This week’s campaign filings show another major donation to the Great Oakland Public Schools PAC – $49,995 from the California Charter Schools Association. That brings the group’s fundraising total to $184,980 — a staggering amount for local school board races. I wrote about this a couple of weeks ago, when the total was about $123,000.
The GO PAC is supporting three candidates: Jumoke Hinton Hodge in District 3, Rosie Torres in District 5, and James Harris in District 7. It’s supporting neither candidate in District 1.
GO’s director, Jonathan Klein, stressed in a recent letter he posted on an Oakland parents email list that GO is in favor of both charters and traditional public schools, that its staff and board members are Democrats, and that the group is being supported by volunteers from across the city (Policy platform here.):
Folks on this list have also asked questions about our organization’s funding and policy agenda. While these school board races are non-partisan elections and we are a non-partisan organization, everyone on our staff and board are Democrats.
With respect to charter schools. We do not advocate for charter schools over district schools. It always has been our position to work for high quality schools. In our experience, most parents do not make distinctions and neither do we. The vast majority of our organization’s energy is spent working to support OUSD and the implementation of the Thriving Students strategic plan. We do not support for-profit charter schools and are glad to live in a city where these schools do not exist.
Klein also had this to say about the PAC, itself:
We–like many Oakland organizations such as the Ella Baker Center, Sierra Club, and the Oakland Education Association–formed a political action committee to give our members a way to engage in partisan elections. We have received over 200 grassroots contributions — probably at least 95 percent of them are from Democrats. Our 501(c)(4) has received hundreds more grassroots contributions – some as small as $3 from an OUSD parent who attended our District 5 endorsement interviews. There are OUSD teachers who have been giving $50 per month to this work because they know the importance of having a strong school board.
Over the past month, an average of over 60 volunteers per week have been stepping up to support our endorsed candidates. This last week, there were over 100 volunteers engaging in our phone banks and precinct walks.
He added, “We are Oakland parents, teachers, and community members who want to see our public schools thrive.”
What do you make of this contribution? Given that one in every four Oakland public school children attends a charter school this year (including county-approved charters), do you feel it’s time for the board to embrace this option — or to do what it can to hold the line against their continued expansion?