The school board for the Los Angeles Unified school district has four of its seats up for grabs in a pivotal election in 2020. The other three seats are uncontested, but veteran watchers believe that two of the four races are extremely competitive. The state’s largest school district with 600,000 students hosts a primary on March 3, where 50% vote can win the seat outright. If no candidate breaks that threshold, there would be a runoff in November. The new board will convene in December
Charter school issue fuels campaign
This may not mean much to most school districts, where board elections are sleepy affairs, but this is a hotly contested election for several reasons. These include:
- An estimated $7.2 million have been directly spent on the elections or outside advertising.
- The big issue (and money) revolves around charter schools with charter school advocates on one side and United Teachers Los Angeles (the district’s largest teacher union) on the other.
- There are more charter schools in this school district than any other in the U.S.
Election will likely impact the board’s direction
The new school board will have to solve budget deficits, enrollment declines and achievement gaps for black, Latino, low-income, and other underserved students. How the district tackles these issues will either be through more traditional schools or more charter schools. While the picture leans more toward conventional schools and the union since the teachers’ strike, the new members could solidify the direction of the board.
Moreover, as the changes unfold, interpretations of the laws on these matters (particularly the new Assembly Bill 1505 that gives broader discretion to deny new charter school applications) will likely face scrutiny and legal action. While it is a presidential election year, it looks like 2020 could be an exciting year in local politics as well.