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Election will reshape L.A.U.S.D. leadership. Campaign turbulence hits two candidates

Khalid Al Alim, one of the leading school board candidates in Los Angeles, was defeated by the union that made him famous, but he could still make it to the top. Another potential candidate, Graciela Ortiz, was temporarily removed from her job with the district pending an internal investigation, but she would not say why. She was also able to do well in the polls.

In the election ending Tuesday night, a majority of four seats on the Los Angeles School Board will be on the ballot in a primary that will determine the direction of the nation's second-largest school system, which faces pressing academic and financial challenges. There is. .

Big-picture issues include declining enrollment, possible school closures, the end of pandemic relief aid, the future of school police and student drug use. However, personal issues are also swirling around the two leading candidates.

Board members serve a four-year term. To win outright, a candidate must receive more than 50% of her votes. Three races are likely to advance to runoff elections in November, with the top two vote-getters in Tuesday's primaries facing off.

incumbent and challenger

The race for District 7, which stretches from South Los Angeles to the Harbor Area, will be decided Tuesday with only two candidates on the ballot. The race pits one-term incumbent Tanya Ortiz Franklin against teacher Lydia Gutierrez.

Gutierrez, a longtime teacher in the Long Beach Unified School District, was limited to raising $3,484 to deliver to voters.

In contrast, Franklin's campaign raised $81,202 and also benefited from an independence campaign funded primarily by Bill Bloomfield, a retired businessman who has been the largest individual donor to L.A. unified races in recent years. Bloomfield spent more than $731,000 on a positive campaign against Franklin and more than $350,000 on a negative campaign against Gutierrez.

Four challengers are running against two-term incumbent Scott Schmerelson in the 3rd Congressional District, which covers the western San Fernando Valley and adjacent areas.

Schmerelson is benefiting from an independent campaign of about $610,000 by the teachers union United Teachers Los Angeles. A competing PAC spent $870,080 on behalf of Dan Chan, a Los Angeles Unified Middle School math teacher and former charter school executive. This PAC was primarily funded by Bloomfield.

new leadership

This election will see new leadership in at least two districts, as local education heavyweights Jackie Goldberg and George McKenna will step down when their terms expire in December.

New members could potentially flip the board's ideology. It could shift from wanting to rein in charter schools to supporting these independent, mostly non-union public schools. Charter schools compete with district-run schools for students, and competition has become fierce as overall enrollment continues to decline. A small majority on the board recently placed new restrictions on when and where charter schools are allowed to operate on district-owned campuses.

Dealing with declining enrollment and associated reductions in funding and staff are important challenges facing school districts. But candidates have largely refused to discuss the real — but unpopular — possibility of having to close campuses.

School police are hotly debated and candidates are divided. Some candidates have called for disbanding school police. Some consider them essential for safety.

The new board also plans to evaluate the progress of Los Angeles schools. Alberto Carvalho is the only official overseeing them. Carvalho, who is halfway through his four-year contract, has vowed to fully recover from his pandemic-era academic setbacks by the end of this school year. If he succeeds, there will still be much to accomplish to improve overall academic performance, especially for Black and low-income Latino students.

Carvalho's efforts included ordering schools to stock the overdose drug Narcan, but drug use and availability among students remains a concern for parents.

campaign confusion

Both contests were complicated by upsets in two competitive races late in the campaign.

Al Alim, who is running for the 1st Congressional District seat representing much of South Los Angeles and Southwest Los Angeles, has been retweeting and liking social media posts for about two weeks. It was revealed that he had been doing this, and he continued to do what he called “damage control.” He promoted anti-Semitic content, glorified guns, and glorified pornographic images.

After a series of increasingly frustrating apologies, Al-Alim took a slightly different position in last week's election debate, declaring: “I'm not ashamed of anything.”

On Monday night, teachers' union UTLA formally withdrew its support for Mr Al Alim at an emergency session of the House of Commons. The House of Representatives did not settle on an alternative proposal, but it would have been too late to declare support.

On February 22, UTLA officially suspended its big-money campaign on Al Alim's behalf, but the union's materials promoting his candidacy remain limited to website postings and materials distributed directly to voters. continued to reach voters through

Some teachers' union members and supporters urged Al-Alim to withdraw, saying he had no chance of winning in the run-off.

Mr Al Alim has refused to resign, insisting last week that his campaign is on track and he is ready to prove he is free from bias and prejudice in his work for all families.

In District 5, which runs north-south along the eastern part of the school system, LA Unified Counseling Administrator Graciela Ortiz also faced sensitive issues.

Earlier this year, authorities removed her from her job pending a confidential investigation. It is unclear why the school district began the investigation, but the investigation began shortly after the incident. a civil lawsuit was filed In January, Ortiz and political allies claimed responsibility for the actions of a campaign worker who pleaded no contest to sexual misconduct with an underage volunteer.

Last week, the school confirmed that the investigation had been completed and Ortiz had returned to work. No other details were disclosed.

Ortiz declined to answer questions about the investigation or the lawsuit. A spokesperson for Mr. Ortiz called the lawsuit frivolous and politically motivated. At a campaign forum last week, Ortiz criticized the media for writing about these issues.

Ortiz, who also serves on the city council of Huntington Park in southeastern Los Angeles County, benefited from a campaign by the International Labor Union Local 99. $810,861 I expressed my support for her on her behalf.

The race was a union-versus-union battle, with UTLA spending more than $760,000 to convince voters to elect teacher Carla Griego.

Fidencio Gallardo, a longtime high school teacher who is also Bell's mayor, won support from some rank-and-file teachers and union-supporting parents who split from the UTLA-approved candidates. Gallardo recently served as a senior aide to outgoing District 5 board member Jackie Goldberg, who supported him.

Local 99 launched a negative campaign against Gallardo, spending $38,441.

Also on the ballot for the contest is former principal Victorio Gutierrez.

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