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 during this reporting period, 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.

After the most recent reporting period, Charter Public Schools PAC and Champions for Education PAC contributed an additional, combined $46,500 to Mah's campaign.

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, 9:39 am

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 during this reporting period, 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.

After the most recent reporting period, Charter Public Schools PAC and Champions for Education PAC contributed an additional, combined $46,500 to Mah's campaign.

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

Citizen
Registered user
College Terrace
on Oct 23, 2020 at 1:24 pm
Citizen , College Terrace
Registered user
on Oct 23, 2020 at 1:24 pm
22 people like this

Grace Mah stands for educating children, which can mean permitting low income students to escape failing traditional unionized public schools, and attend non union public charter schools, like non union public charters in East San Jose. Melissa Caswell is supported by the teacher's union, which seeks to eliminate competition from non union public charter schools, at students' expense. Wealthy Los Altos and Los Altos Hills anti Bullis charter activists are also trying to limit public charters. How about competing fairly and providing a good education for kids instead of trying to exert political power, cement a monopoly, while smashing low income kids' route to a good education?


Corey Levens
Registered user
Green Acres
on Oct 23, 2020 at 5:33 pm
Corey Levens, Green Acres
Registered user
on Oct 23, 2020 at 5:33 pm
19 people like this

This is obscene. No way I'll vote for a candidate that does that kind of fund raising for this position. The amount raised, by itself, calls into question Mah's independence and motives.


Citizen
Registered user
College Terrace
on Oct 23, 2020 at 10:26 pm
Citizen , College Terrace
Registered user
on Oct 23, 2020 at 10:26 pm
6 people like this

Yeah. Melissa Caswell and her anti charter activists started a campaign finance arms race.


Do the Maths
Registered user
Crescent Park
on Oct 23, 2020 at 10:32 pm
Do the Maths, Crescent Park
Registered user
on Oct 23, 2020 at 10:32 pm
10 people like this

Sum the campaign contributions to Santa Clara County Board of Education campaigns over the last 20 years from outside pro-charter forces versus what was raised from local Santa Clara County sources like, you know, actual residents and voters, and you’ll know exactly who has captured this board and who escalates the funding war


SRB
Registered user
Mountain View
on Oct 24, 2020 at 6:36 am
SRB, Mountain View
Registered user
on Oct 24, 2020 at 6:36 am
11 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


Citizen
Registered user
College Terrace
on Oct 24, 2020 at 11:15 am
Citizen , College Terrace
Registered user
on Oct 24, 2020 at 11:15 am
18 people like this

Yeah right. Look at past Grace Mah campaigns. She raised and spent little. The difference is the teacher's union is trying to take out anyone who is open to their competition, non union public charter schools. Wealthy anti Bullis, anti charter activists are their proxies. Low income students are the losers if the teacher's unions cements its monopoly grip on our tax dollars, to prop up failing schools, and keep students from having choice to escape failing traditional unionized public schools. It's time for choice. Kids over politics. Kids over unions. Kids over protecting school failure just to protect union jobs and perks.


LongResident
Registered user
Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 26, 2020 at 10:16 pm
LongResident, Adobe-Meadow
Registered user
on Oct 26, 2020 at 10:16 pm
5 people like this

I defend Grace Mah because my spouse works for Bullis. Is that really so unusual?


Let's Get All the Facts
Registered user
Los Altos
on Oct 27, 2020 at 4:10 pm
Let's Get All the Facts, Los Altos
Registered user
on Oct 27, 2020 at 4:10 pm
11 people like this

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 districts and the teachers’ unions.


Alternative Facts
Registered user
Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 27, 2020 at 10:22 pm
Alternative Facts, Adobe-Meadow
Registered user
on Oct 27, 2020 at 10:22 pm
5 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


Parent
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 28, 2020 at 9:48 am
Parent, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Oct 28, 2020 at 9:48 am
9 people like this

In years past, including past years when Mah ran, this was a race that involved very little funding or controversy.

Baten Caswell just turned it into a funding arms race. But this race will not be the end if Caswell wins. The drama and conflict will follow her into office if she wins, draining attention and resources.

The Mercury News has endorsed Mah because of her diligent hard work.

Vote for Mah to continue to get an effective public servant and avoid the drama and money politics Caswell has already brought to this race.


Let’s Be Serious
Registered user
Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 28, 2020 at 5:26 pm
Let’s Be Serious, Adobe-Meadow
Registered user
on Oct 28, 2020 at 5:26 pm
3 people like this

Any serious contender for any seat on the Santa Clara County Board of Education is smart enough to do the research to know that massive charter money shows up on the side of a known charter proponent. Any serious candidate challenging a known charter proponent better be able to raise big money. Caswell is outspent 2-to-1 by the charter industry, so if she wins it will be because after 13 years, Area 1 is ready for different representation, not because Caswell was so well funded


LongResident
Registered user
Adobe-Meadow
on Oct 30, 2020 at 8:57 am
LongResident, Adobe-Meadow
Registered user
on Oct 30, 2020 at 8:57 am
Like this comment

Now it’s up to $390K thanks to another $46K this week from big charter political action committees, but you can still be confident that Grace Mah is not in their pocket


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