A recent story from the Sacramento Bee caught my eye because it seemed like it was telling just one side of the story.
Written by Diana Lambert, the piece described how the state charter school advocacy coalition had spent nearly $500,000 on a bunch of county school board races:
“Charter school advocates poured $483,000 into Sacramento County Office of Education board races, helping to elect two on its slate of three candidates two weeks ago.
“Despite the largesse, the candidate the California Charter Schools Association spent the most on — Roy Grimes — couldn’t defeat incumbent Harold Fong, who won with 58 percent of the vote. Grimes received $220,000 from the charter school association’s political action committee.”
While the story goes into a fair amount of detail, it contains little or no information about other groups who might be funding the board races. The piece tells us that the incumbent who won against the charter challenger did have some help: “The Sacramento Central Labor Council included Fong on its mailers.”
But that’s about it. Nothing about pro-labor campaign spending, which has been a fixture of state and local education races for decades.
Too often, education coverage of political races focuses on whomever spent the most, or increased the dollar amount by the largest amount, rather than giving readers a full view of the contesting groups.
But that’s apparently not what happened here.
Reporter Lambert explained that there wasn’t anyone spending big in education besides the charter school groups. And the charter school folks agreed, saying that their push to win support on the Sacramento County Board of Education was the standout, spending-wise.
“We weren’t the only ones funding those races, but we were the most significant,” said a charter schools staffer. “The other side is focused more on ballot initiatives this year.”
In this case, at least, the news account focuses on just one side of the story because, well, there is only one side.
In a perfect world, Lambert might have noted the absence of union spending on candidates, or given us the funding totals for the races rather than just the raw dollar figures, but otherwise it seems like the piece she wrote captures the gist of what’s going on.