The increasingly expensive and crowded California governor’s race has turned into a proxy war between the Golden State’s teachers’ unions and activists who back charter schools.
Last week, Netflix co-founder and Chief Executive Reed Hastings donated $7 million to the struggling gubernatorial bid of former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who has long been a backer of charter schools, according to the Los Angeles Times. L.A. developer and philanthropist Eli Broad reportedly, who also backs charter schools, donated an additional $1.5 million to Villaraigosa’s campaign.
Both men reportedly gave their millions to an independent committee sponsored by the California Charter Schools Association.
Democrat frontrunner Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom has been endorsed by the California Teachers Association. But he also told the Los Angeles Times: “For 20 years I’ve been supporting high-quality, nonprofit charter schools. But I believe in accountability and transparency.”
The Times notes that Villaraigosa began his political career working as a teachers’ union organizer. In 2005, after he was elected to mayor of Los Angeles, he reportedly called the union “the largest obstacle to creating quality schools” and after a unsuccessful attempt to seize control of the Los Angeles Unified School District, arguing a dramatic overhaul was needed.
Villaraigosa is currently in third place according to recent polling, behind Newsom, who is in first, and Republican San Diego businessman John Cox, who is in second place.
Both Newsom and State Treasurer John Chiang, another Democrat in the race, criticized the infusion of money from Hastings in Villaraigosa’s campaign.
“No matter which way he cuts it, $7 million won’t help Antonio Villaraigosa hide the fact that he created a $600 million deficit for the city of Los Angeles,” Chiang’s campaign spokesman Fabien Levy said in a statement, according to the Sacramento Bee.
Newsom told the Times: “It is a rather jaw-dropping amount of money [for Villaraigosa]. But these are the rules of engagement, and they’re playing by the rules. I don’t begrudge Antonio and don’t condemn the contributors.”