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Santa Monica Education Advocacy Group Backs Challengers in Field with Few Incumbents

 

By Jason Islas
Staff Writer

September 11, 2012 -- Community for Excellent Public Schools (CEPS) -- Santa Monica's influential education advocacy group -- announced Sunday they would endorse two incumbents and two challengers for City Council.

The group's steering committee voted to endorse Council members Gleam Davis and Terry O'Day, the only two incumbents running after Mayor Richard Bloom decided not seek reelection in favor of a bid at the State Assembly and Council member Bobby Shriver did not pull papers to run.

CEPS, known far backing incumbents, also endorsed Planning Commissioner Ted Winterer and former CEPS Chair Shari Davis for the remaining two seats.

The candidates “have shown that they can be champions of the partnership” between the School District and the City, said CEPS Chair Rebecca Kennerly.

“Gleam, Shari, Ted and Terry each have impressive personal records of advocating for public schools and lifelong learning,” said Kennerly. “We are proud to work with them to help preserve and protect our local schools and support the entire community.”

In 2010, the group backed all three incumbents -- Council members Bob Holbrook, Gleam Davis and Kevin McKeown -- as well as Ted Winterer, despite there being only three open seats.

In 2008, the group endorsed all four incumbents -- then-Mayor Herb Katz and Council members Richard Bloom, Ken Genser and Bobby Shriver in the race for four open council seats.

However, in 2006, the first year the organization made endorsements for City Council, only Gleam Davis received the group's endorsement.

The group's foray into council politics came on the heels of a contentious fight between the group and the City over school funding.

In 2004, Council member Pam O'Connor called the group “schoolyard bullies” and accused its leaders of using extortionist tactics when they threatened to place a charter amendment on the ballot that would force the City to give the district money.

Instead, the council voted to pass the Facilities Master Plan Use Agreement, which guarantees that the City will pay the School District between $6 to $8 million so that the public may use their facilities.

In May, the council voted to extend the Agreement until 2022.

The influential group, which started as an informal organization of concerned parents and residents in 1999, has been one of the strongest advocates for funding for schools in the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District.

Over the years, CEPS has lobbied for various funding measures including Measures Y in 2000, renewing the City's parcel tax at $98 a parcel.

In 2007, CEPS began campaigning for Measure R, which passed, renewing two parcel taxes and providing $11 million a year in revenue to the schools.

In the November 6 race, CEPS also endorsed the three incumbent School Board candidates, Ben Allen, Jose Escarce and Maria Leon Vazquez -- wife of council candidate Tony Vazquez, who did not receive the CEPS endorsement.

The group will also back Bloom in his bid to represent the 50th Assembly District against incumbent Betsy Butler.

In addition, CEPS will back Measure ES, a $385 million bond measure on the November ballot to fund district facilities.

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