News

Will charter school politics — and money — influence the local Santa Clara County school board race?

Charter organizations give big money to Grace Mah, while labor and teachers unions support Melissa Baten Caswell

Melissa Baten Caswell, left, and Grace Mah, right, are running to represent Trustee Area 1 on the Santa Clara County Board of Education this fall. Courtesy photos.

With Election Day less than three weeks away, outside money is pouring into the Santa Clara County Board of Education Area 1 race, with charter school proponents making large contributions to incumbent Grace Mah.

Charter school political action committees and representatives have contributed more than $200,000 to Mah's campaign in the last three weeks, many of them large donations that came in after the most recent reporting period. The Charter Public Schools Political Action Committee (PAC) has made two large donations: $75,000 on Sept. 28 and $105,000 on Oct. 13, according to campaign finance reports. Other contributions came from Santa Clara Charter Advocates for Great Public Schools ($5,000) and Champions for Education PAC ($20,000) as well as members of the boards of directors of Rocketship Public Schools, ACE Charter School and Bullis Charter School in Los Altos. Mah's campaign raised about $80,000 through Sept. 19, bringing her current reported total to about $290,000.

Melissa Baten Caswell — a current Palo Alto school board member who's running against Mah, who is also a Palo Alto resident — has raised nearly $50,000 from donors who have publicly opposed or criticized Bullis Charter School, whose renewal will come to the board in 2022. Her campaign also received this month about $30,400 in two separate donations from the East Side Teachers Association Political Action Committee, according to campaign finance reports filed after the most recent reporting period. Baten Caswell's campaign raised about $140,000 as of Sept. 19, bringing her current reported total to about $170,400.

The fundraising in this race underscores charter-driven political fissures on the current county board, though both candidates resist being labeled as pro- or anti-charter. The county board, which currently oversees 21 charter schools, is responsible for authorizing new charter schools and renewing existing ones.

Mah characterized the sizable donations to her campaign as a response to the "financial arms race" prompted by Baten Caswell, who raised nearly $90,000 early in the campaign, including from labor unions and teachers unions (both of which are perceived as anti-charter) and the Bullis critics.

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Mah said she hasn't had discussions with the charter school organizations herself but sees their support for her campaign as driven by a "threat of the anti-charter school sentiment." She said she's been shocked by the amount of money coming into both her own and Baten Caswell's campaign and thinks there should be limits on fundraising. In her last three campaigns for this seat, she said the most she ever raised was $10,000. In her 2016 campaign, she raised less than $4,000, according to campaign finance reports.

In a statement, Gregory McGinity, executive director of the California Charter School Association (CCSA) Advocates, which operates the Charter Public Schools PAC, said that the organization backs Mah because of her "proven track record of supporting all students."

"Experience and stability are especially important during these uncertain times," he wrote. "Her continued commitment to expanding preschool opportunities, supporting teachers and educational equity has proven to us that she is a much-needed voice on the board."

The charter school political action committees that support Mah have also made large donations to another Santa Clara County school board member's reelection campaign: Joseph Di Salvo, who represents Area 4, the majority portion of San Jose Unified, a portion of Oak Grove and corresponding portion of East Side Union High school districts. Meanwhile, Di Salvo's opponent, Ketzal Gomez, has received campaign contributions from labor unions and Bullis opponents (including Sangeeth Peruri, a former Los Altos school board member and Baten Caswell's campaign chair).

In an interview, Peruri said Baten Caswell's team set a fundraising goal early on of $100,000 to $200,000, estimating they would have to spend about $1 to $2 to reach each of the approximately 130,000 voters in Area 1. He defended their campaign fundraising as locally based rather than from "out of town special interests." Baten Caswell has been endorsed by 27 of 30 local school board trustees and all six teachers unions in the Area 1 districts.

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Steve Brown, a Los Altos resident and member of a group called "Unintended Consequences" that was critical of Bullis, gave $10,000 to Baten Caswell's campaign. In an interview, he said he's convinced that Baten Caswell is better aligned than Mah with his priorities of collaboration, accountability and transparency.

Brown said he's not against charter schools — in fact, he has donated to some — but is concerned that Bullis is not serving disadvantaged students well and needs to be held accountable.

"They don't reflect the ethnicity and race of our community, which is part of the intent of the Charter (Schools) Act, and they don't service the disadvantaged kids," Brown said. "With that in mind, I think the role of the county as the chartering organization should help their board understand their obligation to do that.

"If a charter they've chartered is not doing a good job," he said of the county board, "they need to rope them in."

Peruri said Baten Caswell has publicly stated she has no intention of shutting down Bullis Charter School but that she sees a need for greater oversight, which resonates with him and other vocal critics of the charter school.

"Shutting down BCS does no one any favors. But one thing that she would like to see is better oversight and terms and changes in practices in the renewal that would address and change the demographics," he said.

Three incumbents on the county school board are up for reelection on Nov. 3. Mah noted that the county school board president, Claudia Rossi, who's been described as a charter opponent, has endorsed three other charter opponents running against her board colleagues.

Fundraising on both sides of the Area 1 school board race is outsized compared to other local county school board races. In the San Mateo County Board of Education race, incumbent Rod Hsiao has raised about $61,500 and challenger Chelsea Bonini close to $21,000, according to campaign finance documents.

