Photo by John Schreiber.
Photo by John Schreiber.

Incumbent Los Angeles Unified School District board member Monica Garcia was celebrating her re-election Wednesday, but board President Steve Zimmer — who was the target of a well-financed opposition campaign funded largely by charter-school backers — is heading for a May runoff.

Zimmer led a field of four candidates in the District 4 race, but he fell short of the 50 percent margin needed to win re-election outright. He will square off with Nick Melvoin, a teacher/attorney, who placed second in the race ahead of Allison Polhill, a former president of the Palisades Charter High School board, and public relations executive Gregory Martayan.

Backers of charter schools, hoping to gain a majority of supporters on the seven-member LAUSD board, threw their financial might behind Melvoin and Polhill in hopes of unseating Zimmer.

Garcia, a supporter of charter schools, fended off challenges for her District 2 seat from teacher Lisa Alva and businessman Carl Petersen.

The District 6 seat is vacant thanks to the departure of Monica Ratliff, who unsuccessfully ran for a seat on the Los Angeles City Council. The District 6 race will be decided in a runoff between charter-school-backed teacher Kelly Fitzpatrick-Gonez and activist Imelda Padilla, who was supported by United Teachers Los Angeles, the union representing LAUSD teachers. Rounding out the field were former Assemblywoman Patty Lopez, parents/activists Gwendolyn Posey and Araz Parseghian, and animal-rights activist Jose Sandoval.

If charter-backed candidates prevail in the two pending races, the winners would team with Garcia and board member Ref Rodriguez to create a majority on the seven-member board.

Charter supporters — including former Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan and philanthropist Eli Broad — contend that charters tend to have better results for students and provide more choices for parents, but opponents point to sometimes-questionable management practices, alleging that some of the schools hand-pick higher-performing students to the detriment of others.

Critics also contend a proliferation of charters — which are publicly funded but often operate free of unions and some regulations that govern traditional public schools — would be a financial hit to the LAUSD, which receives state funding based on enrollment.

—City News Service

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