Education

CORRECTION: LAUSD board president outpacing challengers in finances, endorsements

Los Angeles Unified school board candidates in District 7 discuss their views at a United Way candidate forum on Feb. 6, 2015 at the Granada Theater in Wilmington. Loyola Marymont University political science professor Fernando Guerra moderated.
Los Angeles Unified school board candidates in District 7 discuss their views at a United Way candidate forum on Feb. 6, 2015 at the Granada Theater in Wilmington. Loyola Marymont University political science professor Fernando Guerra moderated.
United Way of Greater Los Angeles

Correction: A previous version of this story mistakenly reported that UTLA, the teachers union, endorsed incumbent Richard Vladovic. In fact, the union has made no endorsement in the District 7 race. KPCC regrets the error.

Los Angeles Unified school board president Richard Vladovic is the only incumbent facing challengers in Tuesday's primary election who has attracted the support of an array of union groups and school reform advocates. 

The California School Employees Association, Service Employees International Union and the Associated Administrators of Los Angeles have all endorsed Vladovic, who is seeking reelection in District 7 covering San Pedro, Carson, Gardena and parts of South LA. 

He did not get the endorsement of UTLA, the teachers union, which did not throw its support behind any candidate in the District 7 race.

Vladovic has also won endorsement from the California Charter Schools Association, which advocates for charter school expansion.

"Look at the alternatives," said Cathy Ellingford, a library aide who attended a Vladovic fundraiser last week and is a member of the California School Employees Association.

"Sometimes the devil you know is better than the devil you don't know," she said. 

Vladovic, seeking his third term on the board, also outraised and outspent his challengers. He is opposed by Euna Anderson, a principal, and Lydia Gutierrez, a teacher who was quick to point out Vladovic's record on controversial issues at a February candidate forum sponsored by United Way.

He and other school board members supported the district's $1.3 billion initiative using school bond funds to supply all 650,000 LAUSD students an iPad, a program with a troubled history. Vladovic, along with other board members, also approved the problem-plagued student data system known as MiSiS. 

Vladovic declined to be interviewed for this story but did respond to a KPCC survey on the iPad program. He called the tablet rollout "extremely problematic and unacceptable" and added the board was working with the new superintendent to "adjust and implement the program in a responsible way."

When asked at the February forum about John Deasy, the former superintendent whose abrasive style and handling of the technology programs contributed to his resignation last year, Vladovic defended him. "He did a good job," he said.

Vladovic draws praise for sponsoring initiatives that introduced more local and organic foods into school lunches and that lowered class sizes for early grades. He promised to continue his push for smaller classes.

"If I had my way, I can tell you the optimum number: in elementary school, 20-to-1," Vladovic told the audience at the candidate forum.

Gutierrez said she's distinguishing herself as an independent, in contrast to Vladovic, referencing his endorsements from unions and other interest groups.

"Because [Vladovic] will give them what they want, they look the other way, that's the biggest travesty of it all," Gutierrez said. She said she'll work to make the school system more transparent for parents.

Anderson did not respond to requests for an interview. At the February candidate forum, she said her priorities would be to return to the basics, math and reading. She also called for a restoration of trust in the district.

"We've had some issues that have really derailed the learning process for kids," she said. 

Without major support of either charter advocates or unions, Anderson and Gutierrez face an uphill battle in their attempts to appeal to voters, according to Larry Levin, a political consultant.

"It leaves no one with real resources on the other side," Levin said. "In order to appeal to voters, it takes money: The post office doesn't send mail out for free."

Related: To read more about the Los Angeles school board and City Council elections, visit the KPCC 2015 voter guide.