Buzzing around

Some wealthy and influential San Diegans are putting sizable money behind Democrat Gloria Romero’s bid to become state superintendent of public instruction. Romero, a state senator representing East L.A., also has the backing of EdVoice, a lobbying group cofounded by Los Angeles megadeveloper Eli Broad and Reed Hastings, founder of Netflix, that is pushing hard for the expansion of charter schools and other education policy changes opposed by the California Teachers Association and other public employee unions.

Campaign disclosure records show that last December 16, Romero got $6500 from retired La Jolla financier R.B. “Buzz” Woolley Jr., a financial mainstay of the Voice of San Diego online news site. In addition, Romero received $3000 from Anne Otterson, widow of Bill Otterson, the late executive director of UCSD Connect, a university-to-private-sector technology transfer nonprofit cofounded by Woolley that has helped make some local investors rich.

Another local Romero donor was Paula Cordeiro, dean of the University of San Diego’s School of Leadership and Education Sciences, who gave $250. Cordeiro’s group worked with the administration of then–San Diego Unified school superintendent Alan Bersin, a teachers’ union foe closely aligned with Woolley and Broad.

Rancho Santa Fe’s Christopher A. Crane, ex–president and chief executive officer of COMPS InfoSystems, Inc., gave $6500 to Romero, as did an investment company by the name of CAC Advisory Services. Randy Steward, chief operating officer of Sorrento Valley–based SeQual Technologies, contributed $2000. Diane Dammeyer made a $5151 nonmonetary contribution; her husband Rod, president of CAC and a board member of SeQual, last year commissioned a report from USD pointing out problems at San Diego Unified, where the teachers’ union exercises considerable clout with the board of education.

“I don’t think any reasonable person could debate that things are OK,” Dammeyer was quoted as saying by Voice education writer Emily Alpert on November 4. “They’re not even close to okay. And they’re not getting better.” Last month Alpert reported that Scott Himelstein, director of USD’s Center for Education Policy and Law and a former Bersin aide, was facilitating private meetings at the university with unnamed “educators, philanthropists, business leaders and others” regarding possible changes at San Diego Unified, including expanding the current five-member school board to include four new appointed members.

Over the past six years, Woolley has given $318,750 to EdVoice, according to state records. On the other side of the political ledger, one of Romero’s opponents, termed-out Democratic assemblyman Tom Torlakson of Contra Costa County, has been the beneficiary of a $132,000 independent expenditure made by the California Federation of Teachers. Another challenger in the race, Larry Aceves, a retired school superintendent and former president of the Association of California School Administrators who has been endorsed by the Los Angeles Times, has benefited from a $142,744 independent expenditure by the administrators’ association. EdVoice is widely expected to make its own independent expenditure on behalf of Romero in the near future.

NOTE: An earlier version of this story misstated the amount of the independent expenditure of the California Federation of Teachers. We regret the error.

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