Wednesday, December 19, 2012

District Response to BCS anti-SLAPP motion

In the continuing saga of the 2012-13 complaint, BCS has filed an anti-SLAPP motion against LASD.  I have mentioned the SLAPP suit in letters to parents, but it worth highlighting here what the suit is and what they seek to do.

A SLAPP suit is a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation.  This is generally when someone uses litigation as a tool to force someone to stop raising difficult issues.  The California Legislature has created an "anti-SLAPP statute"- basically, a law making it illegal to bring SLAPP suits, and giving people who are targeted by such suits a way to get the SLAPP suit thrown out.

A casual reader could be forgiven for thinking I was describing BCS as the aggressor.  In fact, that is how the law is intended to be used.  However, in this case, BCS has actually alleged that LASD is the aggressor, and that our counter-complaint is really just an attempt by the District to hurt them.  Nothing could be further from the truth. 

LASD has brought this counter-suit because many community members have raised issues with us, and we feel obliged to place those concerns before the court.  We do not do this lightly, but we feel that the issues are serious, and merit the review of the court.  We are asking the court for clarification of our obligations under Prop 39 if the allegations raised by members of the public are, in fact, true.

You can read about the BCS anti-SLAPP suit here, in an earlier blog post. (includes all documentation).

Today, the District filed our response to this frivolous suit.  In our response, we've highlighted a couple of key issues.  First, the anti-SLAPP statue specifically permits entities such as LASD to bring these kinds of issues forward on behalf of the public.  Second, there are considerable legal cases on record already that deal with this, that BCS has neglected to address.  We have asked the court to award fees and costs, as we believe the BCS anti-SLAPP suit to be completely without merit.

Again, we look forward to hearing from the court on this matter.

LASD Opposition to Special Motion to Strike

Decl. of Ray Cardozo
Decl. of Doug Smith
Decl. of Adam Forest (part 1 of 3)
Decl. of Adam Forest (part 2 of 3)
Decl. of Adam Forest (part 3 of 3)

Joint Stip. to Extended Pages
POS of Opposition to anti-SLAPP

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

What is Declaratory Relief?

I'm not a lawyer, although my father was for many years.  This column is not to be construed as legal advice.  However, I have "passing" familiarity with legal terms.  One term that cropped up recently, and is new to me, is Declaratory Relief or a Declaratory Judgement.

Basically, someone can seek a Declaratory Judgement if they need clarification of a legal issue that is likely to end up in court.  According to, courts tend only to hear Declaratory requests when there is an important constitutional issue.  (See their definition here)

In our Cross-Complaint against BCS, the District is seeking Declaratory Relief.  We are asking the courts to tell us in advance what our responsibilities are under Prop 39 if the allegations against BCS are true.  We aren't asking them to order BCS to do anything specific- just asking for clarification of what we need to do under Prop 39.  I've heard accusations that we're trying to shut down BCS, but that simply isn't true.  We just want to understand our obligations.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Where your BCS contribution went

I've been working with our attorneys on a response to the latest BCS legal efforts in the Attorney Fees claim.  I'll share more about that document later.  However, I have a simple thought I think everyone should be concerned about. 

In their effort to collect attorney fees for the 2009-10 school year, there's a key question of how the litigation was funded.  In recent court filings, BCS legal advisor (and former head of the BCS foundation) David Spector affirms under oath that there is no "special litigation fund", that the funds for the litigation came directly from the general operational funds for the school. 

BCS further asserts that the 2009-10 litigation cost them $1.3M.  In the 2009-10 school year, BCS had 324 students.  If I recall correctly, the requested contribution in that year was about $3000.  If every family gave at the "ask", that means they brought in $972,000.  What that really says is that they spent every dime that was donated, and then part of the general budget, on litigation. 

I've spoken to what I'll call BCS moderates- parents who just want a good education for their child, and don't consider themselves part of the "charter movement".  They tell me that they've been assured that their contributions don't fund the litigation, because if it did, they wouldn't give.  I understand that sentiment, but the budget is relatively fungible.  If they have $4m in general funds, and parents contribute $975,000, what would happen if they weren't pursing a hugely expensive litigation campagin?  That money would be spent in the classroom, where it belongs.  Instead it is going to fuel the legal machine. 

When pressed about the fundraising tactics of BCS, Ken Moore has told the SCCBOE that BCS has a special litigation fund, and that the litigation costs are not coming out of the donations.  There's an obvious contradiction with the sworn statement of David Spector, but we will have to leave it to the discovery and evidence process to figure out whether Ken's statement or David's statement is correct.

I will post links to the various statements from Ken Moore and from David Spector shortly.  Meanwhile, I'm pondering that $972,000.  Even if you didn't mean to fund the litigation, you really did...

Update on 18 Dec 2012: I came across a message from the Foundation dated January 27, 2010.  The message states that the enrollment for 2009-10 was 350 (I presume that includes non-Districti students) and says the ask was $4000.  Their total target for the year is $1.4M, incl. a $100,000 match from the Moore Foundation.  The totals are slightly different but my point remains the same...

Monday, December 10, 2012

District Discovery Requests & Data Privacy

Note:  This is a fairly long post, but it addresses the nuances of our legal position on the discovery requests as part of the BCS litigation.  I'll come back and add hyperlinks to the various documents, but I wanted to get this out today.

Dear Parents and Community Members

Just last week, I sent a letter to BCS parents in an effort to clarify what I felt were inaccurate remarks in a letter from BCS Board Chairman Ken Moore. This Friday, Mr. Moore sent another letter that continues to misrepresent the current situation in the BCS litigation against LASD. While I don’t wish to engage in a long-running letter war with BCS, I am also very aware of the damage that can be done if factual inaccuracies are left unanswered. Therefore, I’m writing again to help shed some light on the LASD view of the situation.

BCS has launched several parallel tracks of litigation against LASD. Each of these tracks requires a separate response from the District. Mr. Moore’s letter blends these tracks together, either intentionally or otherwise.  It is my belief that by doing so, BCS is creating unnecessary fear within it's parent community.

I want to be very clear: This letter represents my layman’s view of the litigation. If you would like to understand the totality of our legal position, it is important to read our complete legal filings. Nothing in this letter should be construed as limiting the District’s legal position in any way.

Attorney Fees/ Donation Records
In the 2009-10 case, BCS has demanded that LASD pay their $1.3m legal bill. This is based on a legal theory that BCS launched this lawsuit “for the greater public good”, rather than simply to obtain benefit for themselves. In order to respond to this suit, one important question to answer is, “who funded the lawsuit?” LASD is therefore seeking information about the donations that paid the BCS legal bills.

The District has requested information about the 25 largest donations received in each of the prior 6 years at BCS. We’re asking for the amount of the donations, and the nature of the donor- (parent, non-parent, corporation, non-profit, etc.) We are not requesting specific names of donors.