Mah, a Republican, also drew criticism this week after sending out a mailer with a complimentary quote from Ro Khanna, who's endorsed Baten Caswell, both Democrats, and the image of a kicking donkey that looks like the Democratic donkey logo. In a press release, the Santa Clara County Democratic Party blasted Mah for the "misleading" mailer and the contributions she's received from "out-of-town PACs."

Baten Caswell said: "I'm honored to have dozens of local teachers, parents, and community members, along with the Democratic Party, supporting my campaign."

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Will charter school politics — and money — influence the local Santa Clara County school board race?

Charter organizations give big money to Grace Mah, while labor and teachers unions support Melissa Baten Caswell

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Sat, Oct 17, 2020, 4:19 pm

With Election Day less than three weeks away, outside money is pouring into the Santa Clara County Board of Education Area 1 race, with charter school proponents making large contributions to incumbent Grace Mah.

Charter school political action committees and representatives have contributed more than $200,000 to Mah's campaign in the last three weeks, many of them large donations that came in after the most recent reporting period. The Charter Public Schools Political Action Committee (PAC) has made two large donations: $75,000 on Sept. 28 and $105,000 on Oct. 13, according to campaign finance reports. Other contributions came from Santa Clara Charter Advocates for Great Public Schools ($5,000) and Champions for Education PAC ($20,000) as well as members of the boards of directors of Rocketship Public Schools, ACE Charter School and Bullis Charter School in Los Altos. Mah's campaign raised about $80,000 through Sept. 19, bringing her current reported total to about $290,000.

Melissa Baten Caswell — a current Palo Alto school board member who's running against Mah, who is also a Palo Alto resident — has raised nearly $50,000 from donors who have publicly opposed or criticized Bullis Charter School, whose renewal will come to the board in 2022. Her campaign also received this month about $30,400 in two separate donations from the East Side Teachers Association Political Action Committee, according to campaign finance reports filed after the most recent reporting period. Baten Caswell's campaign raised about $140,000 as of Sept. 19, bringing her current reported total to about $170,400.

The fundraising in this race underscores charter-driven political fissures on the current county board, though both candidates resist being labeled as pro- or anti-charter. The county board, which currently oversees 21 charter schools, is responsible for authorizing new charter schools and renewing existing ones.

Mah characterized the sizable donations to her campaign as a response to the "financial arms race" prompted by Baten Caswell, who raised nearly $90,000 early in the campaign, including from labor unions and teachers unions (both of which are perceived as anti-charter) and the Bullis critics.

Mah said she hasn't had discussions with the charter school organizations herself but sees their support for her campaign as driven by a "threat of the anti-charter school sentiment." She said she's been shocked by the amount of money coming into both her own and Baten Caswell's campaign and thinks there should be limits on fundraising. In her last three campaigns for this seat, she said the most she ever raised was $10,000. In her 2016 campaign, she raised less than $4,000, according to campaign finance reports.

In a statement, Gregory McGinity, executive director of the California Charter School Association (CCSA) Advocates, which operates the Charter Public Schools PAC, said that the organization backs Mah because of her "proven track record of supporting all students."

"Experience and stability are especially important during these uncertain times," he wrote. "Her continued commitment to expanding preschool opportunities, supporting teachers and educational equity has proven to us that she is a much-needed voice on the board."

The charter school political action committees that support Mah have also made large donations to another Santa Clara County school board member's reelection campaign: Joseph Di Salvo, who represents Area 4, the majority portion of San Jose Unified, a portion of Oak Grove and corresponding portion of East Side Union High school districts. Meanwhile, Di Salvo's opponent, Ketzal Gomez, has received campaign contributions from labor unions and Bullis opponents (including Sangeeth Peruri, a former Los Altos school board member and Baten Caswell's campaign chair).

In an interview, Peruri said Baten Caswell's team set a fundraising goal early on of $100,000 to $200,000, estimating they would have to spend about $1 to $2 to reach each of the approximately 130,000 voters in Area 1. He defended their campaign fundraising as locally based rather than from "out of town special interests." Baten Caswell has been endorsed by 27 of 30 local school board trustees and all six teachers unions in the Area 1 districts.

Steve Brown, a Los Altos resident and member of a group called "Unintended Consequences" that was critical of Bullis, gave $10,000 to Baten Caswell's campaign. In an interview, he said he's convinced that Baten Caswell is better aligned than Mah with his priorities of collaboration, accountability and transparency.

Brown said he's not against charter schools — in fact, he has donated to some — but is concerned that Bullis is not serving disadvantaged students well and needs to be held accountable.

"They don't reflect the ethnicity and race of our community, which is part of the intent of the Charter (Schools) Act, and they don't service the disadvantaged kids," Brown said. "With that in mind, I think the role of the county as the chartering organization should help their board understand their obligation to do that.

"If a charter they've chartered is not doing a good job," he said of the county board, "they need to rope them in."

Peruri said Baten Caswell has publicly stated she has no intention of shutting down Bullis Charter School but that she sees a need for greater oversight, which resonates with him and other vocal critics of the charter school.

