LAUSD Board President Steve Zimmer Concedes To Challenger Nick Melvoin

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(Photo courtesy of Nick Melvoin)

The most expensive school board race in U.S. history concluded Tuesday with two Los Angeles Unified School District board seats in play, and incumbent LAUSD Board President Steve Zimmer conceding early in the night to charter-friendly challenger Nick Melvoin. Tonight's election results could define the future of LAUSD: if Kelly Gonez also emerges victorious, LAUSD will have a pro-charter majority for the first time in its history. With about 20% of the LAUSD vote reporting, Gonez currently has a 3.69% lead over her opponent, Imelda Padilla.

District 4 (which encompasses much of the westside and the southwestern part of the valley), saw incumbent School Board president Steve Zimmer pitted against attorney and LMU adjunct professor Nick Melvoin. Addressing a crowd of his supporters, Zimmer called the loss “devastating” and said he'd never run for office again, according to the L.A Times.

“That I am a teacher, who is engaged in this fight for years and I’m trying to support our teachers and give parents more support in making good decisions with their kids,” Melvoin told CBS LA.

Melvoin has been painted by the teachers unions as a supporter of President Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos's for-profit charter school vision, notes Ballotpedia. Melvoin has denied these claims, citing his work with the Hillary Clinton campaign and his lifelong affiliation with the Democratic party as a counter-point.

“Both teacher tenure and seniority-based hiring/firing systems need reform,” Melvoin has said of his run for the District 4 seat. “As a teacher in Watts, I had firsthand experience with these policies and fought for their revision. I remain concerned about the inherent inequities in how layoffs affect students as well as teachers.”

Zimmer, meanwhile, has come out saying he is not against charter schools. According to the Los Angeles Times, however, he has noted that he prefers to limit charter school expansion until high quality education has been ensured throughout the district.

Zimmer has seen some $2.35 million contributed to his re-election campaign, mainly through unions. Melvoin has seen nearly double that amount contributed ($5.59 million) via such donors as Michael Bloomberg, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, Richard Riordan, and the Walton family.

In District 6 (spanning most of the eastern San Fernando Valley) a similar race played out. Here, an open school board seat, saw Imelda Padilla, a community organizer, garner the support of labor unions, and Kelly Gonez, a teacher, curry the favor of charter school advocates.

"A lot of people are upset that I have unapologetically made myself out to be the labor candidate," Padilla told KPCC. "My narrative was, 'I am not anti-charter, it just happens that CCSA [California Charter School Association] is anti-collective bargaining.'"

According to the Los Angeles Times, Gonez has stated that there should be no caps on charter school growth, rather “we must ensure that schools are only being opened when there is a real, significant need in the community and that we are being conscientious of potential saturation and over-proliferation.”

Update [12:30 a.m.]: With almost 58% of precincts reporting and Gonez's slight lead holding (she's currently at 51.62% to Padilla's 48.37%), the candidate has declared victory, according to L.A. Times education reporter Joy Resmovits:

With additional reporting by Julia Wick.