BCS has refused to provide this information and Judge Lucas has sanctioned them $51,000 for failing to produce the records. BCS has filed an appeal of Judge Lucas’ order, and their attorney has openly mocked the order in recent press articles. LASD will continue to pursue this data, as we feel it is vital to our ability to assess the nature of the BCS claims that would siphon valuable funds away from public education in our community.

Facilities Requests and Student Data
As custodians of public assets, LASD has a legal obligation to ensure our facilities are used in a manner consistent with the law. In our own schools, that means the District ensures that each child an LASD school is supposed to be there. It gives me no pleasure to say that occasionally we discover a child in an LASD school who does not live within our boundaries and we are forced to ask that child to leave. From a human standpoint, it is heartbreaking- a family seeks a better education for their child so they use a local address and enroll that child in an LASD school. However, the reality is that we can’t afford to educate every child in the State. Our resources are finite, and we have to restrict our services to those students who live within our community.

Under Prop 39, LASD is legally required to provide facilities to BCS for their “in district students”. In order to understand how many in-district students they have, we need to review the student records. This is hardly unusual. LASD currently enrolls 4500 students, and we have records for students stretching back nearly 5 decades. Student data is nothing new to LASD. We are simply making sure that the students that BCS represents as “in district”, in fact, are in district students.

BCS has turned this issue into something much larger than it needs to be. The District has requested that we enter into a protective order, which is a formal mechanism from the courts that would limit access to the BCS student data only to those people who need to review it. We would treat the data with great care, and frankly it would be more compartmentalized than even LASD student information. Instead of simply providing the data and allowing the District to confirm that the students are in-district, the BCS legal team has turned this into yet another fight that consumes taxpayer funds.

Student Discrimination and the BCS anti-SLAPP Suit
Over the past several years, an increasing number of parents have approached LASD with disturbing allegations about BCS behavior. They have raised concerns with us about the BCS application process, the pressure to make a $5000 “donation” each year, the chilling effect that request has in the application process, and the way that BCS does or does not meet the needs of students who might require extra help in reaching their educational goals. LASD does not have direct oversight of BCS, but we are a public agency, and we have an obligation to ensure these concerns are raised.

As a result of these allegations made by members of the public, the District filed a cross-complaint with the Superior Court to bring these issues to light. We are asking the court to review this information and determine whether BCS is a public school or if they fall into a different category (such as a private or semi-private school). If the courts find that these allegations raised by the community are true, we’ve asked the court to clarify LASD’s only interaction with BCS- our facilities obligations. We have not asked the court for any other relief. For example, we have not asked the court to deprive BCS of the funds we transfer to them (though it would be in the court’s power to do so.) We haven’t asked the court to order BCS to change their enrollment process, or how they recruit. We’ve only asked for clarity on how this might impact the facilities we need to provide.

In order to examine these questions, the court will necessarily need to review BCS student data. For example, it is impossible to see whether BCS is discriminating against children with special needs without examining whether they enroll and service children with those types of needs. This is all part of the cross-complaint LASD filed against BCS on behalf of the public.

To protect citizens who speak out on issues of public significance or who petition the court to have a grievance heard, the California Legislature passed the anti-SLAPP law. Since the District has asked the Court to clarify the law on an issue of public significance, the District is engaged in the exact type of conduct that this law seeks to protect. I will leave it to our lawyers to present the anti-SLAPP response, and will post it on my blog when the response is filed on December 19. For the moment I will just say that BCS has completely misstated the anti-SLAPP law. I will not be surprised if the BCS motion results in the Court imposing a monetary penalty (known as “sanctions”) again—just like the Court did the last time we were in Court.

I am deeply disappointed to have to continue to write letters like this one. Frankly, I don’t want to end up in some tit-for-tat letter writing campaign with BCS. (For starters, I don’t have a PR firm to write my letters, and it diverts my time away from the more important business of our School District). However, I am also painfully aware that for too long BCS has been willing to spread misinformation to their parents and to the wider community. When this happens, it distorts the public’s understanding of the issues, and that just isn’t right. I will continue to speak out when I feel it necessary to ensure that our entire community has the facts.

I look forward to speaking with you all soon about some of the more positive things going on in our District. We held new-family information nights this week, and the excitement in the room I attended was palpable. Parents and the broader educational community are realizing that LASD has an incredibly successful way of helping each child to reach their fullest potential, and I am incredibly proud to serve our community in this way. I invite each of you to stay engaged, to remain informed about the litigation, but also to focus on the much greater educational success we are enjoying with your support.

As always, you may reach out to me with thoughtful comments at .

Best wishes,

Doug Smith

Vice President, LASD Board of Trustees

Monday, December 3, 2012

Update on 2012-13 lawsuit

BCS has filed two actions with the court today, both related to the 2012-13 facilities offer.

#1)  BCS filed an anti-SLAPP suit.  These actions are generally intended to allow someone to halt frivolous litigation that doesn't have merits on it's own.  However, in this case, the process is being misapplied as a way for BCS to attempt to eliminate the District's cross-complaint in the facilities issue.  I won't go into the legal reasoning, but we are very confident that the Distr'ct amended cross-complaint will be permitted to stand, and that the anti-SLAPP suit will be defeated.  However, it does serve to drag out the process.

#2)  BCS filed actions trying to eliminate the District's cross-complaint on other grounds.  if you're a legal eagle, you can probably make good sense out of this.  I read it as yet another attemtp to ignore what's really going on.  I haven't had a lot of time with it yet, but wanted to get it all out there so people can review it.

Attached are all of the relevant documents.

Amended Cross-Complaint
LASD Amended Cross Complaint

Anti-SLAPP Motion
BCS Special Notice (Anti-SLAPP Motion)
Memo of Points and Authorities  (case arguement)
Eyring Decl. (anti-SLAPP)
Proof of Service

Actions of 2012-13 Ruling
BCS Notice Demurrer
Memo, of Points and Authorities (Demurrer)
Request for Judicial Notice
Exhibit A
Exhibit B
Exhibit C
Exhibit D
Exhibit E
Exhibit F
Exhibit G
Proposed Order

Study Session Update

I just returned from the Board meeting this evening.  We held a study session to consider 5 different options for addressing the BCS facilities issue.  I have to say, the meeting went very well.  We had ~140 people in attendance.  The audience chose which of the 5 topics was of interest to them, and joined a facilitated discussion to consider that option in more depth.  After a ~90 minute session, the results from each group were shared briefly with the Board.  We'll receive a more detailed write-up, and these points should help guide our discussion later this month as we move towards a facilities plan.