"Shutting down BCS does no one any favors. But one thing that she would like to see is better oversight and terms and changes in practices in the renewal that would address and change the demographics," he said.

Three incumbents on the county school board are up for reelection on Nov. 3. Mah noted that the county school board president, Claudia Rossi, who's been described as a charter opponent, has endorsed three other charter opponents running against her board colleagues.

Fundraising on both sides of the Area 1 school board race is outsized compared to other local county school board races. In the San Mateo County Board of Education race, incumbent Rod Hsiao has raised about $61,500 and challenger Chelsea Bonini close to $21,000, according to campaign finance documents.

Mah, a Republican, also drew criticism this week after sending out a mailer with a complimentary quote from Ro Khanna, who's endorsed Baten Caswell, both Democrats, and the image of a kicking donkey that looks like the Democratic donkey logo. In a press release, the Santa Clara County Democratic Party blasted Mah for the "misleading" mailer and the contributions she's received from "out-of-town PACs."

Baten Caswell said: "I'm honored to have dozens of local teachers, parents, and community members, along with the Democratic Party, supporting my campaign."

Comments

MVP
Registered user
Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Oct 18, 2020 at 11:31 am
MVP, Another Mountain View Neighborhood
Registered user
on Oct 18, 2020 at 11:31 am
20 people like this

I don't trust Grace Mah one bit, never did...pretty sneaky. I don't like sneaky and people who are beholden to out of town specials interests rather than the local community. Enough is enough. Vote her out already. Need some new blood.

--------
Mah, a Republican, also drew criticism this week after sending out a mailer with a complimentary quote from Ro Khanna, who's endorsed Baten Caswell, both Democrats, and the image of a kicking donkey that looks like the Democratic donkey logo. In a press release, the Santa Clara County Democratic Party blasted Mah for the "misleading" mailer and the contributions she's received from "out-of-town PACs."
--------


LongResident
Registered user
another community
on Oct 18, 2020 at 2:50 pm
LongResident, another community
Registered user
on Oct 18, 2020 at 2:50 pm
24 people like this

The voice article omits details that matter. The mailer in question had 2 sides. One side had endorsements from 6 local Democrats. That's where there was a donkey of a sort. On the other side was a large appreciative quote for some specific work Grace Mah has done with Ro Khanna. It wasn't a formal endorsement, but it was a positive comment. Some of Melissa's campaign is orchestrated by powerful wealthy Democratic contributors who have a personal issue with the charter school in Los Altos. They portray this as deceptive, but the truth is they are just dismayed that many Democrats recognize positive achievements by Grace Mah.

If you don't know that the Teacher's Unions are dominated by Democrats, maybe you'd be deceived. But the mailer was clear in what it said. It quotes appreciation from Ro Khanna for something specific, while the other side has actual overall endorsements from SIX Democrats, identified as such, and as leaders. One is Sam Liccardo, the Mayor of San Jose. It doesn't say the party endorses Grace, but rather that the 6 named Leaders do, NOT Ro Khanna.


Steven Goldstein
Registered user
Old Mountain View
on Oct 18, 2020 at 3:14 pm
Steven Goldstein, Old Mountain View
Registered user
on Oct 18, 2020 at 3:14 pm
2 people like this

[Post removed due to being off-topic]


Barry Austin
Registered user
The Crossings
on Oct 19, 2020 at 7:42 pm
Barry Austin, The Crossings
Registered user
on Oct 19, 2020 at 7:42 pm
19 people like this

We are witnessing a massive power play by the anti-charter Establishment. The dollars and political levers in play are astronomical for what has until now been a smallish local race.

Why would the Establishment do this? Why spend all this money and mobilize a political army and attack with a smear and disinformation campaign unless it's worth it to them? What would they get out of this?

Sadly that's how important killing charters is to the education Establishment. This is a perversion of progressivism, using the power of The Man to protect what is now the Establishment.


Jim Burnham
Registered user
another community
on Oct 19, 2020 at 8:37 pm
Jim Burnham, another community
Registered user
on Oct 19, 2020 at 8:37 pm
19 people like this

Did anyone notice that the article is filled with quotes from anti-charter people without any fact checking? Steve Brown - a fierce charter opponent - claims BCS is "not serving" disadvantaged communities despite the fact that BCS admission is determined by lottery and is open to everyone. Shouldn't that statement have been checked? And they also quote Sangeeth Peruri's claim that Melissa has "no intention of shutting down BCS" when he and most of her supporters have spent years trying to shut down BCS. Why not investigate that statement?
The author also uses misleading statements that favor Melissa (i.e. teacher's unions are "perceived" as being anti-charter, when they have spent tens of millions of dollars electing anti-charter politicians, and Grace's flyer was "misleading" without explaining the facts). The choice in this election couldn't be any clearer: the interests of our kids vs. the interests of the education establishment.


MVP
Registered user
Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Oct 20, 2020 at 2:34 pm
MVP, Another Mountain View Neighborhood
Registered user
on Oct 20, 2020 at 2:34 pm
7 people like this

Grace Mah received:
79% ($242,000) from Out-of-County PACs, mostly for pro-charter groups.

LET THAT SINK IN PEOPLE - 79%!!

