UTLA Can't Count On Money From NEA, Nation's Largest Teachers Union

WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 02:  New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg (L) talks with New York Public Schools Superintendent John Deasy
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 02: New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg (L) talks with New York Public Schools Superintendent John Deasy during a forum about education in big cities at the Katzen Arts Center on the campus of American University March 2, 2012 in Washington, DC. Calling their municipalities 'city-states,' the mayors suppored the idea of individual school districts being able to compete with states for the $4.35 billion 'Race to the Top' grant program created by President Barack Obama. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

School board races in Los Angeles are heating up -- and they're getting expensive.

The nation's second-largest school district is at the center of a broader battle over the future over education reform. Since 2010, Superintendent John Deasy has run the district, implementing policies consistent with the national "education reform" movement, which pushes things such as test-based teacher evaluations and charter schools. But if the composition of the school board changes significantly, Deasy could be fired.

That's why outside interests are pumping money into the race. Earlier this week, LA School Report reported that a super PAC associated with New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg spent $1 million on a group known as the Coalition for School Reform. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who has supported Deasy's efforts, released a statement calling Bloomberg "the most important voice in education reform today," LA School Report wrote.

The Coalition for School Reform, according to KCET, is an independent expenditure group that has also received money from reform-minded philanthropist Eli Broad. The group has endorsed school board candidates Kate Anderson, Monica Garcia, and Antonio Sanchez, LA School Report wrote last month. The Coalition is sitting on $1.2 million.

The counterweight to the reform block is, naturally, the teachers union. United Teachers of Los Angeles has about $670,000 in its war-chest, according to LA School Report. "We know we're going to be outspent five-gazillion-to-one," UTLA veep Gregg Solkovits told the site.

Earlier in February, Solkovits told LA School report that he wanted to boost UTLA's coffers with help from the national and state union bodies. But as far as we know, at least one of these avenues is ruled out.

Earlier this week, when I interviewed National Education Association President Dennis Van Roekel about the State of the Union address, I also asked him about this. Can UTLA expect to receive money from the largest teachers union?

Probably not, he said.

"There aren't any plans to be involved with the school board elections in LA," Van Roekel said. "That would be unusual, since it's a local issue. We usually don't get involved in school board races."