My thanks to Project Sentinel, for supplying the many facilitators and scribes that were needed to run 5 concurrent sessions.  The dialogue was very helpful.  Special thanks to all the audience members who took time out of their busy schedules to come share their thoughts with us.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Important Board Meeting on Monday, Dec 3

On Monday, December 3, the Board will hold a study session in the Covington mutli-purpose room to discuss possible options for the BCS facilities offer for this year. As described by our Board President, Mark Goines, those options are:

1.) Split BCS between the Egan and Blach campuses

2.) Split BCS among three LASD campuses

3.) Place BCS on the Covington campus and relocate Covington students to other campuses

4.) Place BCS on the Santa Rita campus and relocate Santa Rita students to the current BCS campus at Egan

5.) Place BCS on a site outside of the District within Santa Clara County

We will ask members of the community to provide input on these options by participating in working groups during the meeting. Each group will be asked to assume that their option has been chosen by the Board, and to come up with a list of steps we should take to make that option work as best as it possibly can.

This is intended to be a constructive process, and we encourage open dialogue. Hopefully BCS parents will attend as well. WE ask that all participants be cooperative and respectful of other opinions.

Collecting this input will help the Board assess options for the Feb 1 preliminary offer deadline.

I look forward to seeing many of you at the meeting.

LASD Objections to BCS Enrollment Projections

2013-14 Facilities Process

As a quick reminder, along with the drama in the courtroom, we are still moving down the normal path proscribed by Prop 39 for the 2013-14 school year.  On Nov 1, BCS delivered their request for facilities, which included their enrollment projection.  The next step in the process was Friday, when we delivered our counter-projections.  Historically, BCS has over-projected their enrollment, and the District has generally accepted their numbers.  Last year, LASD counter-projected, and decided to use our counter-projection when we provided facilities.  BCS raised this as one of their three key issues in their recent suit.  The Judge ruled that the District does have discretion to use our own projections.  BCS has announced that they will be appealing that decision.

Nov 1
BCS submits request for facilities, incl. enrollment forecast and preferred location.
Dec 1
LASD provides counter-projection to enrollment
Jan 1
BCS responds to counter-projection

Feb 1
LASD provides preliminary facilities offer (draft)

Mar 1
BCS responds to draft offer

April 1
LASD provides final facilities offer

July 1
LASD adjusts classroom space based on final district budget for upcoming school year
(Note:  This is a negotiated step, not part of the Prop 39 process)

Friday, November 30, 2012

Open Letter to BCS Parents

Note:  I have sent this letter to BCS Board Chair Ken Moore and asked him to share it with his parent community.  It has also been sent to LASD parents.  I copy it here for those community members who may also be interested. 

Unfortunately,the hyperlinks to various documents were not converted into the PDF document that went out, but perhaps folks will find those links here.

 30 November 2012

Dear BCS Parents:

Yesterday you received a letter from Ken Moore, laying out his views relating to the BCS-LASD litigation and inviting BCS parents to contact LASD Board President Mark Goines. Given Mr. Moore’s invitation for improved dialogue, I thought I would reach out to you to further explain the litigation developments, including certain points that Mr. Moore did not accurately recount.

The District is not asking to close down BCS.
Mr. Moore alleges that LASD is trying to shut down BCS. This is flat-out wrong. LASD’s relationship with BCS is very simple- we provide facilities as required under Prop 39. We have no say in BCS operations or other practices. Responsibility for BCS operations and oversight lies with the SCCBOE, not with LASD.

LASD has filed a cross-complaint in the current round of litigation. In that complaint, we do call out certain issues that concern us about BCS recruiting practices, pupil management, fund raising, and other aspects of the operation that seem to be inconsistent with the concept of a public school and equality among public schools within a district. We did so after a number of parents, some of whom had applied to and/or enrolled children at BCS, came forward with troubling allegations and assertions that we believed merited raising with the Court. We have been very specific in what we requested of the Court in our cross-complaint. We do not ask for the Court to "shut down" BCS, or even ask them to order a specific change in BCS behavior. Rather, we have asked the Court to clarify LASD's legal obligations- nothing more. I understand that folks may doubt me on this, but I’d invite you to read the actual filings with the court.

On the issues BCS deemed most important to their 2012-13 complaint, they've lost all three complaints.
Mr. Moore’s recent letter fails to acknowledge that LASD allocated BCS more than 11 acres this year- far more than they had in 2009-10. BCS is apparently choosing to run their program on a subset of that space, but that's a decision made by the administration and the BCS Board. Mr. Moore also complains about LASD "withholding" facilities, but of course does not acknowledge that the District exercised reasonable discretion to provide comparable space to BCS. (I wrote about this back in August, and my explanation lined up pretty much exactly with what the court eventually ruled.) It's not that LASD is acting illegally- it's just not what the BCS Board wanted to happen.

LASD acted in good faith throughout the mediation process. The parties have differing views of the outcome of the mediation. Before we even entered mediation, LASD said that any deal reached had to reflect community input and have the support of the community so that we could pass a bond. That required community input. Upon drafting a framework for discussion, LASD held a series of meetings, both large and small, to collect community input. One of the biggest surprises in that input was that the LASD parent community was willing to work very hard to pass a bond to build a new school for BCS- as long as it also meant that they might be able to keep their own school. Frankly, this is different from what I expected going into the mediation, and it was a change to the content of a possible agreement, but we explained it to the BCS Board and invited them to work with us to resolve it. The BCS Board wanted “site certainty”, meaning that a possible new campus location was not something they were willing to consider. That was not supported by the broader parent community, meaning we would not be able to pass a bond. BCS wasn’t willing to consider the community input, so the mediated framework fell apart.

The BCS Board has said often that they are “willing to go back to the mediated agreement”, and accused LASD of reneging on that agreement. It is meaningless, though, to offer to go back to something that both parties hadn’t yet agreed to. When retelling the story these days, the District’s requirement to solicit and incorporate public input is being ignored. One vocal group of people seem to think the LASD Board should force through an agreement that doesn’t reflect the community’s wishes. The current LASD Board has openly acknowledged that prior Boards failed when they ignored the wishes of the community (in closing Bullis Purissima). To have some of those same people ask us today to once again ignore the wishes of the community is frustrating. The logical conclusion of that action would be that parents at Almond, Covington, Gardner, or Santa Rita would then be the ones forming the next charter school and suing the district again. They would complain that we’ve put the interests of BCS ahead of the interests of their students- something the law specifically prohibits us from doing.

In his thoughtful op-Ed piece recently published in the town Crier, BCS Board Member John Phelps noted that “[u]sing a global perspective to teach about the interconnectedness of communities and their environments, the Bullis Charter School program nurtures mutual respect, civic responsibility, and a lifelong love of learning.” It is simply inconsistent with that stated mission for BCS to fail to consider the community’s views.

