LA Wins the Most Shocking Apathy Voter Award all over again. And despite ever-diminishing numbers of voters manages to leverage national significance from their voice.

Besting last June’s record low turnout of 13.1 percent, this special board election was decided by just 8.3% of the 342,493 registered voters of LAUSD’s first district.

Almost two-thirds of the 28,366 ballots cast were via mail rather than in-person, an option particularly attractive to parents juggling family needs with citizenly responsibilities when election day coincided with the first day of school following summer break.

It was the well-funded and over-staffed Johnson campaign in conjunction with its side-kick, independent, shadowy “independent expenditure” PACS, that pushed hard for absentee, or Vote By Mail (VBM) ballots. When their count was reported immediately following the close of polls as slightly favoring McKenna, the evening’s trajectory seemed set. Given the emphasis by Johnson’s campaign on turning out the charter parent VBM vote, if they had not claimed an early, immediate lead, it seemed unlikely the campaign could recover as the in-person ballots trickled in. The non-rote ballots were cast at the polling place. And indeed McKenna’s lead over Johnson just widened steadily over the next four hours culminating in a 6.4% superiority of votes – or 1,787 ballots — for McKenna. All precincts have been reported but provisional ballots are still being checked and the final election results may not be certified before September 2, 2014

These scant thousand votes are no trivial smudge. They reflect the culmination of a concerted effort from far beyond the borders of LAUSD1 to sway the electorate in preference for an ideology substituting private, corporate control of our children’s education over a publicly-driven and accountable, democratic public school system.

This is a movement that has been gaining strength for a rather long time. It may be traced to Milton Friedman’s call in 1947 for privatizing the public school system utilizing a system of vouchers. Milton’s own work flows from the previous generation’s influential economist and eugenicist, Irving Fisher.

The idea is part of a grand and general scheme where people trying to make a buck, consider it their prerogative to insert their own private wallet into the public fray in order for it to be filled up by public dollars that were appropriated by the public for a public institution, in this case Education. It is not a novel tactic, siphoning a robust, publicly-underwritten money-stream for private gain. There has been a constant, almost transcendental battle in America as elsewhere to deregulate and privatize public institutions for longer than anyone can remember. Think “social security” and “military operations” and “prisons” as examples of public institutions central to the privatizing debate; or, say, airlines and communications and banking industries as examples of arenas where deregulation has been the focus of a constant tussle.

In recent decades there has been an increasingly intense effort to tap into the vast Education sector, estimated as one-tenth of the US’s entire GDP and critical to the US economy. In concert we have seen the systematic substitution of iconic elements of this sector, apple computers for apple-munching Teachers, centralized non-elected corporate-backed, business-class leaders (e.g., Michael Bloomberg of NYC; Rahm Emanuel of Chicago) for publicly elected boards of education stakeholders – teachers, administrators, parents, tax advocates.

And in concert with this has grown the influence of a set of shadow schools established in the interstices of public and private education institutions: nominally publicly mandated schools run by private interests with public money. Charter schools.

Proponents of these schools say they exist to fill a void, a perceived displeasure among parents with our public educational institutions. Proponents of the ideology of a public institution of education, wonder why slight the effort to fix rather than scrap the institution. Without malice or gratuitous blame, it should be possible to acknowledge problems where due and focus improvement by concentrating on the needs of those underserved. Instead the cogs in a theoretically sound structure are crippled by establishing a parallel system that leaches from and undermines the old. It is a manifestation of our “throw away society” where the mantra to “reduce, reuse, recycle” threatens capitalism and its voracious mandate to grow market share.

People have been slow to recognize this palimpsest of private schools operating with public funds in the infrastructure of the former publicly-controlled institutions. But as they have awakened to this redrawing all across the country, in one locale after another, the public reaction has been of horror to see the loss of control of our funds, our democracy, the minds of our children.

All across our nation there has been a slow and steady push-back against the Education Reformer’s privatization agenda. It is relentlessly catalogued here, on education historian Diane Ravitch’s blog and her latest book. In race upon race – Newark, Seattle, Bridgeport, Chicago, Atlanta, DC, Los Angeles – over and over again where the people are permitted to weigh in through their votes against often overwhelmingly monetized corporate Ed Reform candidates, the people just say no to Big Business funded candidates.

As perfectly stated pseudonymously by Scout’s brother Jem Finch in a comment regarding McKenna’s victory this week: “…there is real grass root anger at the way public education has been co-opted by monied interests that promote greater class stratification through their “pedagogical” philosophies and practices.”

This defeat by McKenna of the Ridley-Thomas-Villaraigosa-Education Reform machine, marks the FOURTH such defeat over the shibboleth of Education Reform in Los Angeles. First was Bennet Kayser’s over Villraigosa-backed Louis Sanchez. Next came Zimmer over the massively exogenously subsidized Anderson. Then Monicá Ratliff’s dark horse came from out of nowhere, outspent by two million dollars by avowed “Deasy-supporter” (= Eli Broad-Villaraigosa backed) Antonio Sanchez.

And now the latest defeat of corporatizing influencers culminates in this nationwide trend with a clear mandate from LA voters: Let Education be managed by education stake-holders. There are many different kinds of education stakeholders, but it is those with children’s education as their primary focus, and not private gain or corporate influence, who are receiving the people’s nod.

As the second-largest school district in the country, LAUSD’s mandate holds great influence in these similarly constructed skirmishes across the country. Diane Ravitch’s Network for Public Education has created a process for endorsing candidates sympathetic to true grass roots, as opposed to “astroturf”, reform. Their string of victories is testament to electoral support for public-led not corporate-led education reform. Tuesday’s latest is a strong enough mandate after a long-enough string of victories in a large-enough town that it just might in retrospect prove to be the national tipping point of insistence on educating children not according to some big-money agenda but rather according to the radical concept of addressing children’s own community, developmental and pedagogic needs.