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The Billionaires Lose One

Big money doesn’t always win the day. At least it didn’t in a school board race in Los Angeles in which a few million dollars showered on a favored candidate failed to overcome the poorly funded campaign of a fifth-grade teacher.

Monica Ratliff was the underdog, running to represent the east San Fernando Valley on the L.A. Board of Education, against the well-connected Antonio Sanchez. He had amassed some $2 million from donors including the Coalition for School Reform, the political-action committee started by outgoing Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and  funded in large part by wealthy outside reform advocates. The Los Angeles Times editorial board endorsed her because of her knowledge about educational issues.

Ratliff and Sanchez were thrown into a run-off in March elections for three school board seats, one of which went to a supporter of school reform and the other to an opponent. Those elections were marked by  big money given to the reform candidate who lost –  despite a $1 million donation from New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and $250,000 from Michelle Rhee’s StudentsFirst organization.

Here’s what Sean Abajian, an adult education teacher and Ratliff volunteer, said about her win:

The tide is turning! Billionaires can’t just buy elections. Monica Ratliff’s victory is a victory for K-12, Early Education and Adult Education.

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Valerie Strauss

Valerie Strauss writes the Answer Sheet blog for the Washington Post.

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