The recent court rulings should be a wake-up call to the BCS Board.
Over the past 2 1/2 months, BCS has lost a series of court appearances- the Aug 30 motion, all three parts of the Oct 30 complaint, the fight over discovery (including sanctions for behavior the court deemed unreasonable), and a slew of procedural efforts designed to do little more than increase the cost of litigation for LASD. In response, the BCS attorney has insulted the judge, threatened to defy the order to pay sanctions, and the BCS Board has plans to appeal all three of the rulings they don't like. For all of the millions –literally, millions-of dollars spent on legal fees, the courts have ruled that the District’s behavior has been correct on nearly all counts. As a result of the District’s one loss at the Court of Appeal, the District changed our methodology of calculation and is in compliance with the court requirements. But Mr. Moore's suggestion that the Court of Appeal will be the salvation is unfounded, and it ignores the different facts now on the table. The ongoing litigation war waged by the BCS Board has forced LASD to be extremely careful and thorough in analyzing and applying the law. At this point, the courts have repeatedly held that we are meeting our obligations. The facts of these new cases are different, and chasing every loss to the Appellate Court is a waste of taxpayer resources and is divisive to the community.

Suing the District for exercising what the courts recognize as an exercise of our reasonable discretion as elected representatives is not a winning strategy. It will never bring healing to our community, and it won't achieve what BCS wants. BCS parents need to reach out to their Board and ask them to work cooperatively with LASD. The District needs to balance the needs of ALL students, including the 4500 that attend LASD schools. If the BCS Board can approach the discussion with that idea in mind, with an appreciation for the need to educate all public school students in our community, we'll all be much happier with the results.

I don’t expect that this letter will suddenly make each of you into LASD supporters. However, Mr. Moore’s letter invited parents to become informed about the facts and to dialog with the District Board about them. Clearly we have different views of the facts. How we choose to resolve those differences- in court rooms, or by working cooperatively in our community—will impact the quality of life in our community for decades to come. The LASD Board has many upcoming meetings to discuss these issues, and I encourage you to come and participate, particularly if you can do so with a mind toward working together to solve these problems. I would also urge each of you to contact Mr. Moore and the rest of the BCS Board and ask them to cease the needless litigation, and work with the LASD Board of Trustees to find solutions that our entire community can support.

My email address is, and I welcome all constructive comments and suggestions for a path forward.


Doug Smith
Vice President, LASD Board of Trustees

Monday, November 26, 2012

Court Rules for LASD in 2012-13 Case

Today LASD received a favorable ruling from the Superior Court on the writ BCS sought related to their 2012-13 facilities.  The courts upheld District actions on all three counts, which is fantastic news.  BCS sought three actions from the Court, and all three were denied:
  1. BCS sought to compel LASD to accept their enrollment forecast for 7-8 grade students.  The courts ruled that LASD is not precluded from using our reasonable judgement when we consider student enrollment projections.
  2. BCS sought to displace Egan students so that BCS students could use the City Gym.  The courts ruled that LASD had rightly weighed the impact on Egan students, and provided different multi-purpose space for BCS.  (See my blog post from August 2012 explaining this issue).  The Court also said we could not be compelled to provide gym space for their K-6 students when LASD K-6 kids don't have access to a gym. 
  3. BCS asked the Court to order LASD to produce an inventory of all furniture and equipment at every school.  The Courts rightly recognized that LASD has tried to work with BCS to ensure that they had reasonably equivalent equipment and furniture, but that BCS was trying to take this issue straight to court instead of working with LASD locally.

We often hear from certain BCS supporters that LASD is abusing the court system to try to deny them adequate facilities, yet the judicial record tells another story.  Last week the courts sanctioned BCS for their refusal to produce documents in their attorneys' fee suit.  Earlier this year, the courts ruled against BCS when they tried to end-run the District's authority to allocate facilities.   Today's rulings confirm that LASD is taking the proper steps and following the law in how we allocate space amongst the 10 school programs running in our community.  In fact, LASD has prevailed in 7 of the last 8 court cases, dating back to 2004.

I have said all along that I look forward to receiving clarity from the courts to confirm that the steps we are taking are permissible.  Today I am grateful for that clarity once again.  It is unfortunate that we have to keep doing this over and over.  I look forward to working with the community to solve this issue once and for all.

Here is the complete ruling from Judge Lucas:
Order Denying Petition for Writ of Mandate

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

BCS Appeals Sanctions

2009-10 Attorney's Fees

Wow- a new land speed record.  With the ink barely dry on the discovery order, BCS has already filed an appeal.  Specifically, BCS is appealing the sanctions that Judge Lucas awarded to LASD to cover the costs we had to incur while forcing BCS to comply with the discovery process.  The BCS attorney telegraphed that he expected to appeal this during the Oct 30 hearing, so I can't say I'm surprised-- but I will say that I remain disappointed. 

The sanctions were awarded because the Judge ruled that BCS had no reasonable basis to fight our discovery request.  Indeed, during the "meet and confer" process, LASD had significantly narrowed the scope of what we were requesting, in an effort to make our request as innocuous as possible while still providing us with the information we needed for our defense.  Apparently BCS feels that allowing LASD to defend itself in court is unreasonable, so they've asked the Appellate Court to weigh in.  As I have grown accustomed to saying, I look forward to the judicial review of this matter.

Here is the BCS Notice of Appeal of Sanctions

Monday, November 19, 2012

Judge compells compliance: Sanctions against BCS

2009-10 Attorney's Fees Request

We just received the order from Judge Lucas, compelling BCS compliance with the discovery process and hitting BCS with sanctions in the amount of $51,085.60.

When BCS brought a motion against LASD to demand that we pay their legal fees for the 2009-10 lawsuit, LASD rightly challenged that claim.  The legal process provides that we are entitled to discovery of evidence that might support our defense.  We filed that discovery this past summer, but BCS has been stonewalling and refusing to provide a response.  On Oct 30, 2012, we argued in front of Judge Lucas to compel that discovery.  Today, Judge Lucas ordered BCS to comply with the discovery.  In the grand scheme of legal rulings, compelling someone to comply with discovery is akin to making them look both ways before they cross the street-- everyone knows you're supposed to do it, so it shouldn't surprise if you fight that and lose the argument.  What was interesting was that Judge Lucas also imposed sanctions against BCS.  By law, the sanctions aren't punitive- it's just meant to make sure we don't have to spend money to get what we are legally entitled to get (the evidence we need for our defense).  I'm told by many lawyers, though, that judges rarely hand out sanctions. 

In her ruling, Judge Lucas says, "Petitioner’s argument that the existence of some evidence to support its factual position should preclude discovery is so contrary to the basic purpose of discovery that it is not reasonably asserted. Accordingly, Respondents’ request for monetary sanctions is granted."  One would think that would inspire cooperation, but we'll have to wait and see.

To be fair, folks need to keep in mind the scope of our victory.  We haven't yet defeated the BCS effort to claim $1.3M in legal fees.  We've just forced them to  provide the evidence we need to defend ourselves in the suit.  Still, I'm pleased to see that the Judge has spoken out against their bad behavior.