Only 14% from locals.

That is all you need to know.

At the end of the day, who do YOU think Mah will be beholden to? Take a wild guess.

We don't want Bullis taking over the whole county. They can stay in Los Altos. The parents fought back Bullis and Mah's their power grab in Mountain View, but they will be back, they said. MV parents, beware!! They have Mah's complete backing. Vote Mah and her charter PAC money out while you have the chance!


Charter industry revs up $ and PR again
Registered user
another community
on Oct 20, 2020 at 2:59 pm
Charter industry revs up $ and PR again, another community
Registered user
on Oct 20, 2020 at 2:59 pm
6 people like this

Lots of boogie man comments about the “Establishment.” What’s that? Do you mean teachers and students with parents who care about their children’s schools? Nothing scary about that.
What everyone should be frightened about is losing local control of schools as charter corporations come in with their private boards to replace locally elected school boards. Would you like to take your children’s education away from control by the local community and put it in the hands of the charter industry: wealthy individuals like Bill Gates or the Walton family, who don’t have children in public schools; Betsy DeVos, whose home state charter school advocacy has ruined Detroit with low-quality charter schools; greedy FOR PROFIT charter management organizations that run “nonprofit” charter schools; any random person the charter school says should be on its school board. Do you honestly believe that the charter industry and charter school corporations are on a MISSION to save under-privileged, struggling students? While the Waltons treat their own employees like dirt, can you possibly think they are going to have deep concern for some far away child who is not doing anything for them?


LongResident
Registered user
another community
on Oct 20, 2020 at 4:50 pm
LongResident, another community
Registered user
on Oct 20, 2020 at 4:50 pm
14 people like this

This is a county wide office, so out of town means nothing. Charters are not out of the county. There are thousands and thousands of students in charter schools in the county. There are over 1000 in Los Altos alone but most are in San Jose. San Jose's mayor endorses Grace Mah. PAUSD is indeed selfish in that it may be a good school district and serve around 10,500 students, but even more depend on charter schools for their education. They need to have their schools make the most of the lmited state funding. Charter schools get $10,000 or $11,000 per student whereas PAUSD has funda of $25K per student.

So Charter interests are representing the needs of our county residents. Melissa Baten Caswell doesn't understand the education system in the county, and neither do her 5 figure donors from Los Altos, even if they do live in the county. San Jose is a world away from these elite residents.

The CTA seeks to SHUT DOWN educational opportunities for the less fortunate residents of our county. They are the true party with the ulterior motives.


Gary
Registered user
Sylvan Park
on Oct 20, 2020 at 7:52 pm
Gary, Sylvan Park
Registered user
on Oct 20, 2020 at 7:52 pm
3 people like this

Talking about OUTSIDE MONEY, how about today's latest mailer from the Mountain View Firefighters Union Political Action Committee once again pushing its 3 city council candidates? The money appears to come from out-of-town MV firefighters paid by the city. Public employee unions often offer political support for financial support. In fact, this mailer says: "YOUR NEIGHBORS SUPPORT THESE CANDIDATES BECAUSE THEY SUPPORT MEASURE C AND FULL FUNDING FOR PUBLIC SAFETY." So now the firefighters' union is also campaigning for Measure C? And still no FPPC disclaimers.


Charter industry revs up $ and PR again
Registered user
another community
on Oct 21, 2020 at 3:16 pm
Charter industry revs up $ and PR again, another community
Registered user
on Oct 21, 2020 at 3:16 pm
6 people like this

@LongResident, do you mean that Grace is running to represent the interests of charter students in San Jose? If so, this raises a number of issues, including most obviously that perhaps Grace should move to a San Jose trustee area and run for SCCBOE from there. Also, to evaluate the worth of Grace's service for San Jose charter schools, we would need to dig into how charter schools are working (or not) for San Jose students. You are right that folks in this area don't know much about that because it's not our trustee area and, again, maybe Grace should re-locate. Grace has claimed great performance for under-privileged students at San Jose charters, but many San Jose district teachers and administrators who receive rejected charter school students claim that the charters are just retaining high-performing students, discouraging students with greater educational needs (and costs) from applying and encouraging / leveraging students to leave if admitted, crushing the students' self-esteem in the process.


Let's Get All the Facts
Registered user
Castro City
on Oct 23, 2020 at 2:29 pm
Let's Get All the Facts, Castro City
Registered user
on Oct 23, 2020 at 2:29 pm
17 people like this

The San Jose Mercury Newspaper interviewed the candidates and reviewed all these issues including the funding and decided that “Mah is the better choice” and endorse Grace Mah on Oct. 20. At this point, both the Los Altos Town Crier and the San Jose Mercury News have endorsed Trustee Grace Mah. In their words, Trustee Mah was endorsed because of her diligent work on the board, being fair minded, and being focused on improving education outcomes for ALL students.

Melissa Caswell has received most of her contributions from wealthy Los Altos anti-charter people with deep pockets and the teachers’ unions well before even announcing her candidacy three months ago. This month, the San Jose teachers’ unions made large donations to Melissa as well as other candidates in SCC districts and this money was from the California Teachers’ Union. Most charter schools are NON UNION, which is why the teacher's UNIONS are opposing them despite the fact that charters are a minor part of what the Santa Clara County Board of Education does. It is clear that Melissa is in the pocket of the anti-charter people and the teachers’ unions and cannot be trusted to be independent.

