Footing the Bill for Mayoral Control

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It's no secret that Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has wanted control of the LA Unified School District, and if he couldn't get it officially, the mayor was ready with a backup plan. The Los Angeles Times is reporting that the mayor spent $3.5 million on three candidates whose recent elections give him de facto control of the school board.

While there's nothing new about elected officials raising money for the campaigns of potential allies, there does seem to be an "ick" factor to how Villaraigosa has gone about it. His campaign committee Partnership for Better Schools raised serious money by school board election standards, and the donors were primarily city contractors seeking the mayor's good graces-such as a restaurant group seeking concessions at LAX and a New York City real-estate developer seeking to build a condo complex across from the Staples Center--not companies likely to have an interest in school reform or local school board politics.

It now remains to be seen whether the mayor's majority will be a positive force for change. Among the new board's first actions--abandoning a plan to recover legal fees from the mayor after the courts found for the school district in the mayor's previous takeover attempt.