Here's the full text of the order:
BCS v. LASD Order Granting Motion to Compel

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Congratulations to Oak School

Around here, we know Los Altos Schools are pretty special.  It was that much sweeter, then, to attend a celebration at Oak School yesterday.  Principal Amy Romem hosted two sessions to share with the students and parents her trip to Washington, DC to accept the President's Blue Ribbon School Award.

The Blue Ribbon program recognizes excellence in education.  There are over 133,000 public schools in America.  Only 219 public schools received this award, recognizing their academic achievement, the culuture of the school and exemplary work by the staff.  The team at Oak - the teachers, staff, parents, students, and principal- should be congratulated for their outstanding work.  Well done, Oak!

Friday, November 16, 2012

What do you want to know?

It appears that someone may have hired a private investigator to dig into my life.  Aside from how ridiculous this is, let me just state it simply:  There's nothing to find.  I'm an elected official.  I have to disclose a slew of information (my salary, my wife's salary, every gift I receive from non-family members, every sporting event I attend where someone else bought the tickets, what stocks and real estate I might own, etc.)  I understand this, and it was part of the deal when I ran for public office.  I just don't like the sliminess of someone doing this behind the scenes.

So I'll put it out there:  If you want to know something about me, ask.  Don't lurk in the shadows- have the courage to ask me the question directly.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

BCS Appeals (Again)

2012-13 Facilities case

I am saddened to report that BCS has filed another appeal.  If this starts to sound convoluted and ridiculous, one could be forgiven for thinking that's part of their legal strategy.

In July 2012, BCS brought a motion before the Superior Court, asking them to use the ruling from the 2009-10 case to find that the 2012-13 offer was improper.  This was a highly irregular move, and the District vigorously contested it at a hearing on August 30, 2012 in front of Judge Lucas.** 

Apparently seeing the writing on the wall after the Aug 30 hearing, BCS did what they should have done at the outset- they filed a new suit, and they did so before Judge Lucas even finalized her ruling form teh Aug 30 hearing.  We had the first hearing for the new lawsuit on Oct 30, and we are currently awaiting a final ruling form the judge on the three issues BCS raised.  The Judge's tentative rulings, though were all favorable to the District. 

Given what seems the likely outcome of the new litigation, apparently BCS has now decided to keep the litigation alive on the other path (which was improper to begin with.)  The Judge issued a ruling in Sept 2012 that said she could not rule on the 12-13 offer under the 09-10 judgement because the facts are all different.  BCS is now appealing that ruling.  It seems crazy to be litigating this on two paths at the same time.  However, it also fits a pattern from BCS to continue to use litigation to try to get the District to simply "cave" and close a high performing neighborhood school. 

I remain disappointed in this behavior.  Litigation is wasteful to begin with.  For BCS to now try to create two paths of litigation in parallel (while apparently not succeeding on either path) is a horrendous waste of taxpayer resources. 

We actually received their Notice of Appeal on November 9th- it has taken me a few days to get this posted.

As is my custom, here is the legal filing:
BCS Notice of Appeal  of Aug 30 Hearing

**Those who attended the hearing might recall the Judge pointing this out to the BCS attorney.  She asked "What am I to make of the additional students [that BCS enrolled in 7th and 8th grade]."  The BCS attorney responded "well, pretend they don't exist for a moment."

Sunday, November 4, 2012

BCS Hearing Follow-Up (Atty Fees)

By now, many of you have seen Mark Goines' summary from the BCS hearing in front of Judge Lucas on Oct 30.  That hearing was to address several issues:

1)  the discovery motion filed by LASD in response to BCS's lawsuit demanding attorney fees in the 2009-10 case
2)  BCS complaints in the 2012-13 facilities allocation
3)  LASD cross-motion on the 2012-13 complaint, asking for clarity on BCS' status as a public school

Judge Lucas was very thorough, and we anxiously await her rulings in these matters.

I want to share one exchange from the hearing that I found quite amazing.  Judge Lucas first wanted to address the discovery motion from the attorney fee case.  LASD had first filed a fairly broad discovery request.  BCS objected and so Judge Lucas held a "meet and confer" call, where LASD significantly reduced the scope of what we were asking BCS to produce.  The most significant change was that we dropped our request for any personal information related to BCS donors.  We restricted the scope to say "give us the amount of each of the top 25 donations, and the status of each of the corresponding donors.  Is the donor a BCS parent?  Community member?  Corporation?  Non-profit entity?"  By removing any personal information, we sought to remove BCS' largest objection (that we were invading someone's privacy) and therefore make it easier for BCS to comply.  All of this happened prior to the hearing on Oct 30th.

During the hearing, there was some back-and-forth about the exact language in the District's proposed court order granting the discovery.  Prior to the hearing, we received a declaration from BCS that caused us to want to go back a couple more years and collect the same information over a slightly broader time period.  I am not certain whether this was discussed this during the "meet and confer" process, and BCS argued that it was a "new" request.

The exchange from here skipped "strange" and went straight to "are you serious?"  Judge Lucas said that the additional request would be permissible under the circumstances.  BCS objected to the additional scope, and the judge again said it would be permissible.  BCS stuck to their guns and said LASD would have to file an additional discovery request.  The judge asked them if they were really going to require that LASD file additional paperwork, esp in light of the fact that she's already telling them that the request is permissible.  BCS dug their heels in and said they weren't willing to allow these two requests to be dealt with in a single order, but that instead we should all be dragged through the process again-- even though the judge has already acknowledged that the District's request is permissible.

Their attorney has indicated that they are going to fight this discovery every step of the way.  Judge Lucas' last action on this was to instruct the LASD attorney to redraft the Discovery order to comply with the outcome of the "meet and confer" process (excluding the additional discovery request).  Assuming Judge Lucas signs that order, I would not be surprised to see BCS file an appeal.  After incorrectly accusing LASD of "dragging out the process" in August, it seems that BCS is now the one who is undeniably using delay tactics.  The District remains committed to pursuing this information.  It is BCS who put it at issue- we just want to get to the truth.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

And more sunshine (Buying a school, part II)

If you haven't done so yet, please read my prior post, Buying a School, which details how outside money from charter school supporters has flooded the SCCBOE election to run an attack campaign against Anna Song.

I finally got the FPPC 460 from the Santa Clara County Schools PAC.  As is my custom, I've attached the entire document.   Here's what you want to know:

There were a couple of really big checks written (including several from the Charter Schools Association, as reported in the well written article on the Patch).  I am not surprised, but am disappointed none the less, to see the names of local residents among the donors:
  • Janet Medlin (BCS Board Member)
  • Mark Andrade
  • Susan Goldman
  • Mark Jensen
  • Dorothy Price
  • RJ Daley Construction Company
    (401 First St, Los Altos)
  • Donna Young

I am particularly troubled to see BCS Board Member Janet Medlin as a contributor.  Admittedly it's not a huge donation, but it troubles me for a couple of reasons:

1)  I'd like to think that we try to conduct ourselves with integrity here in Los Altos.  Funding attack ads doesn't seem to be what we'd want from our public servants.  (overlooking the obvious fact that the BCS board isn't elected).