Meanwhile Grace Mah has received donations from well over 200 people in Santa Clara County who do not have deep pockets. Trustee Mah’s donations came later to defend her against the Teachers’ Unions and wealthy anti-charter Los Altos Hills residents. In the words of the San Jose Mercury Newspaper, “Mah is the better choice, given her proven track record of evaluating charters on the strength of their applications." While charter schools are a small part of the responsibilities of the county board of education, it is an important one, particularly for low income families in traditional unionized public schools.


Charter industry revs up $ and PR again
Registered user
another community
on Oct 23, 2020 at 8:33 pm
Charter industry revs up $ and PR again, another community
Registered user
on Oct 23, 2020 at 8:33 pm
3 people like this

Both the San Jose Mercury News and the Los Altos Town Crier have well-known pro-charter biases, so it’s no surprise that they backed Mah and are promoted by all the pro-charter posters here. In their endorsements of Melissa Baten Caswell, the Palo Alto Weekly and Mountain View Voice presented far more information about the candidates and their sources of funds, and drew the more reasonable conclusion that Grace Mah will have a very difficult time ignoring $200K in charter contributions. In fact, Mah is receiving $200K from the charters BECAUSE she has served charter interests for her entire long tenure on the SCCBOE and they know she will be a solid vote for charter schools, no matter what they do to public schools or students. Mah is a Republican and dislikes teachers’ unions (even though they’re just a group of teachers who have organized to get fair treatment in the workplace). As a Republican, Mah doesn’t believe we need public institutions like neighborhood public schools, run by our local communities. Mah thinks it’s just fine to have a bunch of corporations running our schools. Would you like Jeff Bezos or Donald Trump in charge of your kid’s school?


SRB
Registered user
St. Francis Acres
on Oct 24, 2020 at 6:34 am
SRB, St. Francis Acres
Registered user
on Oct 24, 2020 at 6:34 am
5 people like this

Deja Vu all over again?

Seems likes every time there is a viable contender, the out of town Charter School lobby opens its deep pocketbook.

See Mercury News article from Halloween 2012

"PAC money floods local school board races"

Web Link


Barry Austin
Registered user
The Crossings
on Oct 24, 2020 at 11:14 am
Barry Austin, The Crossings
Registered user
on Oct 24, 2020 at 11:14 am
9 people like this

I am a parent and I'm advocating for students, teachers, schools (especially the public variety), education and community.

The education Establishment claims to _be_ those things, and therefore anything outside the Establishment's control doesn't count, and must be cast out.

I'm 100% in favor of labor organizations advocating for workers against abuse of power (sadly common). My uncle's teachers union was exactly that.

I am 100% against the behavior of any powerful organization abusing its own power toward its own self-interest. Labor organizations are not magically exempt from this when they engage in abusive behavior. Nor are charter schools magically exempt.

Abuse of power is exclusionary politics (try running for school board without the blessing of the local Establishment). Abuse of power includes negative campaigns of disinformation and misrepresentation. Abuse of power includes incentivizing administrative bodies (e.g. school districts or county offices of education) to thwart perceived rivals.

Those who abuse their political power have earned their place in the Establishment.


Charter industry revs up $ and PR again
Registered user
another community
on Oct 27, 2020 at 1:53 pm
Charter industry revs up $ and PR again, another community
Registered user
on Oct 27, 2020 at 1:53 pm
3 people like this

All you need to know: 27 out of 30 school board members in our trustee area endorse Melissa Baten Caswell for SCCBOE. They are the best-positioned to know what kind of help they need and they choose Melissa Baten Caswell, while rejecting Grace Mah, whom they know well from her 13-year record.

Grace Mah has now taken $300K of out-of-county charter PAC money. She will continue to serve the charter industry above all others, including local voters, families, and students.

Vote Melissa Baten Caswell for SCCBOE! Help our school districts and give local school board members the SCCBOE representative they want. Help them deliver the best education possible to our children.


Let's Get All the Facts
Registered user
Castro City
on Oct 27, 2020 at 4:05 pm
Let's Get All the Facts, Castro City
Registered user
on Oct 27, 2020 at 4:05 pm
10 people like this

Having the school boards support one of their own fellow school board members is not that surprising considering that charter schools are competition to the school boards. Competition helps improve schools and Bullis Charter (BCS) is a good example of this. An examination of the student performance from the California Dept. of Education shows that the students from BCS show that BCS outperforms both LASD and PAUSD by statistically significant percentages in most categories and most subgroups. The four year trend (2015~2019) showed that on average, 13% more combined 3rd-8th grade BCS students exceeded the CA state standards as compared to the Los Altos School District (LASD) over the last 4 years. In addition, a full 18 to 21% more BCS 8th graders exceeded the CA state standards as compared to the LASD over the last 4 years. This shows that when a student graduates from 8th grade at BCS, they will have completed an excellent education program. Grace Mah supports successful schools of all kinds, but she will hold failed school accountable. Her opponent has never stated this, but rather wants to rein in the competition for the school district and the teachers’ unions.


