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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

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, D-Fremont, 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, 3:26 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, D-Fremont, 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

Citizen
Registered user
College Terrace
on Oct 17, 2020 at 6:10 pm
Citizen , College Terrace
Registered user
on Oct 17, 2020 at 6:10 pm
60 people like this

It's not at all surprising that the teachers' unions, which back Melissa Caswell, and which have contributed $30,000 so far to her campaign, along with wealthy Los Altos and Los Altos Hills anti Bullis charter activists, and labor union allies, have started a campaign finance arms race in this race. The teachers' unions, along with these well heeled anti Bullis charter activists, and their labor allies, are clearly trying to stamp out not only Bullis Charter, but all non union public charter schools in Santa Clara County and in California, as they compete with traditional unionized public schools, and compete for public school tax dollars with the unions. Public charter schools provide options for low income students to escape failing traditional unionized public schools, like those in the city of San Jose. Thank goodness Grace Mah supports giving these low income students options --- when warranted. These students need the best education they can get. And traditional unionized public schools need to raise their game and compete fairly, by giving students a solid education, rather than trying to smash childrens' futures via their political power.


Why?
Registered user
Gunn High School
on Oct 17, 2020 at 8:01 pm
Why?, Gunn High School
Registered user
on Oct 17, 2020 at 8:01 pm
29 people like this

Grace Mah is deceptive and unethical, and at worst possibly violating the law, in featuring Congressman Ro Khanna on a campaign flyer in a way that strongly implies his endorsement, when in fact, he has endorsed Melissa Baten-Caswell. Too much money is being spent on this race.


Jerilynne
Registered user
Charleston Gardens
on Oct 17, 2020 at 11:08 pm
Jerilynne, Charleston Gardens
Registered user
on Oct 17, 2020 at 11:08 pm
29 people like this

Grace Mah is so richly funded by the charter industry rather than local constituents. Why would they spend so much unless they were getting a healthy return on their money? Mah was never into “all students” in Palo Alto, she crusaded for a very specific subgroup


Parent
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 18, 2020 at 1:33 am
Parent, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Oct 18, 2020 at 1:33 am
45 people like this

Caswell was such a disaster and only squeaked in the last time on the school board because there were so many open seats and so few people running for them. I think she barely got more votes than the combination of a guy who withdrew from the race early and a perennial candidate who admitted he wasn't serious, despite Caswell having been an incumbent.

I hope being are not being led around by the nose on the charter issue. If districts had been more supportive of public school distance charters, they could have easily transitioned to online instruction with the pandemic and back again without all the drama. That said, this position really has very little influence on the issue in our state.

I went to Caswell directly over some serious issues with the district and found her response insensitive, glib, dismissive, a snob in how she assesses people's worth. She had a chance to do something for a kid whose dyslexia wasn't caught until after 12th grade because she didn't. And that's the least of it.

I'm voting for Mah, who this paper has endorsed in the past.


Know better
Registered user
College Terrace
on Oct 18, 2020 at 7:56 am
Know better, College Terrace
Registered user
on Oct 18, 2020 at 7:56 am
19 people like this

Once we know better we must do better. After this week we know Mah is in deep hock with charter forces and she campaigns dishonestly. We can do better. I had already voted for Mah, because three terms in one role is plenty, let her move on and up, or out.


Citizen
Registered user
College Terrace
on Oct 18, 2020 at 10:59 am
Citizen , College Terrace
Registered user
on Oct 18, 2020 at 10:59 am
38 people like this

Actually what we know is Melissa is in deep hock with the teacher's union, Los Altos anti Bullis charter activists, and labor unions giving quid pro quo contributions. We also know that teacher's unions are on a big push to rid themselves of their competition, public charter schools, for our tax dollars. They want to keep their monopoly, fund more union dues, and use that to purchase political power, by running candidates in races like these. Support Mah to support allowing low income kids to escape failing traditional unionized public schools, like those in San Jose, in Santa Clara County. The teacher's union just wants to keep teacher's collecting their paychecks whether or not students get educated, without accountability. Support competition. Support low income kids getting an education. Support Grace Mah.


Palo Alto Res
Registered user
Downtown North
on Oct 18, 2020 at 11:21 am
Palo Alto Res, Downtown North
Registered user
on Oct 18, 2020 at 11:21 am
48 people like this

I haven't seen any significant great work come out of Melissa Baten Caswell while she was on Palo Alto School District Board. Why is this article quoting a Los Alto resident instead of PAUSD parents who know the work (or the lack of real work) of Melissa Baten Caswell.

