CLASSROOM STRUGGLE

Strategy and Analysis to Defend and Transform Public Education

Connecting the Dots: Bay Area Millionaires Buying School Board Elections Across the Country

A little while ago we wrote about how corporate money has been rolling into school board elections across the country, upturning normally low-key, local affairs and twisting them towards corporate school de-form.  Of course, the local example was how GO Public Schools funneled $185,000 towards 3 Oakland school board candidates, Rosie Torres, James Harris, and Jumoke Hinton-Hodge.  GO had received the money from 3 main sources: the California Charter School Association, Gary Rogers (seed funder of GOPS), and Arthur Rock.  Well now, Arthur Rock and some other Bay Area venture capitalist friends have been popping up in even more local elections.  Teacher blogger, Jersey Jazzman, did the dirty work to uncover the campaign finances and here is a sample of what he found:

Colorado: According to election records, Rock, Penner, Callaghan, the Goldberg-Sandbergs, and the Fourniers gave a total of $19,830 dollars to a slate of candidates consisting of State Senators Linda Newell, Mary Hodge, and Andy Kerr; Representatives Pete Lee, Millie Hamner, Brittany Pettersen, and Dave Young; and House candidate Chuck Rodosevich, who lost his bid. While each if the candidates got different amounts all donors individually gave the same amount to each candidate.

– New York: According to election records, Callaghan, Penner, and Rock gave State Senator Jeffrey D. Klein $2,000 each; Sandberg and Goldberg each gave $1,000.

– Nevada: According to election records, Alison Serafin, who was recently elected to the Nevada State Board of Education, received the following amounts:

  • Rock, Sandberg, Thiry: $5,000 each.
  • Goldberg: $3,500.
  • Callaghan, Penner: $2,000 each.
  • The Fourniers: $1,000 each ($2,000 total).

While some of this might seem like chump change when Obama raised $1 billion for his reelection, in school board elections these amounts of contributions totally warp the democratic process.  For more info from Jersey Jazzman, please click here for his post.  As he puts it these folks have been buying elections 3,000 miles from home (New Jersey in his case).

Of course, they’re also buying elections here and with huge consequences.  GO has continued its push to bring corporate de-form policies into Oakland schools, most notably, with its recent campaign to evaluate teachers by test scoresa scientifically invalid process.  To stop this red herring of a reform and point attention to where it should be (support and training for teachers based in professional learning communities and, crucially, increased resources for schools and our communities) we will have to be doubly vigilant and mobilized to offset the undemocratic nature of our current board.   Click here for more ideas on what we can do and, as always, please share your ideas too.

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