I will protect your pensions. Nothing about your pension is going to change when I am governor. - Chris Christie, "An Open Letter to the Teachers of NJ" October, 2009

Monday, November 5, 2012

You Don't Mess With the Rocketship

Yesterday, I detailed how an "obscene" amount of money is coming into the Perth Amboy, NJ school board race. Three of the wealthy Californians who have pumped of thousands of dollars into the campaign - Greg Penner, Arthur Rock, and David Goldberg - are also partners in Rocketship Education, a charter school management company.

It turns out that Rocketship is very aggressively involved in California school board politics:
The six-figure spending by independent committees highlights the muscle of charter proponents in Santa Clara County, where the county Board of Education is rapidly approving charter schools that compete for students and funding with established public schools.
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."
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. [emphasis mine]
Interesting how the candidate benefitting from all this money doesn't "know much about it." And it's not just Santa Clara:
Another political action committee, Parents for Great Schools, has raised $41,000 and spent at least $17,000 promoting Magdalena Carrasco for a seat on the East Side Union High School district board. As of Tuesday afternoon, Carrasco had not reported all the PAC contributions on disclosure forms, although she did list $15,250 in other contributions, many from Southern California interests.
Carrasco did not return calls seeking comment. [emphasis mine]
Sounds familiar to those following the election in Perth Amboy: 

Reyes Ortega, who is running on the Better Schools Now ticket with Junior Iglesias, Damaris Gonzalez and William Ortiz, acknowledged the slate's campaign fund is probably much more than other school board races.
However, Ortega said [sic] declined to comment on the finances and instead stressed the issues facing city schools. [emphasis mine] 
Looks like folks from New Jersey to California are happy to line up and take Rocketship's money - they just don't want to talk about it. Maybe it's because Rocketship goes all out against you if they see you as an impediment to their expansion:
"It's unprecedented that so much money is coming into this race against people who are more measured with their approach to charter schools," said Cortright, who is self-funding his campaign and plans to spend about $1,000.
Had donors given money directly to support high-performing schools, they would have had a more beneficial impact, Song said.
While Song voted against Rocketship Education's application to open 20 charter schools in the county, Mah voted against Bullis Charter School's renewal. Rosenthal said that the endorsements are "based on the totality of board votes" and the candidates' temperament. [emphasis mine]
Rocketship has big plans for California; isn't it obvious they have those same plans for New Jersey? Why else would they get their partners to put so much money into a local school board race 3000 miles away?
We're going to land this baby right in the Raritan Bay!

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