News

Santa Clara County school board trustee Grace Mah's fundraising tops $300K

Challenger Melissa Baten Caswell raises about $40K during most recent reporting period

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

Santa Clara County school board trustee Grace Mah received a staggering $243,400 in contributions, primarily from charter school organizations and representatives, during the most recent reporting period, which covers Sept. 20 through Oct. 17, according to campaign finance reports.

This brings Mah's campaign total to about $323,300 to date.

Challenger Melissa Baten Caswell, meanwhile, raised about $40,500 during this period. To date, her campaign has received about $180,300.

The race for the Area 1 seat, which represents the Palo Alto Unified, Los Altos, Mountain View Whisman and Mountain View-Los Altos Union high school districts and a portion of the Sunnyvale and Fremont Union high school districts, has become heated in recent weeks as outside money poured into Mah's campaign and local parents also worried that donations from critics of Bullis Charter School in Los Altos to Baten Caswell's campaign could put the school's future in jeopardy. Each candidate has criticized the other for spurring outsized fundraising in a local race.

Mah is seeking a fourth term on the county board. Charter school affiliates who gave to her campaign during this period include Charter Public Schools PAC ($75,000 and $105,000); Champions for Education PAC ($20,000); Santa Clara Charter Advocates for Great Public Schools ($5,000); Cheye Calvo, chief growth and community engagement office for Rocketship Public Schools, which operates charter schools in Santa Clara County ($1,000); Bullis founding superintendent Wanny Hersey ($500); Larry Kuechler, who sits on the board of directors of ACE Charter Schools ($2,000); Eric Gonzales, the board president of ACE Charter Schools ($1,000); and Tania Wilcox, who helped found the first charter school in Silicon Valley and is a former board president of ACE Charter Schools ($500).

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Charter Public Schools PAC also made a nonmonetary contribution of about $8,000 for polling services, according to Mah's campaign finance report.

Other donors to Mah's campaign during this period include David Crane ($2,500), president of Govern For California, "a network of more than 800 political donors in support of state lawmakers who serve the general interest;" retiree John Dawson ($2,500); former Palo Alto school board member Camille Townsend, who served with Baten Caswell for many years ($200); and a Sacramento-based Services Employees International Union ($800).

Mah also loaned her own campaign $6,000 during this period. She spent about $215,600 during this period, mostly on advertising and mailers, with about $60,500 remaining in her campaign coffers.

Baten Caswell, a current Palo Alto school board member, received contributions during this period from former Los Altos School District trustee Duane Roberts ($1,000), Bullis parent Tim Fitzgibbon ($2,500), State Assemblymember Evan Low, D-Cupertino ($250), Palo Alto school board candidate Jesse Ladomirak ($200), Palo Alto City Council candidate Carolyn Templeton ($150) and labor union the Amalgamated Transit Union, Local 265 ($265).

The East Side Teachers Association Political Action Committee made two nonmonetary contributions for campaign literature and mailings totaling about $30,400, according to Baten Caswell's campaign finance report. Steve Brown, a member of a group called "Unintended Consequences" that was critical of Bullis, gave a nonmonetary contribution of $965 for print advertisements.

Baten Caswell spent close to $55,000 during this period, including on advertising and an outside campaign strategy consultant, with about $3,500 remaining.

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Santa Clara County school board trustee Grace Mah's fundraising tops $300K

Challenger Melissa Baten Caswell raises about $40K during most recent reporting period

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Fri, Oct 23, 2020, 1:06 pm

Santa Clara County school board trustee Grace Mah received a staggering $243,400 in contributions, primarily from charter school organizations and representatives, during the most recent reporting period, which covers Sept. 20 through Oct. 17, according to campaign finance reports.

This brings Mah's campaign total to about $323,300 to date.

Challenger Melissa Baten Caswell, meanwhile, raised about $40,500 during this period. To date, her campaign has received about $180,300.

The race for the Area 1 seat, which represents the Palo Alto Unified, Los Altos, Mountain View Whisman and Mountain View-Los Altos Union high school districts and a portion of the Sunnyvale and Fremont Union high school districts, has become heated in recent weeks as outside money poured into Mah's campaign and local parents also worried that donations from critics of Bullis Charter School in Los Altos to Baten Caswell's campaign could put the school's future in jeopardy. Each candidate has criticized the other for spurring outsized fundraising in a local race.

Mah is seeking a fourth term on the county board. Charter school affiliates who gave to her campaign during this period include Charter Public Schools PAC ($75,000 and $105,000); Champions for Education PAC ($20,000); Santa Clara Charter Advocates for Great Public Schools ($5,000); Cheye Calvo, chief growth and community engagement office for Rocketship Public Schools, which operates charter schools in Santa Clara County ($1,000); Bullis founding superintendent Wanny Hersey ($500); Larry Kuechler, who sits on the board of directors of ACE Charter Schools ($2,000); Eric Gonzales, the board president of ACE Charter Schools ($1,000); and Tania Wilcox, who helped found the first charter school in Silicon Valley and is a former board president of ACE Charter Schools ($500).

