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Funds for Schools Bid Top $1 Million

July 29, 2006|Jeffrey L. Rabin and Duke Helfand | Times Staff Writers

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa had raised nearly $1.1 million by the end of June to fund his campaign to wrest control of the Los Angeles Unified School District, according to finance reports filed Friday.

The largest contribution by far came from A. Jerrold Perenchio, chairman of Los Angeles-based Univision Communications, who gave $500,000.

Altogether, Villaraigosa's campaign to promote restructuring of the nation's second-largest school district received $1,075,000 from 10 donors by the end of last month.

Three donors gave $100,000 apiece: shopping center operator Westfield Group; Chicago-based AP Properties Ltd.; and David I. Fisher, chief investment officer of Capital Group Investment Management.

Nathan James, a spokesman for the mayor's campaign, said Villaraigosa personally sought the contributions. "He made calls directly to folks," James said. "They have a very strong mutual interest that improving schools in Los Angeles is a No. 1 top priority."

Villaraigosa is trying to gain some measure of control over the Los Angeles Unified School District through state legislation that would divide power between himself, the elected school board and the appointed superintendent.

The sprawling district, which encompasses the city of Los Angeles and more than two dozen other communities, has high dropout rates and low but improving student test scores.

The system faces many challenges, including a large number of students who are living in poverty and a large number who are learning English.

The mayor has come under fire for taking his cause to the Legislature rather than to voters, a fight he said would have been too costly to wage.

After the mayor's fundraising report was filed, Supt. Roy Romer issued a statement saying Villaraigosa chose to "circumvent the parents and voters of Los Angeles by introducing legislation in Sacramento and letting politicians outside of Los Angeles make decisions about the future of Los Angeles kids."

School board member David Tokofsky was also sharply critical. "I just can't imagine that the concentration of power and money is good for ... California, this city and its schools, let alone the students."

Beny Alagem, chairman and CEO of Alagem Capital Group, gave $75,000, while Occidental Petroleum Corp., Los Angeles-based Hispanic Express Inc. and retired investment banker Frank E. Baxter each gave $50,000.

The mayor also transferred $169,000 from one of his other political committees to help finance the schools campaign. That campaign had spent $90,482 by the end of June, primarily for polling, political consultants, attorneys and its website.

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