city school systems. Whether this is a good idea, or a productive one, is up for grabs. In political terms however, more control equals more power. It still doesn't answer whether it's good or not.
The total amount of money spent on this school board election from people who don't live in L.A., and as they say, have no skin in the game, is over $1.25 million. With the union spending at least $450,000, it's safe to say that perhaps well over $2 million is being spent. For 3 school board seats, that's a lot of buying.
Rhee had this to say: "It will be interesting to see what kind of impact we can have by investing heavily in this race. It could determine whether or not we should move in this direction."
The big question, the stink in the room, is what are they buying? Spending that kind of money comes with steel wire ropes attached, not just a few paltry strings.
Follow the money. Always follow the money. Who knows where it will lead?