PAUSD parents are more familiar with PAUSD Board and you'll be hard pressed to find the majority of PAUSD parents supporting Melissa Baten Caswell.


Palo Alto Res
Registered user
Downtown North
on Oct 18, 2020 at 11:37 am
Palo Alto Res, Downtown North
Registered user
on Oct 18, 2020 at 11:37 am
25 people like this

When you see such deeply biased articles written like these supporting one candidate while simultaneously doing their best efforts hurting another, you almost have to follow the trail. Who is ultimately controlling the strings and holding the real power?

I have yet to see nary a bad article about Todd Collins written by the Palo Alto Online. Surly Todd Collins is not perfect and surely he has made some huge mistakes while as Board Trustee.

Regular readers already know which candidates Palo Alto Online deeply supports with ardent fervor. This article goes in that category once again. Be less biased and more objective and you'll get more paying subscribers.


chris
Registered user
University South
on Oct 18, 2020 at 11:39 am
chris, University South
Registered user
on Oct 18, 2020 at 11:39 am
5 people like this

[Post removed.]


Union, buster
Registered user
Community Center
on Oct 18, 2020 at 12:39 pm
Union, buster, Community Center
Registered user
on Oct 18, 2020 at 12:39 pm
13 people like this

If only we could finally break the backs of the greedy teachers unions, we could pay teachers what they’re really worth. Oh wait...


Anonymous
Registered user
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 18, 2020 at 10:42 pm
Anonymous, Duveneck/St. Francis
Registered user
on Oct 18, 2020 at 10:42 pm
17 people like this

Melissa Baten-Caswell helps a broader array of students than Grace Mah, by far.
No to narrow interests!!
This is public education!!
Please vote for Melissa.


Gunn Papa
Registered user
Greater Miranda
on Oct 18, 2020 at 11:18 pm
Gunn Papa, Greater Miranda
Registered user
on Oct 18, 2020 at 11:18 pm
24 people like this

This Baten Caswell v. Mah race is like Biden v. Trump. Neither candidate represent anywhere near the best of who is out there to represent us. In fact, based on the last 13 years, they should both be out of office.

Baten Caswell is directly responsible for some of the worst leadership that PAUSD has ever known. But she does have money and connections so that somehow qualifies her to represent our children’s interests. I wish she would go away or really just really compete for a state position, which she would lose. And she gets a bunch of money from various teacher unions, which are not evil organizations, but they really don’t exist for kids.

Mah strong-armed Mandarin Immersion in PAUSD and then onto the board (again, money and connections), but hasn’t done anything for the majority of kids in 13 years (so similar to Baten Caswell). And she gets a bunch of money from charter schools, which are also not evil organizations, but they really don’t exist for all kids, mostly for white and Asian kids. Some Latino and African American kids do benefit, but many charters do a very good job cleverly designing their admission policies in ways that limit minorities and special education kids.

But for some reason, the Palo Alto Weekly has decided to endorse Baten Caswell despite her clear failings in PAUSD. One of the sharp posters also noted that the PAW (mainly Bill Johnson, right?) also endorsed Todd Collins despite major blunders, multiple lawsuits, and no accomplishments except he is adept at cutting the mike on Zoom when people are trying to speak.

So vote if you have not already, but toss out PAW recommendations. They seem to be off this year, and that might have something to do with financial pressures that affect all print organizations. Maybe they cannot take the risk of offending their subscribers. I invite Bill Johnson to respond to help us understand, rather than deleting comments that call into question his biases. We all have them, Bill, they are nothing to be ashamed of, but it would be community-oriented to el us yours.

@Gunn Papa,
If you're asking if we determine our endorsement decisions based on who has purchased the most advertising, the answer is pretty obviously no. If you truly believe this, then you'd be questioning the editorial endorsements published by every news organization. Very little advertising is done prior to when we make our endorsement decisions anyway. And your other apparent assertion (which is an entirely different theory) is that we endorse to avoid offending our subscribers. If we didn't want to offend anyone we wouldn't make endorsements. Finally, endorsements are inherently biased. They are our best judgments (opinions) on who will best serve the community. Of course they are biased, which is why we explain our reasons. If you don't like our reasons, then don't vote for the candidates we've recommended. Everyone is welcome to do what they want with our opinions.

Bill Johnson




Union, buster
Registered user
Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 19, 2020 at 9:14 am
Union, buster, Adobe-Meadow
Registered user
on Oct 19, 2020 at 9:14 am
10 people like this

Teachers unions exist for teachers who exist for kids. It’s that simple.


Citizen
Registered user
College Terrace
on Oct 19, 2020 at 10:47 am
Citizen , College Terrace
Registered user
on Oct 19, 2020 at 10:47 am
26 people like this

Teacher's unions exist to serve their members' interests. Kids aren't members of the teacher's union.

