In an unusual move, the United Teachers Los Angeles on Wednesday endorsed eight candidates who will face off for two seats on the L.A. Unified school board.
The teacher's union endorsed four candidates running against incumbent Monica Garcia, who represents central and East L.A. on the school board. The union is targetting Garcia, a strong supporter of charter schools and another program allowing non-profits to take over low-performing schools. UTLA vice president Solkovits called the approach, “privatization.”
The union backed another four candidates running in District 6 in the East San Fernando Valley, an open seat. Current board member Nury Martinez has declined to run for re-election. It also endorsed incumbent Steve Zimmer, who represents a district that stretches from West L.A. to Hollywood.
Solkovits said he can’t recall the union endorsing multiple candidates in his three decades in the union -- but feels it was the right thing to do.
“We were just really committed to finding candidates that would best possible school board members and if that turned out to be one candidate, fine, if it turned out to be multiple candidates, that was fine too,” he said.
The primary election takes place March 5. The runoff election is on May 21.
The races are expected to be expensive. Thousands of UTLA members have voluntarily contributed to the union’s political action committee coffers.
Solkovits also said the union has vetted the candidates thoroughly.
“Before they are officially certified as endorsed candidates we’re conducting background checks on each of them," he said. The process will ensure "their records are crystal clean.”
The union has weathered embarassing moments in the recent years after endorsing candidates whose backgrounds turned out to be problematic. In 2006, UTLA pulled its endorsement of Christopher Arellano after news reports that he'd been convicted of theft and lied about his academic degrees. In one particularly bad week last year, two UTLA-endorsed candidates that turned out to have criminal records either withdrew from the running or lost UTLA backing.