DOWNTOWN — The leaders of Santa Monica education advocacy group Community for Excellent Public Schools had a hard time deciding whom to back for the City Council. So instead of limiting their endorsements to five candidates for the five open seats, the group went ahead and threw in an extra candidate for good measure.

Following its candidate forum last week, CEPS’ steering committee announced it would endorse incumbents Bob Holbrook, Pam O’Connor and Kevin McKeown as well as challenger Ted Winterer for three available four-year terms. The group backed Gleam Davis and Terry O’Day for two-year terms.

CEPS also stuck with primarily known quantities for the school board race, supporting incumbents Barry Snell, Oscar de la Torre and Ralph Mechur, as well as challenger Laurie Lieberman for the four available slots.

Explaining the 19-member steering committee’s decision to back more candidates than there are open seats on the council, CEPS President Rebecca Kennerly said: “They’re all great supporters of our schools.”

Founded to work for the betterment of the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District, the fact the group weighed in on the City Council election is a reminder of how significant a roll City Hall may play in the district’s financial future.

An initiative on the November ballot, Measure Y, would boost the city-wide sales tax by a half percent. An accompanying advisory, Measure YY, asks voters whether half the estimated $12 million the tax hike would raise should go toward public education programs, though council members will have the final say.

In a press release, CEPS said all of its approved candidates voiced strong commitment to both ballot items.

“All CEPS-endorsed City Council candidates stated, unequivocally, at the forum that should propositions Y and YY pass, they would support allocating the full 50 percent of increased revenues to SMMUSD schools, with that allocation being added to” the approximately $7 million the city already contributes to the district through its joint use facilities agreement with SMMUSD.

In its announcement, the group praised the council incumbents for their “many accomplishments in citywide and regional issues, along with their consistent support for our local public schools.”

Winterer, a SMMUSD parent and Planning Commissioner, “is a strong advocate for education and would be a valuable addition to the City Council,” the CEPS press release stated.

In the school board race, CEPS leaders said the decision to back three incumbents was “a vote of confidence for the direction and positive moves currently underway within the district.”

The group supported Laurie Leiberman for the fourth open seat, saying she “will add a strong, new, and extremely knowledgeable voice to the SMMUSD Board of Education.”

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