Mayor Bloomberg Funds New Orleans School Board Candidate

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg signed a $5,000 check this month to help get Kira Orange Jones elected to the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, writes Andrew Vanacore at the The Times-Picayune.

Kira Orange Jones, a local Teach for America leader, is in a runoff for the seat with incumbent Louella Givens, a local attorney who has served on the board for almost eight years.

If enough state board members vote in his favor, John White, who leads the state-run Recovery School District, stands a great chance at becoming Louisiana's next state superintendent. White spent five years at the New York City Department of Education under Bloomberg's schools chancellor, Joel Klein.

State filings also show Bloomberg, whose media empire had already made him a billionaire before he became mayor of New York City, has contributed $100,000 to the Alliance for Better Classrooms, a group expected to wield considerable influence in three runoffs, which will determine who wins control of the board.

A political action committee organized by Baton Rouge businessman Lane Grigsby, the so-called ABC PAC continued to raise big sums just prior to the first round of voting last Saturday.

"The job is not done," said ABC spokesman Jay Connaughton. "We still have three votes up for grabs and we're definitely interested in finishing the job we started."

Connaughton said all three remaining contests look winnable, and although he would not go into specifics about how the PAC will spend its cash, the group is backing candidates they view as supporters of the reform approach led by former state Superintendent Paul Pastorek. Any one candidate to replace Pastorek will need an eight-member supermajority on the 11-member board.

The ABC PAC has a reputation for being heavily involved in the districts. In the 2nd District, which covers most of New Orleans, the group attacked Givens over a February drunken driving arrest and an IRS lien on her home, writes Vanacore.

The ABC PAC also helped unseat BESE member Dale Bayard in the 7th District in favor of Holly Boffy, a Louisiana Teacher of the Year who won two thirds of the vote. The group ran TV ads painting Bayard as a friend of the "New Orleans liberals."

The PAC will also be trying to help incumbent Chas Roemer keep his seat in the 6th District, where he faces a runoff with former Ascension Parish Superintendent Donald Songy. While in the 8th District, where four candidates were vying to replace Linda Johnson, who is leaving the board, the group is backing Carolyn Hill over Jim Guillory.

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