Alternative Facts
Registered user
Bailey Park
on Oct 27, 2020 at 10:26 pm
Alternative Facts, Bailey Park
Registered user
on Oct 27, 2020 at 10:26 pm
3 people like this

All alternative “choice” and “magnet” programs disaggregate a district’s student performance data. Once you introduce a selection bias, you can’t compare student performance metrics and conclude anything about the value add of the pedagogy. This is really basic stuff, but charter apologists stand behind their cooked numbers without fail. It’s a separatist crusade, not educational innovation


Steven Goldstein
Registered user
Old Mountain View
on Oct 27, 2020 at 11:08 pm
Steven Goldstein, Old Mountain View
Registered user
on Oct 27, 2020 at 11:08 pm
12 people like this

I just got done watching the documentary called "The Great Hack".

And after my experience with the MV Voice there are a couple of things I need to plead to this Newspaper and website.

I admit I for years posted under the name The Business Man, BUT I never withheld who I was. And I was VERY transparent about it.

I have come to an understanding now that any use of an anonymous identity regarding the discussion of any news article should be prohibited.

As an IT Security Expert, I find the lack of accountability to be the biggest reason.

The idea that people can write what is in effect press releases under the guise of an anonymous fictional person, especially where they have a financial conflict of interest, just cannot be allowed anymore.

The idea that people use a platform to attack people personally, use insults, and make false claims about them requires that anonymity cannot be allowed. The language can inspire real life consequences, like inspire possible criminal acts by others.

If you have a valid argument with solid unbiased evidence to support it, WHY not own your argument?

The idea that someone can use multiple identities on this service is abused.

There should be a means where to register and post one has to provide proof of identity, like having a credit card validated, so that if any issues arise, like cyberstalking is investigated, a proper trail can exist to identify the offender.


Charter industry revs up $ and PR again
Registered user
another community
on Oct 27, 2020 at 11:16 pm
Charter industry revs up $ and PR again, another community
Registered user
on Oct 27, 2020 at 11:16 pm
2 people like this

Does Bullis Charter School really have some kind of magically good educational program, as they claim? Of course not. They are just selecting out the easiest and cheapest to educate kids from LASD. LASD letter to SCCBOE describing segregation by BCS, which resulted in SCCBOE requiring BCS to delete its Los Altos Hills lottery preference: Web Link

Thoughtful opinion piece by a prominent California historian regarding how charter schools harm California public schools:
Web Link


Let's Get All the Facts
Registered user
Castro City
on Oct 27, 2020 at 11:42 pm
Let's Get All the Facts, Castro City
Registered user
on Oct 27, 2020 at 11:42 pm
9 people like this

I really do not understand why you claim that BCS "selects" their students? BCS holds a RANDOM lottery for their students and cannot select them. This needs to be flagged as misinformation. There was a historical LAH preference at one time because of the closure of the elementary school at LAH, but that preference was phased out and eliminated.

As for the performance of students at BCS, I did the calculations myself using the California Dept. of Education website because I wanted to ensure that BCS was the right choice for my child. It was not cooked numbers from BCS as you suggested.


Christopher Chiang
Registered user
North Bayshore
on Oct 28, 2020 at 9:36 pm
Christopher Chiang, North Bayshore
Registered user
on Oct 28, 2020 at 9:36 pm
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All this money spent on the county race, if only it actually meant a real chance to debate the role of charter schools in Santa Clara County.

Both candidates contributed negatively in how they've campaigned. Caswell's focus on her endorsements and Mah's Republican affiliation gloss over just four years ago, Caswell's own campaign manager, Sangeeth Peruri along with Barry Groves and Fiona Walters, and Democrats: State Superintendent Jack O’Connell, Joe Simitian, and Rich Gordon all endorsed Mah.
Web Link Nor did Mah help raise the caliber of discussion with her multiple misleading ads. Though worse is what surrogates of these campaigns are saying online.

By and large, most county education services happen regardless of any one board member, but charter approval, that is accurately a county school board member's greatest influence, all the more so after Gov. Newsom sign into law the ability for school boards to take financial impact into consideration in approving charters.

Whether charter schools help or hurt a system deserve real discussion, and this isn't about Bullis, the charter issue is far bigger than that. This is really about San Jose, and charters there like Rocketship and ACE that serve 100% at-risk students, and whether their mere existence, undermine nearby schools, despite the wonders they do for the students, enrolled in those charters, or if their existence spur innovation over time in local schools. If you've visited these urban charter schools, you'll know these groups aren't throwing money into this race because they want to profit, but because they fear their existence is at risk. Equally important, if you visit local schools nearby these charters, you see the real negative impact they have on families that did not enroll in those schools. Resouce hoarding is a true problem, as is true, that many local charters are truly innovative.

Both candidates care about children, they wouldn't have served this long on their respective boards if they didn't. A shame $400,000 didn't buy us a real policy debate on charters with experts on both sides making their case to the voters. Since that's what this is really about.


