This is becoming an increasingly familiar–and alarming –story. Charter advocates are pouring large amounts of money–more than $200,000–into local school board races, in districts where few are residents. They are targeting candidates who dare to question the expansion of charters.
In Santa Clara County, incumbent Anna Song is under attack by the charter lobby, which is throwing large sums into a campaign to defeat her.
The article in the Mercury News says:
The most aggressive campaign appears to be aimed at Anna Song, who is running for her fourth term on the county Board of Education.
The Santa Clara County Schools Political Action Committee has raised nearly $200,000 from Jan. 1 through Oct. 20, and financed auto-dial calls plus four mailers slamming Song and three supporting her challenger, trustee David Neighbors.
“It’s an outrageous amount of money to take out one school board member,” said Song, who’s running for a seat that represents areas served by the Santa Clara, Milpitas and the Berryessa school districts.
Neighbors, who has benefited from $76,000 worth of PAC mailers and auto-calls for his candidacy and against Song, said about the PAC, “I don’t know much about it.”
Created at the suggestion of the California Charter Schools Association, the PAC is run by Santa Clara County political consultants Jay Rosenthal and Jude Barry.
Through Oct. 20, Neighbors raised $23,539.
The articles goes on to note that this PAC spending dwarfs the usual spending on local school board races:
The PAC is also sending mailers to re-elect Grace Mah, who’s running for the county school board to represent areas within the Palo Alto, Mountain View, Los Altos and Sunnyvale school districts. Her opponent, Dave Cortright, is an outspoken opponent of Bullis Charter School in Los Altos.
The PAC dwarfs spending in county school board elections, where serious candidates typically have spent closer to $30,000. “What they’re doing could be very significant,” said Terry Christensen, professor emeritus at San Jose State and a specialist in state and local politics. Because so little is typically spent in a county school board race he said, “it wouldn’t take much to have an influence.”
Among the big donations to the PACs are $75,000 from the California Charter Schools Association Advocates; $50,000 from Netflix CEO Reed Hastings; $50,000 from Gap heir John J. Fisher; $40,000 from Emerson Collective, the nonprofit run by Steve Jobs’ widow Laurene Powell Jobs; and $10,000 from Rocketship charter schools board member Timothy Ranzetta.
Song had the audacity to vote against opening 20 Rocketship charters in her district, which would drain students and funding from the public schools. This is Rocketship’s answer: go along or get out of the way.
Cortright, who has raised $1,000, dared to oppose the Bullis charter school in Los Altos, which is known as the publicly funded private school for the children of the super-rich.