CITY HALL ‚Äî Candidate and independent expenditure campaigns spent over $350,000 on local education-related races and measures on the Nov. 6 ballot, according to recent financial filings.
The election was crowded with six people vying for three open spots on the Board of Education and Measure ES, a $385 million bond measure meant to revitalize school sites, infrastructure and technology ‚Äî and donations reflected it.
Between candidate committees, Santa Monicans for Renters‚Äô Rights and unions, at least $135,656.93 was spent on the Board of Education race alone.
It was an unusually competitive contest, with three Malibu residents gunning to unseat the three incumbents in an effort to win representation for the smaller city for the first time since Kathy Wisnicki stepped down from the board in 2008.
Rather than run independently, Craig Foster, Karen Farrer and Seth Jacobson formed a slate and pooled $30,000 of their own money to pay for their joint campaign.
They only raised $4,401.05 from outside sources, and $17,038.05 went to campaign consulting company JCI Worldwide Inc. in the last two months of the campaign. The firm is owned by Jacobson.
The incumbents spent $72,383.19 on their campaigns, with Escarce apparently leading the pack with $31,305.97 followed by Allen at $28,466.72. Maria Leon-Vazquez trailed with only $12,610.50 spent.
Escarce‚Äôs numbers may be a touch inflated, however.
The local teachers union, under the guise of Santa Monica-Malibu Action Committee for K-12, gave him $15,000, but with explicit instructions.
“With the $15,000, the teachers endorsed all three of us,” Escarce said, clarifying that he later broke the money into three $5,000 chunks and distributed the other two to his colleagues Vazquez and Allen.
All three were victorious.
Harry Keiley, the president of the union, did not respond to a request for comment on why the organization structured its donation that way.
A handful of independent expenditure campaigns also got in on the action, with SMRR pitching in $3,279.96 for each of the incumbents and Unite Here Local 11, a labor union, putting $17,038.05 up in the last two months to support the incumbents and directly oppose the Malibu slate.
Although the contentious Board of Education race got a lot of attention, the real money came from the committee organized to support Measure ES, a bond measure that supporters represented as critical to fixing aging infrastructure and opponents characterized as just another property tax.
The Committee for Better, Safer Schools raised almost $300,000 and spent $252,383.07, according to its filing.
The group had backing from locals and parent groups, but a number of law firms, construction companies and businesses with development interests in town also pitched thousands of dollars toward the effort.
Measure ES won the day with 68.06 percent of the vote, well over the 55 percent needed to get a bond measure through.
That, along with the passage of Proposition 30, caused education advocates to breath a sigh of relief.
Proposition 30 was a statewide measure that also passed. It raised income taxes on the wealthiest Californians and also imposed a quarter-cent sales tax increase.
The measure is expected to raise over $6 billion, which is guaranteed to go to schools in the first year.