It Takes 2
Registered user
Cuesta Park
on Oct 28, 2020 at 9:58 pm
It Takes 2, Cuesta Park
Registered user
on Oct 28, 2020 at 9:58 pm
3 people like this

It takes 2 candidates to make a comparison and an endorsement. Four years ago, Mah may have been the superior candidate. This year her challenger is overwhelmingly preferred by the people in her service area. She had a good run, but now she obviously relies on her warbucks charter industry sponsors to be competitive


Charter industry revs up $ and PR
Registered user
another community
on Oct 29, 2020 at 12:17 am
Charter industry revs up $ and PR, another community
Registered user
on Oct 29, 2020 at 12:17 am
4 people like this

@Christopher Chiang: As an award-winning educator, your uncritical repetition of charter industry marketing is surprising. Charter schools aren’t innovating; they’re >selecting.< The mere existence of all of the registration forms, and in many cases some lottery process (triggered by applications of families living far away, with no preference to have any chance at all of gaining admission), discourages many families (exactly the less English able families and less organized families that the charters don’t want) from applying, which introduces a non random selection bias. Then, the charters offer the lowest level, bare bones special education program possible, to discourage special education families from applying: another selection bias. Then, if some “undesirables” slip in, there’s always subjective disciplinary procedures to move those students out: more selection bias. Charters aren’t working miracles with children, they are managing their student populations. You can’t even see what effect the charter’s educational program has on students because the children who begin at the school are not the ones who finish at the school.

I urge you to dig into the Rocketship story because that particular corporate charter chain has a very bad reputation in San Jose for sending back badly educated children to public districts (naturally, only after it has gotten the annual funding for those students). You should consider how Rocketship damages the self-esteem of the students it ejects to public district schools, along with the learning gap left to those students to make up. If your idea is that we need Grace Mah so she can approve more of these charters, that’s just plain nuts.

In our area, if Bullis Charter School had some super special program and were so willing to serve as beacons of innovation and guides for the rest of us, don’t you think they would have been clamoring to share their wisdom with LASD and LASD would have been eager to get the lowdown on their educational wizardry? Newsflash: BCS hasn’t got anything that an excellent district like LASD needs. LASD is doing a fantastic job and serves all students, not just the easiest to educate kids.

New CA law permitting authorizing bodies to take into account the financial damage to districts in approving new charters is an acknowledgment that charter schools financially harm public districts, but won’t have much practical effect beyond the larger urban districts that have already been devastated by greedy charters. That the law is anything else is just more charter PR — don’t fall for it and don’t promote it. These laws only apply when districts are basically on the brink of financial insolvency.

It’s interesting and sad that you set your post up to equate the “bad campaigning” of both candidates. You used the deceptive ads of Grace Mah on the one hand (which actually really is bad campaigning) and then you attempted to smear Melissa Baten Caswell’s promotion of her endorsement by 27 out of 30 local school board members. Baten Caswell’s overwhelming endorsement by local school board members who are the key stakeholders and customers of the SCCBOE is entirely relevant and also has the benefit, in this comparison to Mah, of being true and appropriate. MBC’s statement is just called “campaigning”, whereas Mah’s use of deceptive ads is called “cheating.”

Your decrying the huge sums of $ spent on this race seem like crocodile tears when you fail to note that the overwhelming majority of it is out-of-county charter industry pac money coming in to support Grace Mah. It is very hard to defend against the charter industry that can spend millions on statewide races and will always spend big to defend a solid charter vote on SCCBOE like Grace Mah. I hope you will re-consider your support and advocacy for charter schools, charter marketing, and charter candidates like Grace Mah.


LongResident
Registered user
another community
on Oct 29, 2020 at 12:41 am
LongResident, another community
Registered user
on Oct 29, 2020 at 12:41 am
4 people like this

The last guy with the campaign slogan as a user name is wedged in more than one way. Chris Chiang was neutral and accurate in his comments. He did not take one side or the other. Anyone reading the comments can see that. That's sort of an easy thing to identify.

But then he claims BCS hasn't shared its methods with LASD schools. They have absolutely been copied by LASD's own programs. BCS tried them out and LASD got to put them into their own program after they had been tested. It's not ALL such methods that have been copied, but quite a few. #1 Each School in LASD now has a science teacher doing a STEM program across all grades. This is EXACTLY what BCS did from early days, only of course, they do need more than one such STEM teacher. BCS augmented their STEM program to become STEAM (look it up as a term), and has operated this way for several years. No doubt LASD will copy this too but admittedly that is one thing not yet copied. #2 BCS used project based learning in a way to tailor the program to the specific interests of each student, including providing both remedial-like and enrichment oriented tuning per student. Here again, LASD has absolutely attempted to duplicate similar. LASD did this because they watch why students switch to BCS. LASD learns from this. #3 LASD has attempted to offer an optional after school Mandarin language class in response to BCS's successful long time approach of offering each student a choice of Spanish or Mandarin as a 2nd language class in grades K-6, not just 7 and 8, but of course
that too. I could go on, but it's interesting that the slogan guy got this so very wrong.

Slogan guy is wrong about another thing. AB1505 doesn't mean that by appealing a denial of a charter on financial impact grounds, a charter program can bypass that consideration. This would just mean a review of that contention by the local school board doing the denial. If a local district truly has a case for this type of denial, it should stand up on appeal as well.

