The SAISD school board of trustees meets to discuss the budget.
The SAISD school board of trustees meets to discuss the budget in 2019. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

With about two weeks left until early voting starts in the May 1 elections, campaign finance reports reveal deep differences in how the eight candidates running in the four San Antonio Independent School District school board races are funding their campaigns.

The San Antonio Alliance of Teachers and Support Personnel has backed four candidates to unseat three incumbents on the board and fill an open seat. The union-supported candidates’ finance reports show the thousands of dollars the Alliance has poured into the election, a sign of the expanding rift between the union and district leaders on how schools should be operated.

But the incumbents significantly outraised their Alliance-backed opponents, who mostly received non-monetary donations from the union. Current trustees received support from local education advocates, such as H-E-B Chairman and CEO Charles Butt, and some out-of-state political action committees.

The following is a breakdown of how campaign money has been distributed in individual races. Campaign finance reports from each candidate can be viewed here.

District 1

Incumbent Steve Lecholop raised much more than his opponent, Sarah Sorensen, in the District 1 race. Lecholop reported $35,670 in campaign contributions while Sorensen reported $9,606.

Lecholop, an attorney, received several large sums from PACs, including $10,000 from the Virginia-based Educational Equity PAC and $6,000 from the Leadership for Educational Equity-Texas PAC. Leadership for Educational Equity is a nonpartisan, nonprofit leadership development organization that focuses on ending educational inequity. In the past three months, the PAC has made donations to two other Texas candidates running for school board in Richardson and Houston ISDs.

The Leadership for Educational Equity PAC’s campaign finance report submitted to the Texas Ethics Commission on Thursday shows a discrepancy in contributions to Lecholop’s campaign. The PAC’s report lists an extra $5,000 donation, but Lecholop said he never received those funds.

Butt, who is also a major education philanthropist, donated $2,000 to Lecholop’s campaign through a PAC. Lecholop had $23,891 leftover in campaign contributions, as of March 22.

Sorensen received $1,150 in monetary contributions and $8,456 in in-kind donations from the Alliance PAC. The Alliance helped the COVID-19 case investigator print campaign literature and signs, in addition to phone banking and other organizing costs. Sorensen reported having $712 in contributions on hand.

District 3

In the open race for District 3, former City Councilwoman Leticia Ozuna raised $9,000, while her Alliance-backed opponent, Judit Vega, reported about $1,139 in campaign contributions.

Outgoing District 3 trustee Debra Guerrero donated $500 to Ozuna’s campaign. The digital engineer also reported receiving $1,000 each from attorney Pablo Escamilla and the Brown & Ortiz and the Linebarger Goggan Blair & Sampson law firms.

Ozuna spent the bulk of her campaign funds on signs and election data. She reported $6,023.72 in outstanding loans.

Vega spent $8 of the $420 she received in monetary contributions on a post office box. The Alliance PAC’s in-kind contributions covered the candidate’s advertising and field direction services. That left Vega with about $1,131 in contributions on hand.

District 4

The candidates for the District 4 seat raised similar amounts, with incumbent Arthur Valdez reporting $9,450 in campaign contributions. His opponent, Burbank High School teacher Luke Amphlett, reported about $9,056 in contributions, with more than $8,450 of that amount coming from in-kind donations from the Alliance PAC.

Like his fellow Alliance-backed candidates, Amphlett received in-kind services from the PAC in the form of campaign signs and other advertisements, phone banking, and field direction services.

Valdez reported a $5,000 donation from San Antonio Kids First PAC, which is primarily supported by Butt. Like Ozuna, Valdez also received $1,000 each from Escamilla and the Brown & Ortiz and Linebarger Goggan Blair & Sampson law firms.

The incumbent reported $4,161 in expenditures, mostly on campaign signs and mailers, T-shirts, and voter information. Valdez had $5,289 in contributions on hand.

Meanwhile, Amphlett spent about $471 on T-shirts and food for campaign volunteers. He reported $605 in leftover contributions.

District 7

Former San Antonio Mayor and current District 7 trustee Ed Garza far outraised his Alliance-backed opponent, Yasmín Parra Codina, an administrative assistant at the University of Texas at San Antonio.

Garza reported $27,600 in campaign contributions, with $2,750 from Blue Ribbon Asset Management and $2,000 from insurance agent Daniel Barrett. He also reported a $500 donation from Guerrero and $1,000 donations each from the Brown & Ortiz and Linebarger Goggan Blair & Sampson law firms. Garza had an in-kind donation of $1,100 in yard signs from Danny Benavidez.

The incumbent reported $16,126 in expenditures, mostly spending those funds on yard signs, T-shirts, and door hangers. Garza had $12,351 leftover in contributions and $5,274 in outstanding loans to himself.

Parra Codina reported more than $17,560 in contributions, $14,890 of which mostly came from Alliance PAC in-kind donations. The Alliance helped fund video and website expenses, campaign literature, and signs.

She reported $592 in expenditures on T-shirts and yard signs, with $2,078 in contributions on hand.

The next campaign finance report is due eight days before the election.

Disclosure: The Charles Butt Foundation is a San Antonio Report business member.

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Brooke Crum

Brooke Crum is the San Antonio Report's education reporter.