Charter Public Schools PAC also made a nonmonetary contribution of about $8,000 for polling services, according to Mah's campaign finance report.

Other donors to Mah's campaign during this period include David Crane ($2,500), president of Govern For California, "a network of more than 800 political donors in support of state lawmakers who serve the general interest;" retiree John Dawson ($2,500); former Palo Alto school board member Camille Townsend, who served with Baten Caswell for many years ($200); and a Sacramento-based Services Employees International Union ($800).

Mah also loaned her own campaign $6,000 during this period. She spent about $215,600 during this period, mostly on advertising and mailers, with about $60,500 remaining in her campaign coffers.

Baten Caswell, a current Palo Alto school board member, received contributions during this period from former Los Altos School District trustee Duane Roberts ($1,000), Bullis parent Tim Fitzgibbon ($2,500), State Assemblymember Evan Low, D-Cupertino ($250), Palo Alto school board candidate Jesse Ladomirak ($200), Palo Alto City Council candidate Carolyn Templeton ($150) and labor union the Amalgamated Transit Union, Local 265 ($265).

The East Side Teachers Association Political Action Committee made two nonmonetary contributions for campaign literature and mailings totaling about $30,400, according to Baten Caswell's campaign finance report. Steve Brown, a member of a group called "Unintended Consequences" that was critical of Bullis, gave a nonmonetary contribution of $965 for print advertisements.

Baten Caswell spent close to $55,000 during this period, including on advertising and an outside campaign strategy consultant, with about $3,500 remaining.

Comments

Common sense
Registered user
Old Mountain View
on Oct 23, 2020 at 3:04 pm
Common sense, Old Mountain View
Registered user
on Oct 23, 2020 at 3:04 pm

Good! Mah needs the help, to counter her targeting by teachers' unions and "Los Altos anti-charter people" whose rhetoric against Bullis I have witnessed on this site for years. (I have no connection to any of these schools and no children to be affected by them -- though have been asked to vote on this position -- so I am able to read with detachment.)

Mah is clearly an able and widely-supported candidate; Baten Caswell is far more controversial, as illustrated (just for example) by the comments to the Voice's recent endorsement: Web Link


Common sense
Registered user
Old Mountain View
on Oct 23, 2020 at 3:12 pm
Common sense, Old Mountain View
Registered user
on Oct 23, 2020 at 3:12 pm

The controversy I mentioned includes Baten-Caswell's past rejection for an endorsement by this newspaper's sister publication in Palo Alto:
Web Link


SRB
Registered user
St. Francis Acres
on Oct 24, 2020 at 10:11 am
SRB, St. Francis Acres
Registered user
on Oct 24, 2020 at 10:11 am

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


Common sense
Registered user
Old Mountain View
on Oct 24, 2020 at 12:24 pm
Common sense, Old Mountain View
Registered user
on Oct 24, 2020 at 12:24 pm

If it's deja-vu you want, the recent and relevant reference point isn't from 2012 but 2020.

Baten-Caswell's campaign started the whole funding race, with "$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." Web Link

'Mah said she hasn't had discussions with the charter school organizations 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.' Web Link

Former school-board member Steven Nelson nailed all this in his comment to the first Voice article I linked above:

"This is Clearly a Big Money Battle - both sides, of Public Charter Schools vs. regular public school districts & unions. That's ALL!

I prefer a well managed Public Choice system, and Grace Mah has helped vastly tighten up Public Charter oversight during her terms on the County Board."


Victor Bishop
Registered user
Another Mountain View Neighborhood
on Oct 25, 2020 at 7:50 pm
Victor Bishop, Another Mountain View Neighborhood
Registered user
on Oct 25, 2020 at 7:50 pm

I did not realize that school board trustee is such a desirable position.


Steven Goldstein
Registered user
Old Mountain View
on Oct 25, 2020 at 8:02 pm
Steven Goldstein, Old Mountain View
Registered user
on Oct 25, 2020 at 8:02 pm

Victor,

Any government position with the ability to manage multimillion dollar expenditures becomes a very important position. This agency is involved with the disbursement of State and Federal funds isn't it?

The education system in the County is one large one.

Let alone it is possibly ranks higher in community service than the Fire fighters in the County. All families that either send students to public or charter schools are impacted be decisions made here.

I am though very concerned about the "Big Money" impacting on decisions here, just like any other governmental administration.


Charter industry revs up $ and PR
Registered user
another community
on Oct 26, 2020 at 2:54 pm
Charter industry revs up $ and PR, another community
Registered user
on Oct 26, 2020 at 2:54 pm

What does the Santa Clara County Board of Education (SCCBOE) member actually DO? The SCCBOE member is elected by voters in a particular trustee area to serve students throughout the county. The SCCBOE member primarily serves public school students through our local public school districts. For our trustee area, 27 OUT OF 30 DISTRICT SCHOOL BOARD MEMBERS HAVE ENDORSED MELISSA BATEN CASWELL. They want Melissa Baten Caswell to help them face the challenges and costs of coronavirus. These school board members are familiar with Grace Mah’s performance over her 13-year tenure and they reject it. The choice is clear: vote Melissa Baten Caswell!