What's interesting as well as some of what this means. California's school funding is increased for disadvantaged kids. A Charter school serving 100% disadvantaged kids will get more for a class of kids than the local school district ONLY if the kids in the traditional schools are not disadvantaged under the local control funding formula. What does this mean? It seems to me that it means the case for a district needed the extra funding to serve the non-disadvantaged goes against the entire point of LCFF funding increments for disadvantaged students. Locally we have seen this in MVWSD where the district hasn't reserved such extra funding for the disadvantaged students.

Take the case of LASD. Both it and BCS have a good fraction of disadvantaged kids under the LCFF rules. What this means is that BCS gets a bit more than the minimum funding per student. Of course MVWSD on average gets a lot more such extra funding, by way of comparison.

But even with this being true, the fact is that for LASD, the district provides to BCS about 15% of the total available public funding and BCS then educates 25% of the total students in grades K-5/K-6. In other words, the existence of BCS frees up 10% of the available public funding for LASD to use as it chooses. They'd have a very tough time proving any sort of financial hurt from BCS. It's the opposite!


LongResident
Registered user
another community
on Oct 29, 2020 at 12:49 am
LongResident, another community
Registered user
on Oct 29, 2020 at 12:49 am
4 people like this

To It takes 2. I'd beg to differ from your assessment of the likely vote for Grace Mah vs Melissa BC. It seems to me to be a CLOSE race, or why do you think anyone would dump money on the problem? Money is not going to spruce up a far lagging candidate.

Consider the Melissa Baten Caswell has been in PAUSD during times which have been a scandal for the district. She barely won reelection 4 years ago facing strong competition. She is not regarded all with love by PAUSD residents. In Los Altos there is a strong element of racism in the criticisms of BCS by some donors to the Melissa campaign. It's not just an anti-BCS sentiment, but sad to say, there's a bit of prejudice against some racial characteristics allegedly found different between the charter and some of the other schools. There are those who find this offensive and support Grace Mah as a result. Also the irrationally anti-BCS song sung by some of the supporters is well perceived by many in the district as not ringing true. They would prefer that LASD turn its attention to business at hand and excellence in education, rather than fixating on BCS....


LongResident
Registered user
another community
on Oct 29, 2020 at 12:57 am
LongResident, another community
Registered user
on Oct 29, 2020 at 12:57 am
4 people like this

Not all school districts are the same. LASD has an incredibly high average family income, even compared to PAUSD. The idea that LAH is where it's all it is just plain wrong. First of all, only about 1/7 of the district is from Los Altos Hills. From Los Altos there are certain areas which have just as high of an income average as is found anywhere in LAH.

BCS is not drawing its students from the HIGHEST income levels in LASD. It's a broad cross section. What's true is the EVERY LASD area is well off. The 7 elementary schools will raise as much as $300K per year just for the school-specific PTA programs. Beyond that the district wide Foundation raises over $3M per year. In non-Covid times, parents fund and pay for a wide array of expensive after school activities that rotate for a few weeks at a time through the year. LASD's kids have a lot spent on their education. The kids are also big customers of private tutoring programs like Kumon Learning, Mathnasium, Fusion Learning, etc. Most people see BCS as just another form of the same type of program enjoyed by all the LASD students, but better for some kids.


LongResident
Registered user
another community
on Oct 29, 2020 at 1:02 am
LongResident, another community
Registered user
on Oct 29, 2020 at 1:02 am
6 people like this

I would say that a lot depends on the vote in Sunnyvale. In Sunnyvale there are actual charter schools operating to serve low income kids. Like in Los Altos, the funding per kid in those charters, coming from the Sunnyvale Elementary School District, is noticeably lower than what the district itself spends. The charters are not the same type of program as BCS, but hopefully they are perceived as suiting the needs of the kids choosing the charter.


Pancho
Registered user
Castro City
9 hours ago
Pancho, Castro City
Registered user
9 hours ago
1 person likes this

Oh look, this week another 46 thousand dollars from charter PACs for Grace Mah. Good thing she isn’t rabidly pro-charter or this would look pretty base


LongResident
Registered user
another community
1 hour ago
LongResident, another community
Registered user
1 hour ago
2 people like this

Interesting observation. I have not seen more ads from Grace Mah recently. I'll bet they are concentrating ads on Sunnyvale where there are real operating charter schools attempting to address the massive achievement gap in the Sunnyvale Elementary School District. It's a big area, this Trustee Area I.

Note that Mountain View illegally constrained a valid charter proposal seeking to do the same type of remediation for low income students in MVWSD.

All this emphasis on BCS locally is misplaced. BCS is a wonderful school and it helps increase funding for the LASD schools. That's an unusual situation because LASD schools operate with so many extras that their programs resemble what happens at the private schools in the area. BCS has every right to develop its charter program which is helping LASD schools improve as well. But the terrible fact is that the wealthy elite campaigning for Melissa Baten Caswell are oblivious to the good done by charter schools, including right over in Sunnyvale, population 155,000 about double the population of Mountain View. Those voters have real world experience to use in making their decision. I say good for the charter school supporters donating to highlight the good done by charter schools. It would be a shame if the messaging from Melissa undermined the charter schools in Sunnyvale.


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