"Voters on the right should know Nick believes parents deserve choices...[including] charter schools." - Nick Melvoin's Campaign Site
The night before the election, Nick Melvoin got a preview of his standing in the public school community. At the graduation ceremony for Hollywood High School, valedictorian Axel Brito "ripped into Los Angeles Unified School Board members for abandoning public schools and favoring privately managed [charter] schools." Attempts by administrators to stop the speech were rejected by the audience who chanted "Let him speak, let him speak."
As an incumbent, Melvoin held the advantage as voters went to the polls, especially against two opponents who, according to the city ethics site, did not spend any money on their campaigns. One, Gentille Barkhordarian, had no education experience and seemed entirely motivated by her anti-vax, anti-mask extremism. The other, Tracey Schroeder, is a teacher who was reportedly removed from her classroom for refusing to get the COVID-19 vaccine that would protect her students and their families.
Despite this overwhelming advantage, charter industry supporters spent over $2 million defending Melvoin's seat. This was more than was spent on any LAUSD candidate during this cycle.
From the vote totals, it appears that the $2 million spent was necessary. Despite overwhelming odds, Melvoin was only able to earn 59.28% of the vote, for a cost per vote of approximately $33.23. While that is enough to avoid a runoff, it certainly does not indicate that Melvoin's constituents think that he is doing a great job. This point is driven home by the fact at least 18,402 people left this race on their ballot blank. This is more than the number of people who voted for the third-place candidate.
With the results that close, the elephant in the room is UTLA's failure to recruit a candidate for the race. Melvoin's anti-union stance is well established, so the teachers would have greatly benefited by winning the seat once held by Steve Zimmer. Forcing Melvoin into a runoff would have also required charter-industry supporters to divert resources from Board District 2, which was certain to end up in a fall runoff.
Educator Dr. Raissa White had initially expressed an interest in the race and had raised $20,605, an impressive amount for a candidate who was not yet on the ballot and did not have the backing of either UTLA or the charter school industry. However, she dropped out months before nominating petitions were distributed, reportedly due to a lack of support by the union. If this is true, UTLA missed a golden opportunity to take down the biggest supporter of charter schools, even bad ones, on the ballot.
If there is a silver lining to these results it is that Melvoin's future beyond the Beaudry Boardroom seems limited. His results are similar to those of Monica Garcia in the 2017 election against two underfunded competitors (full disclosure, I was one of them). When she tried two years later to move up to the City Council, the results were disastrous for her. Now unable to run again due to term limits she will have to rely on a win by Maria Brenes, who has reportedly promised to make Garcia her Chief of Staff, to continue receiving a government paycheck. Melvoin and his staffer, Allison Holdorff Polhill (who lost her race for a City Council seat), seem to be on this same trajectory.
Carl Petersen is a parent advocate for students with special education needs and public education. He is elected to the Northridge East Neighborhood Council and serves as the Education Chair. As a Green Party candidate in LAUSD's District 2 School Board race, he was endorsed by Network for Public Education (NPE) Action. Dr. Diane Ravitch has called him "a valiant fighter for public schools in Los Angeles." For links to his blogs, please visit www.ChangeTheLAUSD.com. Opinions are his own.