The teacher's unions are trying to 'hire' their boss, by pushing and funding Melissa Caswell, who will then help them limit and stamp out their non union competition, public charter schools, limiting options for low income students to escape failing, traditional, unionized public schools, like those in San Jose. That's what all this is about. Vote Mah.


Two Bad Choices
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 19, 2020 at 11:59 am
Two Bad Choices, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Oct 19, 2020 at 11:59 am
11 people like this

I'm voting NO on Grace Mah based on her years of serving special interest groups instead of all students, her threatening the PA school district in order to open a personally self-serving Mandarin Immersion Program many years back (which again serves a small number of students including her own), and her accepting massive funding from clear special interest parties. Totally unethical and manipulative.

With that said, if I could also vote NO on Melissa, who has voted to keep PA secondary schools closed unnecessarily since September and represents the unconscionable Teachers Unions (with their absurd unfounded histrionics while the rest of us are back to work and students are contemplating/succeeding in committing suicide), I would also do so. No good choices. I despise the power of the Teachers Unions and am only voting for Melissa because she represents the lesser of two evils at the moment. Please, someone else who is qualifed and wants to get the public secondary schools open run for this office so it's not just private school/charter students going to school with waivers!


YES for Melissa Baten Caswell
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 19, 2020 at 12:29 pm
YES for Melissa Baten Caswell, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Oct 19, 2020 at 12:29 pm
19 people like this

I had decided to vote for Caswell before I saw this article. My decision was based on Mah's thin record and Caswell's broader platform for public schools. Mah has done little of substance during her time in this office except to promote charters--which I view as parasites on the public school system. They suck public funds out of the system and receive inadequate public oversight. Studies show that, with only a few exceptions, they generally don't deliver the promised better education.

It's definitely time for change. I thank all of the local papers for shining a light on this latest episode of Mah's less-than-transparent dealings with the public. She is getting a flood of money from charters because she has been giving them her undivided attention for years, ignoring the needs of the public schools that charters feed on. That should not be the purpose of this board. Further, this latest political ad is simply dishonest and reveals a lot about her character.

I am voting for Melissa because she is interested in lifting up all of our children and strengthening all of our public schools. Mah serves her funders, facilitating the siphoning of public funds for the benefit of a select few who are accepted into charter schools. Mah had her chance. She failed to deliver and lost my vote. Melissa Baten Caswell is the better choice.




Parent
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 19, 2020 at 1:31 pm
Parent, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Oct 19, 2020 at 1:31 pm
17 people like this

The fact that Caswell is the one who turned this seat into a funding arms race should be reason enough to NOT vote for her. It's consistent with her time on the school board, though, she seems very much to be doing this first for her own reasons, including that she seems to prioritize the power and influence and who she gets to rub elbows with, and she has shown very little inclination towards seeing her role as actual public service.

@Gunn Papa,
I totally disagree with your characterization of Mah v. Caswell being Trump v. Biden. We don't have ranked choice voting in this country, it's winner take all. For that reason, we end up with a two-party situation, because anyone with similar views has to form a coalition or they split their power/shoot themselves in the foot. That's not the fault of the candidates, it's the fault of the electorate who don't show up at the polls to fix that and get ranked choice voting and ending of the ridiculous electoral college. No candidate is every going to be perfect, they are human beings, and no candidate is every going to be anyone's personal perfect candidate for hundreds of millions of people. This does not make them bad candidates.

I think it's a totally false equivalency to compare Trump and Biden that way, because Trump has served himself and has damaged our country in ways that many of his own national security picks are warning over. The criticisms about Biden are mostly based on falsehoods and false beliefs, such as that we would get soviet-styled "socialism" when Biden was the one who worked hard to get us out of the last economic crisis caused by the last inept Republican administration, and evidence that Democratic administrations are better for economically for the country is so overwhelming. Whereas Trump is so corrupt and inept it's hard to even know where to begin. There is absolutely no comparison to this NONPARTISAN position. In this case, Mah is the more competent candidate, doing the work more from a public service standpoint rather than what connections she can get out of it personally as Caswell seems to. Like you, I wish Caswell would go away and do something like real public service for a charity or nonprofit that gives her the power and connections she wants but does some actual good or at least where her ineptitude and self-interest would be less harmful.