2)  I find it questionable, at best, for a member of a governing board to be financially involved in the election of the agency that governs them.  Yes, we all still have rights of free speech, and I'm certainly an advocate of that.  However, having BCS board members trying to influence the outcome of an election in another district, and to directly attack a member of SCCBOE-- it just doesn't sit well with me. 

Is it legal?  As far as I know, it is.  Is it ethical?  Not in my book.

I won't be making a personal donation to Anna's campaign because I don't think it is appropriate for me to do so while I am a sitting School Board member with business in front of the SCCBOE.  However, as parents and members of our community, you are free to support candidates as you see fit.  I believe that Anna has been a strong supporter of public schools, and she has committed herself to running a clean campaign.  The article below has an address and link if you would like to support her campaign.

Once again, this isn't a political ad for Anna Song.  It is my observations with respect to the electoral process.  However, to the extent that I've endorsed Anna, I don't want any confusion, so I am including her FPPC information in an abundance of caution.

Friends of Anna Song for County Board of Education, 2012
1000 Kiely Bl. #46,
Santa Clara, CA 95051
FPPC# 1241672

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Buying a school?

For context, it is important to read this well written article by Rachel Stern on The Patch.  In it, she details how an outside PAC has been formed to fund a smear campaign against SCCBOE Trustee Anna Song.

Quite a number of people have reached out to me over the past several weeks, and I've been pulling together the information I felt I needed to post an article about the situation.  The biggest missing link for me was the source of the funding for the PAC that has run this campaign.  One person I spoke with made no less than 5 trips to the SCC Registrar of Voters office, seeking the forms that detail the PAC's funding.  It isn't clear yet whether they've finally filed those documents or if the Patch uncovered the funding through other sources, but none the less, there are a couple of key issues:

1)  We can't let it become political suicide to stand up to bullies.
Anna Song had the courage to speak up when she felt that a charter school wasn't fulfilling the objectives that charter schools are supposed to share- meeting the needs of under-served students. 

2)  The influence of "outside money" is very troubling. 
The information I've gathered is that this PAC is spending 3-5x above what is normal for a county school board race.  One source has pointed out that not a single funder to the Anti-Anna PAC has any connection to the area she serves.  This is starting to feel like a pattern with the charter school movement- the same people who deride traditional schools for the money we spend on teachers are now throwing huge sums at PAC's in an attempt to buy elected seats.  The reality is that in most communities, you'd be hard pressed to find a lot of folks who even know who their Country Trustee actually is.  (Think I'm wrong?  Pop quiz:  Who's on the El Camino Hospital Board?  The Water District Board?  The Air Quality Board?)  This particular attack may be effective for just that reason- because people don't know who their representative is, they're more likely to be influenced by attack ads that distort the facts.  That's what I mean when I say it's possible to "buy an elected position"- if you can outspend your opponent because a special interest group is funding the campaign, is that really what democratic representation is supposed to be about?

I don't have the solutions to all of these problems.  I do think it's important that we let the charter school folks know that people who attend traditional schools are not doormats.  We care about education too, but have made a choice to address it in a different way. 

Fortunately the article in the Patch delivers the facts in a clear way that everyone should be able to appreciate.  The next step would be to help out Anna.  If you are interested in contributing to her campaign, you can do so by sending her a check at her campaign offices:

Friends of Anna Song for County Board of Education, 2012
1000 Kiely Bl. #46,
Santa Clara, CA 95051
FPPC# 1241672

If you prefer electronic donation, here's the link

The thoughts I have expressed here are my own.   However, in an abundance of caution, I'm also including Anna's FPPC information in case someone decides to interpret this posting as a political advertisement, which it is not. 

I wish Anna well in her race.  I believe she has served the community well, and hope that she continues to be able to do so.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Formal Endorsements: Taglio, Luther for LASD Board

It occurs to me that I haven't written much of a formal endorsement for either Steve Taglio or Pablo Luther.  I hope that you will join me in supporting them for the LASD Board for Trustees.

Steve Taglio
Steve has served the district well in a number of capacities.  Prior to joining the Board, he was a PTA president for two years, as well as volunteering in a number of other capacities in our schools.  He brings with him a broad perspective on our program, and understands what it takes to build community support for our schools.  In his year on the LASD Board, he has shown himself to a strongly independent thinker (occasionally to my chagrin, but that's politics!)  He is not as strident a voice as I tend to be, which is good for the Board and for the community.  Having a mix of voices improves the tenor of the discussion and generally produces a better outcome.

Steve gets a lot of feedback form the community, and he represents those voices well in our debates, both in open session as well as in our closed sessions.  I believe that Steve's wide base of support will be a huge asset as we move through some challenging discussions over the coming years.

Pablo Luther
Pablo has served the district well over the past 7 years, working on the Citizens Advisory Council for Finance (CACF).  Through this work, as well as having had his children attend several LASD schools, he has developed a strong understanding of the complex environment in which LASD operates.  With the economy finally showing signs of improvement, it is an opportunity for us to rebuild the finances of the school district.  Pablo is strongly positioned to guide that discussion so that we build a sustainable financial model for the future.  As a long-time LASD parent, he also understands the unique nature of our school community- how much we rely on parent volunteers, how we work with our staff, and how our program is structured.  This knowledge is critical to anyone's success on the Board. 

Like Steve, Pablo is alto thoughtful in his deliberations, and he seems to be open to exploring many alternatives to issues that we face.  This will also serve us well- fresh blood on the board means we re-examine positions, and ensure that we are constantly making good choices in support of our students.

I am pleased to cast my ballot for Steve Taglio and Pablo Luther for LASD Board of Trustees.

On a related final note, I received a well written letter form a BCS parent responding to some of the comments I'd made about Amanda Burke-Aaronson's fundraising.  My earlier posts focus more on the funding side of Amanda's campaign because she doesn't have much of a record to debate.  One of the things I have seen over the past 3 years on the Board is that community support and knowledge of our program are critical to the success of any Board member.  The years I'd spent on various District committees gave me a broad perspective to bring to my service as a Trustee.  I also spent almost 2 years attending LASD Board meetings before I ran for the Board.  In addition to the raw understanding of the programs and needs, I also developed a network of people I could reach out to ask their thoughts, gain additional perspective, and further explore issues.  No matter how good her intentions, Amanda lacks that network of community support within LASD.  As a BCS parent who hasn't attended LASD Board meetings until last week, Amanda lacks that network and the understanding that comes with it.  I would strongly encourage Amanda to remain engaged, and to attend BCS Board meetings and seek appointment to the BCS Board.  I would be pleased to work with her on solving some of our more challenging issues, in a setting where she can leverage what she knows best (BCS) and I can represent the Los Altos School District, where I've devoted my time and energies for many years.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Campaign Funding, part 2

Steve Taglio
Pablo Luther
In my earlier post, I promised to update folks with the campaign funding docs for the remaining two candidates, Steve Taglio and Pablo Luther.  Both of these gentlemen responded promptly when I asked them for copies of their docs, but frankly I've been focused on other aspects of my Board work, and didn't get around to posting these.  However, following the same theme of transparency, I do include them here for everyone's reading.