LongResident
Registered user
another community
on Oct 26, 2020 at 3:59 pm
LongResident, another community
Registered user
on Oct 26, 2020 at 3:59 pm

People backing Melissa Baten Caswell should consider her campaign supporters. $10K donations were given by several Los Altos residents with obsessively antagonistic attitudes toward Bullis Charter school. They spread lies about the charter in that case. Not only that, but one of the donors operates a website which has racist allegations about Bullis Charter, which include false interpretations of state charter law. The web site basically has a couple of 'research' pieces which claim Bullis has an obligation to place a cap on how many Asians it admits. It says that the program allegedly wrongly appeals to Asian families. That's clearly a racist position in more than one way. But the site also goes on to discuss the alleged superior performance in school by Asians and also by kids it identifies as mixed race. The gist is that having school choice is wrong because it doesn't guarantee that there won't be too many Asians in your school.

I hope I am not alone in finding this more than offensive. Check it out for yourself. The web site is easy to find and it has been widely circulated to the LASD community as the so called "Unintended Consequences" website. The attitude is that it is "intended" that there be racial quotas in school admissions.

The web site is filled with similarly bad logic in other areas as well. It totally ignores the fact that Bullis Charter has only grown to serve 25% of the district because there were charges that the school was elitist. Now that it has 25% of the district enrollment in elementary school and a lot more interested but who don't fit means something. It's not a racial thing, that's for sure. And Melissa has accept support from such a person. And Melissa is a white woman running against an Asian. Think about it.


LongResident
Registered user
another community
on Oct 26, 2020 at 4:08 pm
LongResident, another community
Registered user
on Oct 26, 2020 at 4:08 pm

Also, Bullis does enroll a representative cross section of the LASD-wide makeup, in terms of race and economic level. Nit picking about a need to match % for % exactly is a tactic to fight against school choice. The state laws are that the school can't discriminate and it must strive to reach everyone. Matching +- 10% shows a good result, for sure, no discrimination. There's no such thing as having a program which appeals to one race, and to say that is itself racist. Unintended Consequences is filled with that type of charge.

SCCBOE serves 20,000+ charter school students in our county, by the way.


ICYMI
Registered user
Bailey Park
on Oct 26, 2020 at 10:11 pm
ICYMI, Bailey Park
Registered user
on Oct 26, 2020 at 10:11 pm

LongResident’s spouse works for Bullis. Just sayin’


Steven Goldstein
Registered user
Old Mountain View
on Oct 27, 2020 at 12:00 am
Steven Goldstein, Old Mountain View
Registered user
on Oct 27, 2020 at 12:00 am

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.


Common sense
Registered user
Old Mountain View
on Oct 27, 2020 at 1:22 pm
Common sense, Old Mountain View
Registered user
on Oct 27, 2020 at 1:22 pm

Unintended irony inheres in comments placed here under a screen name "Charter industry revs up $ and PR," "a resident of another community."

First, because the original "rev up of $" in this contest was anti-charter, supporting Baten Caswell, "from labor unions and teachers unions (both of which are perceived as anti-charter) and the Bullis critics" according to MV Voice Web Link

Second, I've been registered here for years, commenting on various news items, living in an identified neighborhood. Yet the screen name "Charter industry revs up $ and PR" only appeared on this website a week ago, for posting rhetoric about this Grace Mah campaign. If it's not, itself, part of a professional PR effort then it's a good imitation; there's no way readers can rule out that prospect. Especially as (a) this has apparently happened before, in Town Square comments pages where teachers' unions felt threatened; and (b) such organizations already were credited by the Voice (link above) with starting this unusual funding war.

As previously stated, I have no "horse" or agenda in this contest and am only a detached observer and voter. One thing I observed in years of reading Voice articles: when controversies arose about Bullis Charter School, the most extreme, underhanded, and organized-looking comments here on Town Square usually came from people bitterly opposed to Bullis or to charter schools generally. You can see that for yourself with a little archive research. Thus the comments from "LongResident" re "$10K donations by several Los Altos residents with obsessively antagonistic attitudes toward Bullis Charter school...lies about the charter...one donor operates a website which has racist allegations... which include false interpretations of state charter law..." ring truer than they would without the past history of related behaviors in Voice comments pages for BCS-related articles.


LongResident
Registered user
another community
on Oct 27, 2020 at 2:50 pm
LongResident, another community
Registered user
on Oct 27, 2020 at 2:50 pm

The tactics used by the anti-Bullis minority in LASD to deceived the public are shameful. The LASD administration helps facilitate this by misleading as to the significant cost savings that have accrued to the district as Bullis has expanded. They support this narrative that having 25% of students served by the independent charter school harms the district financially, where the opposite is true! But as I noted above it doesn't stop there. They also misinterpret Charter law and send unwarranted letters charging the county board with not doing things properly. The staff there has responded with the truth, but they persist in claiming that they are right and the county lawyers are wrong. One of the Melissa big contributors has this Unintended Consequences web site which is filled with lies and distortions. It's not only racist in some of its major arguments, but it has innuendo and unsupported charges presented as being factual.


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