I didn't like the way Mandarin Immersion happened, but if you understand the way our district administration works, they try to make it look like they're working with parents in order to wear them down. The MI people did that in good faith for 5 years. I don't know if you've ever worked on organizing anything like that as a parent, but the district's approach is breathtakingly disrespectful of people's time and efforts. The district never said, NO, we're never going to do this or we don't want to but this is how we'll work out differences, they told the group for 5 years to jump through one hoop after the other, hoping to wear them out. Mah had the courage to be a lightning rod for everyone else to move it forward. I used to be a critic of what happened, too, but after getting to know our district administrative culture more, completely changed my mind.

If a parent had a magic treatment that would cure all illness and learning disabilities for all students for free, and it was supported by an avalanche of scientific evidence, the district would still fight it and malign it if it came from a parent group, and be perennially unable and unwilling to evaluate the facts/support for it. That's how they are. The fact that Mah was willing to just take all the criticism in order to cut to the heart of things and get something practical done speaks well for her.

Public charter schools like Ocean Grove (San Lorenzo Valley Unified -- public distance charter)
serves way more low-income and diverse student population than PAUSD, despite having considerably less in funding per student. I personally know more than one family from PAUSD who went with Ocean Grove because of how badly their children with learning disabilities were treated by PAUSD.

Institutional knowledge from such educational resources that more easily incorporate flexibility, innovation, and individualization to meet the special needs of different students could have made it possible for PAUSD to transfer seamlessly to distance learning when the pandemic hit and to transition back. Programs like that make it possible to retain great teachers who get burned out on the traditional model and need more flexibility in their own schedules. Just having that program in another school district that students here could enroll in has saved PAUSD from innumerable large lawsuits, because people had the choice to put their energy into meeting their children's needs when our district illegally denied their children special needs evaluations and services, retaliated, or worse.

The antagonistic attitude of teachers towards public charters stems mostly from knowing little about them or coming from the same perspective that causes these children the pain, rigidity, and educational failure that causes the children to need such programs in the first palce. The debate about charters in this state seems almost to have no factual connection to what's going on, and it's pretty obvious that Caswell will only make that worse. She's very unlikely to work to understand the situation or listen to people she doesn't deem worthy, which makes her an even poorer choice for an educational office that serves diverse needs.

Mah is the best choice for this office. People should not vote for Caswell just because of how she turned the position into a money arms race.







What Will They Do Next
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Oct 19, 2020 at 2:25 pm
What Will They Do Next, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Oct 19, 2020 at 2:25 pm
15 people like this

The public school system in California is a failure. Look at our national standing. What was once near the top for decades, is now at 38th or worse depending on what study you look at. It's time to really support school choice, including charters and the voucher system. It's been shown time and again that private and parochial schools out perform public schools on nearly every level. The common denominator ..... no teacher unions.


Teacher Unions want money for their pensions
Registered user
Crescent Park
on Oct 19, 2020 at 2:32 pm
Teacher Unions want money for their pensions, Crescent Park
Registered user
on Oct 19, 2020 at 2:32 pm
18 people like this

All these taxes teacher unions push for are to fund their ever growing pensions- most of the money will never reach our students. I'm fed up with horrible teachers that don't get fired because they have tenure. I'm fed up with teachers fearing students will give them covid if they go back to the classroom (look at the facts! teachers are getting covid from their outside activities- weddings, funerals, parties or from fellow teachers in the lounges and common areas not face masked students). I think it's time to break up the unions if needed they can be recreated where people can really see what they represent.


What Will They Do Next
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Oct 19, 2020 at 2:58 pm
What Will They Do Next, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Oct 19, 2020 at 2:58 pm
4 people like this

@ Parent ... you cannot prove one word of what you said about Trump. And as far as Biden is concerned, clearly you are a biased supporter. I could offer considerable material that would weaken your argument about "falsehoods" surrounding Biden, but my post would be removed.

That being said, I agree with you on Mah and teachers rejecting parent input. I would add teacher unions to the "rejecting parent input" statement.


cmarg
Registered user
Palo Alto High School
on Oct 19, 2020 at 3:51 pm
cmarg, Palo Alto High School
Registered user
on Oct 19, 2020 at 3:51 pm
12 people like this

No on Mah. I am for Charter schools that serve those less fortunate. Bullis is a free private school for the wealthy in Los Altos and Los Altos Hills. They will take the token number of those less fortunate but please do not be fooled, Bullis is for the wealthy and their practices are not scrutinized. They do a financial ask of their parents and that is still less expensive than these parents sending their children to a private school. PLEASE DO NOT vote for Mah. Let's see about getting Charter schools in places where they are needed and what they had been created for in the past.


What Will They Do Next
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Oct 19, 2020 at 5:11 pm
What Will They Do Next, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Oct 19, 2020 at 5:11 pm
1 person likes this

@ cmarg ... please explain to me how Bullis is a free private school for the wealthy in Los Altos.