Taglio's FPPC Form 460
Luther's FPPC Form 460

Vladimir Ivanovich
Today in the LATC it was reported that Vladimir Ivanovich has withdrawn from the race and thrown his support behind Luther and Taglio.  He cited the risk that his candidacy would actually help Amanda Burke-Aaronson as his primary reason for abandoning the race.  I applaud this decision- it's a wise political move, and it shows that he's thinking about what is best for the students.  I wish Mr. Ivanovich well in his continued service to LASD on CACF and in other capacities.

Amanda Burke-Aaronson
I'd also like to comment on the value of the sunshine process. Within 12 hours of posting Amanda Burke-Aaronson's campaign forms, I'd heard from members of the community confirming all donors except one to be directly tied to BCS. This is exactly why State law requires publication of these documents. The public is entitled to know who is funding a political race.

Ms. Burke-Aaronson responded to questions on the Town Crier website about her contributions.  She said, in part "Is it a big surprise that parents at my children's school are my friends? Is it a big surprise that my friends support me?"  I would respond that no, it isn't surprising at all.  I count among my supporters many parents that I have met through my involvement in activities at my children's schools.  That's just part of the process.  What is troubling, though, is that Ms. Burke-Aaronson doesn't have support of LASD parents.  It would be akin to running for the US Senate seat from California, but not ever having set foot in the state, and raising your campaign war chest in Texas.  The people whom you represent have to have confidence that you are actually representing their interests- not just your own view of how it should be. 

For in reason, all government without the consent of the governed is the very definition of slavery.  -Jonathan Swift
I still remain hopeful that Ms Burke-Aaronson will seek a seat on the BCS Board, and that when she gets that seat, we'll be able to work across the proverbial divide and solve this longstanding and difficult issue.  I just don't think that she would have enough support from our community to be effective in a leadership role at LASD.

Follow-up LASD filing

A quick update on the 2012-13 litigation:

We asked BCS to produce a number of documents related to their use of Blach as part of the process of drafting our motion.  We received about 200 BCS internal emails the night before our filing was due, and so they weren't directly incorporated in the filing we made last week.  However, as we read through them, there were a few that were worth pointing out to the court.  Once again the legal team has done a great job of distilling down the key facts.  Aside from the legal aruments raised, I'd like to point out a few things here:

1)  The back-and-forth between BCS staff with respect to the county board shows what I can only describe as chutzpah.  Their lack of regard for the county is evident in the banter over a simple inquiry.  Of course, the fact that they don't want to honestly answer the question just goes to prove the District's point about the facilities use.

2)  There are also emails between BCS staff and board about their furniture needs for Blach.  As we've told people publicly, BCS was stonewalling the District on their needs, and eventually used that as an opportunity for a photo op to try to make LASD look bad.  This kind of behavior is unproductive, and it's disappointing to see the lengths they went to (incl. taking action that effectively denied their own kids facilities by stalling against LASD requests.) 

None of it is earth-shattering, but it certainly does illustrate the points well enough.  Just 13 days to the hearing...

Stipulation to file
Supplemental Brief
Decl. of Shively

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Congratulations to Oak: A Blue Ribbon School

Most folks will have seen the press release that Oak School was recognized as a National Blue Ribbon School.  This prestigious award recognizes schools for exemplary achievement in educating students.  One unique aspect of the NBRS program is that schools have to serve the needs of all students.  The program specifically looks to see that under-privileged students are doing well also.  It is not permissible to skim students, or to serve some students well, but shun others.  Here are the guidelines:
For Public Schools, "high performing" is defined by the CSSO of each state, but at a minimum means (a) that the achievement of the school's students in the most recent year tested places the school in the top 15 percent in the state on state assessments of reading (or English language arts) and mathematics, and (b) disaggregated results for student subgroups, including students from disadvantaged backgrounds, must be similar to the results for all students tested.
This isn't about "teaching to a test", or focusing on one group but ignoring others.  Blue Ribbon Schools are recognized for educating the whole child, and serving every child well.  For more information on the program and criteria, please see the US Department of Education Guidelines

Congratulations to Amy Romen, Principal at Oak, and to her entire staff.  They represent the District's values in how they deliver for our students and in everything they do.  Well done.

Monday, October 15, 2012

A little more sunshine...

Recently, BCS has taken umbrage to my publication of the deposition of one of their board members.  Now, keep in mind that a deposition is sworn testimony- it is the same as someone sitting on the witness stand in open court.  I made a conscious choice to publish the entire transcript, rather than cherry-pick inflamitory pieces.  Nevertheless, when I arrived at the BCS board meeting last week, BCS Board member Janet Medlin felt the need to criticize me for publishing the deposition. 

BCS often reminds LASD that they are a "public school".  Yet, when it comes to behaving like a public institution, some members of their organization seem to struggle with the concepts.  Their recent Board meeting was an excellent example.  Members of the public have complained that deliberations at BCS Board meeting are impossible to hear.  This concerns me quite a bit, since they are debating topics that are crucial to our community.  I decided I would take the drastic step of investing in professional sound equipment, so that I could record their meetings.  Last Monday, I arrived well before the meeting began and was setting up my equipment to record.  As BCS Board members arrived, a couple of them went out of their way to criticize my use of the recording equipment.  One board member refered to it as "intimidation". She complained about the "palace" where we hold the LASD Board meetings (a 1940 sq ft portable located next ot a garage on the Covington site.)   Another board member complained about the placement of small, unobtrusive microphones.  (Link to the description of the mics)  I'm pleased to say that despite having to stash these small microphones under chairs, the recording worked just fine.

I do want to acknowledge that some members of the BCS Board understood the public's interest, and spoke louder and more clearly to ensure we could hear the discussion. On a couple of ocasions, one board member actually paused his colleagues and asked them to repeat comments that were made. If we want to improve relations, it is important that everyone has the same information about plans and intentions.

Still, I fnd these complaints more than a bit ironic.  Section 54953.5 (a) of the Brown Act specifically calls out that members of the public are permitted to record any public meeting.  Further, the complains are more than a bit hypocritical, esp considering that BCS founders video-taped a whole series of LASD Board meetings when they were starting up the charter school.

