March 4, 2020Press Release
LOS ANGELES — Facing outsized spending by the charter lobby and billionaire privatizers, UTLA educators and parents scored big wins in the LAUSD School Board races by early Wednesday morning. Jackie Goldberg and George McKenna easily won reelection to their seats, and Scott Schmerelson and Patricia Castellanos placed first and fought off demeaning smear campaigns to advance to the November 2020 runoffs.
UTLA ran the most robust ground game in our history, proving the power of people versus money. While the charter lobby put hate ads in the mail, we put people in the streets, walking and talking to voters. Hundreds of UTLA members worked more than 1,000 neighborhood and precinct walks alongside our parent and community allies, reaching more than 20,000 voters. On average, when we talked to a voter, 8 out of 10 times they committed to supporting our candidates. Our member texting campaign reached an additional 100,000 people who vote by absentee ballot.
“We ran an impressive and positive ground game, fueled by the passion and enthusiasm of teachers and parents who believe in public education,” UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl said. “The charter lobby’s hateful, vitriolic attack ads can’t match the impact of a teacher at the door, talking one-on-one to a voter. Since our strike and through this election, our communities are waking up to the billionaire attacks on our democracy and our public schools.”
Fries Elementary parent Alicia Baltazar spent multiple weekends walking precincts and phone banking for Patricia Castellanos.
“Like with the strike, I felt the support of the community and I had great conversations with voters,” Baltazar said. “But it was really disturbing to watch the charter lobby and a few wealthy individuals spend millions to fight the candidates supported by teachers and parents. Why couldn’t they send that money to our schools instead?”
The California Charter Schools Association and billionaires like Bill Bloomfield funneled more than $6.2 million into the race against UTLA’s endorsed candidates, making it the most expensive primary school board race in US history. That money funded an aggressive mail campaign that hit new lows, including a series of racist, sexist, and ageist ads.
The charter industry came hard in this election because they suffered a series of losses in the aftermath of our strike, including increased public criticism of unregulated charter expansion and notable policy losses, such as our contract win on co-location and AB 1505, the first serious charter regulation in decades.
In the Democratic U.S. Presidential race, Bernie Sanders won the California primary. UTLA was an early supporter of his campaign, and this week Bernie weighed in on our School Board fight, tweeting support to his 10 million followers and endorsing Patricia Castellanos.
Now, the work continues to secure a general election win for Castellanos and Schmerelson in November. We will double down on the positive work from this campaign for the next election and beyond. The school board wins give us momentum in current reopener contract bargaining and propel us onto the next steps of our three-year path: protecting healthcare in bargaining to begin this fall and winning the School Board runoffs and the Schools & Communities First funding measure in November 2020.
“We continue our fight not just to reject the billionaire agenda — the politics of fear, hate and oppression — but to build a massive movement to reinvest in public education for the schools our students deserve,” said UTLA President Elect Cecily Myart-Cruz.
UTLA, the nation’s second-largest teachers’ union local, is proud to represent more than 35,000 teachers and health & human services professionals in district and charter schools in LAUSD.