December 11, 2023

OAKLAND — The particular election subsequent week for a key Oakland faculty board seat options two candidates, however just one will get a flashy mailer delivered to voters’ mailboxes within the coming days — because of a healthy dose of labor spending.

It’s a well-known late-game push within the closing days earlier than a Nov. 7 election that would shift the steadiness of energy within the cash-strapped Oakland Unified Faculty District to both its directors or the academics union.

As is typical in native elections with weighty political penalties, the biggest supply of spending just isn’t from the candidates or their donors however by impartial committees that function exterior the campaigns and infrequently far outspend them.

Just one candidate on this race, Sasha Ritzie-Hernandez, has these committees on her facet, and collectively they’ve given her practically a $46,000 benefit over opponent Jorge Lerma, who has no impartial backers.

Ritzie-Hernandez’s marketing campaign has additionally immediately outraised Lerma’s election effort, with about $15,000 in donations to his $6,000.

Two-thirds of the surface spending in Ritzie-Hernandez’s favor comes from the political fundraising arm of the academics union: the Oakland Schooling Affiliation Political Motion Committee. Ritzie-Hernandez and her spouse have each labored on the earlier campaigns of different union-backed candidates.

The remainder comes from the California Staff’ Justice Coalition, which is sponsored by SEIU Native 1021 — an indication of broad labor help for Ritzie-Hernandez, who helped arrange rallies in the course of the Oakland academics strike within the spring.

Particular training trainer Olivia Michelson, middle, together with fellow Oakland Unified Faculty District academics, college students and fogeys rally exterior La Escuelita Elementary Faculty the place a college board assembly was imagined to happen throughout their fifth day on strike in Oakland, Calif., on Wednesday, Could 10, 2023. (Ray Chavez/Bay Space Information Group) 

Regardless of different sturdy hyperlinks to the union in her earlier work, the candidate has made clear in interviews that her political judgment on the varsity board can be her personal and never decided by the whims of union management.

“I’ve been getting nasty assaults that I don’t have any company, that I’m being managed,” she mentioned in an interview. “When actually I need to run to assist our college students thrive, and since I like what educators contribute to the neighborhood.”

In the meantime, the lopsided spending may spell bother for Lerma, a retired educator and former principal at Oakland faculties, whose earlier bid for the District 5 seat in 2020 gave him simply 11% of the vote in a three-candidate race. Though he has distanced himself from the union, together with throughout this yr’s school strike, Lerma has prevented commenting on the union immediately in interviews.

The academics union has been a strong political voice in Oakland, combating again intensely on deliberate faculty closures and declaring a strike earlier this yr over progressive coverage measures that it wished embedded within the subsequent labor contract.

Extra lately, the union has discovered itself in troubled waters. Information present that it owes the district greater than $400,000 to reimburse the salaries of union leaders, together with President Ismael Armendariz and second-in-command Kampala Taiz-Ranciferf, amongst others, as they have been launched from their instructing duties for union work.

The excellent debt, first reported by the San Francisco Chronicle, would seem to symbolize a large chunk of about $870,000 in bills that the union had budgeted for the 2023-24 faculty yr.

Oakland Schooling Affiliation representatives didn’t reply to a request for remark. Armendariz instructed the Chronicle that the union would work with the district to “rectify all billing errors, together with the continuing, alarming and important District payroll errors that affect classroom academics and faculty workers every day.”

“We’re hopeful that within the subsequent couple weeks, the district can be certain we’ve dotted all our I’s and crossed our T’s when it comes to demanding compensation,” faculty board President Mike Hutchinson mentioned in an interview.

Oakland Unified School District School Board President Mike Hutchinson speaks during a press conference at the district's office in Oakland, Calif., on May 4, 2023. Oakland teachers went on strike Thursday for the second time in two school years after union representatives and the Oakland Unified School District failed to agree on a deal at the bargaining table. (Dai Sugano/Bay Area News Group)
Oakland Unified Faculty District Faculty Board President Mike Hutchinson speaks throughout a press convention on the district’s workplace in Oakland, Calif., on Could 4, 2023. (Dai Sugano/Bay Space Information Group)