So, what came out of this meeting?  I'll put that in another post, along with the recording.  In the meantime, the sunshine is a good thing.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

A favorable ruling for LASD

One follow-up to my earlier post about the District's cross-complaint.

There was a ruling issued in Los Angeles yesterday that addresses some of the key questions of the LASD/BCS case.  In particular, the appellate ruling says that:

  • Local elected officials and the community have a right to manage their resources locally, and the courts should generally defer to their judgement
  • Prop 39 does not grant charter schools their "first pick" of the District facilities
  • In allocating facilities, the District is entitled to consider the impact on ALL students, and does not need to put charter school children ahead of traditional in-District students.
The timing for this ruling couldn't be better.  I've attached it for folks to read if they'd like.

(Link to LAUSD ruling)

District Response and Counter-Complaint

Today was Walk-about Saturday, a chance to visit our campuses, talk to parents, and see all of the excitement that is a part of LASD.  It is truly one of those days when I feel very fortunate to represent our community by serving on the Board of Trustees.

Of course a lot of folks asked about the lawsuit with BCS.  On Friday, October 12th, the District responded to the BCS complaint for the 2012-13 facilities offer.  That document isn't particularly exciting, unless you have the BCS complaint sitting alongside and like deciphering the legal reasons the BCS complaint is invalid.  The discussion in court will be a lot more interesting.

Here's the District response to the complaint

Much more interesting is the LASD cross-complaint.  In this action, LASD puts before the court the questions that have circled our community for a number of years.  Among those questions, we have asked the court:

  • Do BCS practices which exclude special needs students, English language learners, and socio-economic disadvantaged students impact their status as a public school?
  • Do their extensive private resources factor into the comparison?
  • If they are not a public school, do we still need to provide them the same level of facilities?
  • When determining "reasonably equivalent", can the District legally exclude the impact of private donations such as the LAEF fundraising?
  • Can we really believe their claims of overcrowding when they continue to admit students from outside the District?
  • How can BCS claim to the community that their school is "wonderful and warm" and then tell the court that it is a "youth prison"?
I am very anxious to see these issues tried in court.  For too many years, our community has wrestled with these questions yet not brought them into the court system.  It is time to seek guidance from the courts.  It is time for BCS to answer hard questions about serving our community.

Finally, I feel compelled to mention that Ray Cardozo of Reed Smith has done a fantastic job of distilling all of the community input into a clear, concise legal argument.  Like many in our community, I have been log frustrated by some of the BCS practices.  Ray and his team have put these issues into a legal framework, and raised themas important Constitutional questions.  I am pleased to be working with him, and he is representing our students very well.  As a Trustee, I am appreciative of the thanks and good wishes form the community, but really, the hard work is being done by Ray, Paul, John, Dino, and others on the legal team.  Thanks to all of them.

Read the District's cross-complaint here.

Friday, October 12, 2012

How "equal" delivers better results

A parent sent me this interesting article on the education reform movement in Finland.  It talks at length about how they approached building the world's leading educational program.  One of the most important tennants of their effort was to strive for equlity in all of their schools.

LASD has also followed this same principal. We strive to ensure that the program is equitable across all campuses. We may pilot a program someplace before rolling it out widely, but we aim to ensure that your child has a geat educational experience no matter which campus they attend.  Why do we do this?  We owe every child a first-class education. This is true regardless of their background, or what special needs they may have.  Besides the moral aspects of this approach, it also has the benefit of building wide community support for our schools.  No matter which campus, no matter what the child's interests, we support the child's learning.  In doing so, we achieve consistently high results for all of our students.  Isn't that whay public education is all about?

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Campaign Funding - A Little Sunshine

This weekend I was watching the football game with my daughters when there was an ad on against Prop 37 (the food labelling measure).  One of my daughters asked me about the notice at the end of the ad, which caused us to launch into a discussion about campaign finance.  Using Tivo to pause the ad, we read through who had funded the ad, and talked about why they might want to fund a campaign against a ballot measure.  It is in that same spirit, then, that I looked into some campaign funding at the local level. 

Like most folks, I'm looking for a couple of key things when I read these forms:
  • Who funded the campagn?  Is it one person, or a number of donors?  A single donor isn't necessarily a bad thing- I decided not to do any active fundraising for my campaign, so I didn't have a large number of contributors.
  • What interest might those donors have in the candidate's positions.  For example, if candidates take money from a PAC, I would assume that the candidate agreed with the PAC's positions on key issues.
  • How much total funding have they raised?  Remember that this is the first filing, and the candidates can still raise and spend more money, but this is an interesting indicator.  By way of context, I spent about $3500 when I ran 3 years ago, and I believe that the other non-incumbent, Tammy Logan, spent a similar amount. 

Amanda Burke-Aaronson
Quite frankly, I'm not sure what to make of Amanda Burke-Aaronson.  Initially, I thought that she was well intentioned, but perhaps didn't understand the implications of a BCS parent on the LASD Board of Trustees.  However, I've become more concerned as the campaign progressed.  She declined to identify herself as a BCS parent at the first candidate forum.  She also dodged the question of who had funded her campaign.  Since California requires candidates to file statements about who is funding their campaigns, this is public information.  I am attaching a link to Ms. Burke-Aaronson's campaign funding statement here.

For those who may not know all of the players, I did a quick pass through the list.  It is important to note that I do not claim to be an expert in who attends BCS.  However, a quick glance is instructive.  There are current and former BCS Board members, as well as people connected to the BCS Education Foundation.  She received contributions from a large number of BCS parents, including the person who signed the ballot argument against the parcel tax measure for LASD last year.  Even my preliminary look through the list shows that at least half of her donors are affiliated with BCS. 

Along the same lines as that TV ad, I have to wonder why these BCS parents would suddenly pour $10,000 into someone's campaign funds.   I can't recall any LASD Board member who received such substantial outside funding, let alone such a concentrated amount from a group suing LASD.  I want to be clear- I still can't speak to Ms. Burke-Aaronson's motives-- but it does make me wonder what all those donors think she'll do, that they're bankrolling an election fund that is already 3x what I spent on my own campaign just 3 years ago.

Vladimir Ivanovic
Mr Ivanovic is also running, and has taken a decidedly more modest approach to his campaign.  I've seen him at a number of community events, but  he has only spent a very small amount of money as of the most recent filing deadline.  I've also attached a link to his filing.  His sole donor so far is the PTA Exec Board meber at the same LASD school where Mr. Ivanovic's children attend.  His total expenditures to date are less than $1000.

I haven't yet received the filings for the other candidates, but expect to post those shortly.  From the first candidate forum, both Steve Taglio and Pablo Luther indicated that they are primarily self-funded, which tends to make the filings less-than-riveting.

Updated: 10/11, 3pm  : Correction:  Vladimir Ivanovich's campaign donor is the PTA Communications lead for the school, not the PTA president.  My apologies for the error.