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CEPS Considering Candidate Endorsements

By Susan Reines
Staff Writer

August 23 -- The group that successfully pressured the City Council into striking an unprecedented funding agreement with the School District last spring is considering entering the political fray again, this time by endorsing candidates for the November election.

The steering committee for Community for Excellent Public Schools (CEPS) has been holding “preliminary discussions” about handing out endorsements for the School Board race, in which four candidates are vying for three seats, said Shari Davis the group’s co-chair.

Davis said CEPS might also do “some sort of evaluation but not endorsements” of City Council candidates.

The potential CEPS endorsements could be decided by a vote of the few hundred CEPS members or the decisions could be made by the steering committee, Davis said.

According to a financial disclosure statement submitted to the city clerk earlier this month, CEPS has about $13,000 in donations it collected from individual donors and groups, including parent teacher associations.

Davis said the steering committee was “working on the details” of whether CEPS could legally give that extra money to the campaigns of CEPS-endorsed candidates.

CEPS would be the fourth group to hand out endorsements for the first time this year.

The municipal employees union and the Chamber of Commerce’s political action committee and the recently formed Santa Monica “Education Team,” a coalition of the Santa Monica Malibu Classroom Teachers Association union and the Santa Monica College Faculty Association, all are weighing in on the November 2 elections.

The groups will join the police and firefighters unions and Santa Monicans for Renters Rights (SMRR), whose endorsements have carried clout in previous elections, as well as the Santa Monica Democratic Club Campaign Committee.

Dennis Zane, who is a member of the CEPS steering committee, is also Co-Chair of SMRR, the group whose endorsements are widely considered the most powerful.

Formed about five years ago by a dozen education activists, CEPS has since expanded into a membership organization numbering several hundred.

The group came to prominence last spring when it launched an initiative for a charter amendment that would have guaranteed annual City funding for the public schools. That campaign was aborted when the City, faced with the choice of coming to a quick resolution or allowing CEPS to take its initiative to the voters, struck a long-term funding agreement with the district.

That battle over, CEPS will continue to fight for excellent education, Davis said.

“Definitely we intend to be an ongoing entity,” she said.

The steering committee, which meets almost every week, will decide “shortly” about whether to go forward with endorsements, Davis said.

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