LOS ANGELES – School board races are the most important elections that almost nobody pays attention to.
That reality worked to the advantage of Monica Ratliff, a fifth-grade teacher in Los Angeles, who was elected Tuesday to the school board in the Los Angeles Unified School District.
Ratliff defeated labor-union-backed Antonio Sanchez by four percentage points, despite being outspent 42 to 1.
The L.A. Times reports that Ratliff spent her $52,000 campaign chest on refrigerator magnets (which featured a conversion table for recipes) and strategic mailings to different voter groups.
Sanchez had $2.2 million spent on his behalf, along with endorsements from the L.A. County Federation of Labor and the local chapter of the Service Employees International Union.
Sanchez also received financial support from Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s Coalition for School Reform, which was funded, in part, by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the L.A. Times reports.
United Teachers Los Angeles – the local teachers union – stayed neutral in the race, which was seen as a huge advantage for Sanchez.
Still, it was Ratliff who cruised to victory on Tuesday, winning 52 percent of the vote.
One political analyst described the result as proof the “allure of the candidates” can negate the effects of big money.
When Ratliff’s term begins in July, she will join six other individuals in setting the budget and educational policies of the 660,000-pupil district, which is the second-largest in the nation, the Times notes.
Ratliff also serves as her building’s teacher union representative, an indication that her term probably won’t yield much fruit for education reformers like LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy.
Still, it was an impressive victory that provided a ray of hope for Americans who wish that money played a lesser role in politics.