Sad Pareto
Registered user
another community
on Oct 19, 2020 at 7:37 pm
Sad Pareto, another community
Registered user
on Oct 19, 2020 at 7:37 pm
5 people like this

Oh Grace, your campaign sadly instantiates the Pareto Principle: 80% of your campaign funding comes from sources outside the community you purport to serve. And those sources are all deep pocketed charter school interests. Why do you think that might be? Inquiring minds want to know.


parent
Registered user
Barron Park
on Oct 19, 2020 at 9:18 pm
parent, Barron Park
Registered user
on Oct 19, 2020 at 9:18 pm
1 person likes this

Mah only represents her own community. But since they are becoming the majority, then I guess she should win.


Parent
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 19, 2020 at 11:36 pm
Parent, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Oct 19, 2020 at 11:36 pm
4 people like this

@What Will they do,
An elementary student could prove everything I said about Trump. It is you who are objectively, grossly biased. What you mean is that I can't prove it to his true believers no matter how many sober facts are at their disposal.

But for the sake of others, it's always good to read the letter from General Mattis who served in this administration
Web Link
and numerous of the most senior GOP national security advisors "lay[ing] out a 10-point indictment, accusing Mr. Trump of undermining the rule of law, aligning himself with dictators and engaging “in corrupt behavior that renders him unfit to serve.”"
And that is just the atom on the tip of the 20,000-lies-in-the-last-3.5-years iceberg.
My voting habits are none of your business, but I always vote holistically for democracy, freedom, competence, and the best functioning of our society. It is why I am supporting Biden for President and Mah for county board of education.

@sad
If you read this whole article, you would see that this position traditionally had very little campaign funding necessary at all, and it was Caswell who started the funding campaign race. That alone should be reason to not vote for her.




Sad Parent
Registered user
Esther Clark Park
on Oct 20, 2020 at 12:09 am
Sad Parent, Esther Clark Park
Registered user
on Oct 20, 2020 at 12:09 am
2 people like this

@Parent you clearly have not tracked the outlays from CCSA to defend their seats on our county board of education in the past. Take a look at the other contested seats in the past, the charter industry shows up with big big dollars. Look at what they’re spending on the other 2020 contests


SRB
Registered user
Mountain View
on Oct 20, 2020 at 8:16 am
SRB, Mountain View
Registered user
on Oct 20, 2020 at 8:16 am
1 person likes this

To answer the article's headline, Yes, it's certainly the intent. That's also not new, Charter Schools lobbies have poured money in Santa Clara County Board of Education races for the past decade or so. It certainly has paid off for their industry.

Reading the comments it's quite the spin to see the out of town Charter School lobby Goliath painted as a David in the District 1 contest.


Parent
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 20, 2020 at 4:36 pm
Parent, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Oct 20, 2020 at 4:36 pm
9 people like this

@SRB
In contrast to your assertion, the above article points out that for the past decade this race has been very small money, absolutely no pouring in of this kind of campaign cash. Caswell is the one who turned it into a big money race, again, because she's hardly in this out of selfless public interest.


Citizen
Registered user
College Terrace
10 hours ago
Citizen , College Terrace
Registered user
10 hours ago
2 people like this

Funny how the teacher's union attempts to propagandize. Charter schools are public schools. Most are non union. The teacher's union opposes them because it wants to retain its monopoly hold on our public tax dollars. Do they deserve that? No, nobody does, but their claim is even worse given the extremely poor public school academic performance of students in california in unionized public schools. And now, the teacher's union wants to eliminate non union public charters outperforming failing unionized schools in San Jose. So much for the kids. All about the union. And money for the union.


Citizen Insane
Registered user
Adobe-Meadow
2 hours ago
Citizen Insane, Adobe-Meadow
Registered user
2 hours ago
Like this comment

“Citizen” really is nuts. Student achievement negatively correlated with unionized teaching staff? Show us the data! Charter schools are public schools only to the extent they take public tax funding. Otherwise, they proudly and loudly trumpet their separation and independence from the public education ‘establishment’ — meaning they really just want public money without public accountability


Citizen Insane
Registered user
Adobe-Meadow
2 hours ago
Citizen Insane, Adobe-Meadow
Registered user
2 hours ago
Like this comment

“Citizen” really is nuts. Student achievement negatively correlated with unionized teaching staff? Show us the data! Charter schools are public schools only to the extent they take public tax funding. Otherwise, they proudly and loudly trumpet their separation and independence from the public education ‘establishment’ — meaning they just want public money without public accountability


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