Charter school organizations provide majority of campaign contributions in school board race

Campaign contributions to the seven candidates for the WCCUSD Board of Education. Totals from campaign finance reports filed with Contra Costa County Elections Division and information from the candidates themselves. Graphic by Abner Hauge.

Campaign contributions to the seven candidates for the WCCUSD Board of Education. Totals from campaign finance reports filed with Contra Costa County Elections Division and information from the candidates themselves. Graphic by Abner Hauge.

Campaign contributions totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars have been poured into this year’s race for two seats on the West Contra Costa Unified School District Board of Education, and over half of this money has come from organizations connected to charter schools.

As of Oct. 28, the campaigns for all seven school board candidates—Don Gosney, Antonio Medrano, Tom Panas, Mister Phillips, Miriam Stephanie Sequeira, Carlos Taboada and Ayana Kirkland Young—had raised approximately $446,000 according to campaign finance reports filed with public agencies and information from the candidates themselves.

According to the California Fair Political Practices Commission 2016 filing schedule, candidates must file financial disclosure forms for contributions received between July 1 and Sept. 24 by Sept. 29. Candidates are required to disclose single contributions of $1,000 or more within 24 hours of the contribution.

Just over half of the total campaign contributions disclosed for this year’s election to date—$249,000—come from three charter-connected organizations: the Parent Teacher Alliance Sponsored by California Charter Schools Association (CCSA) Advocates Independent Expenditure Committee, Students for Education Reform Action Network (SFER AN), and the Education Matters Political Action Committee. (“Independent expenditures” are those made in support of or against a candidate, but not at the candidate’s request.) All of this money has gone to two candidates, Panas and Sequeira.

The Education Matters Political Action Committee contributed $350,000 to the CCSA committee, the Parent Teacher Alliance’s sponsoring organization, this past April. SFER AN received nearly $6,000 in nonmonetary contributions from the Parent Teacher Alliance between August and October, according to information filed with the California Secretary of State’s office.

Campaign statements filed with the Contra Costa County Elections Division show that between Jan. 1 and Oct. 28, the Education Matters PAC contributed more than $25,000 each to the Panas and Sequeira campaigns.

During that same time period, the Parent Teacher Alliance gave nearly $59,000 in in-kind contributions to the Panas campaign and more than $117,000 to the Sequeira campaign. Contributions to the Sequeira for School Board 2016 campaign included office space, internet expenses, photo expenses, phone banking and canvassing.

The Parent Teacher Alliance contributed nearly $8 million to candidates across California. According to information filed with the California Secretary of State’s office, all contributions to the Parent Teacher Alliance have come from the CCSA committee.

During the 2014 election, the Education Matters PAC and CCSA committee both provided substantial funding to current school board members Elizabeth Block and Valerie Cuevas, according to information filed with the California Secretary of State.

That year, the Education Matters PAC spent more than $97,000 in support of the Block campaign and nearly $69,000 in support of the Cuevas campaign. The CCSA committee spent more than $144,000 in support of the Block campaign and just over $87,000 in support of the Cuevas campaign. The California Secretary of State website does not distinguish between monetary and in-kind contributions, although it does differentiate between contributions in support of a candidate and those made in opposition to a candidate.

In 2014, the two organizations spent nearly $187,000 combined to oppose the campaigns of Peter Chau and incumbent Madeline Kronenberg. As of Oct. 28 of this year, neither the Education Matters PAC nor the Parent Teacher Alliance have reported spending in opposition to school board candidates in the current election.

Panas leads this year’s candidates in campaign contributions, having amassed nearly $216,000 in loans, monetary and in-kind contributions by Oct. 28. In addition to support from Education Matters PAC and the Parent Teacher Alliance, the Panas campaign reported more than $11,000 in in-kind support from SFER AN.

Sequeira’s campaign reported nearly $157,000 in monetary and in-kind contributions through Oct. 28. Like the Panas campaign, she received significant in-kind support from SFER AN. The organization contributed close to $11,000 in in-kind support to her campaign.

The Phillips for School Board 2016 campaign has received nearly $40,000 in loans and monetary contributions according to campaign finance reports. Although more than $100,000 behind Sequeira in funding, the Phillips campaign received contributions from 38 individual donors, some of whom gave more than once, according to forms filed with the Contra Costa County Elections Division.

The Panas campaign reported contributions from 53 individual donors, while the Taboada campaign reported eight and the Sequeira campaign reported three. The Gosney campaign has not reported contributions from any individual donors.

Phillips also garnered support from three local unions. The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 302 contributed $3000, the Steamfitters Local 342 Political Action Committee donated $2,000 and the United Association Local No. 159 contributed $1,500 to his campaign. Black Men and Women of Richmond, a PAC located in the 94808 zip code, contributed $1,000 to the campaign.

The Don Gosney for WCCUSD Board 2016 campaign reported $24,500 in contributions as of Oct. 28. Gosney drew $20,000 in support from unions including the Laborers International Union of North America, Local No. 324; the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) 302 Community Candidates PAC; the Steamfitters Local 342 Political Action Committee; the Sheet Metal Workers Local Union 104 Political Committee; Plumbing Industry Consumer Protection Fund United Association No. 159 Consumer Protection Fund and the Sprinkler Fitters and Apprentices Local 483 Local PAC.

Gosney also received $1,000 from Black Men and Women of Richmond.

The Taboada campaign reported nearly $2,500 in campaign contributions, nearly all from individual donors.

Campaign finance filings for Medrano and Young were not listed on the Contra Costa County Elections Division website as of Oct. 28. In a Oct. 19 phone interview, Medrano said he filed financial disclosure statements on Oct. 18, after the Sept. 29 deadline for filing. Medrano said he reported $2,200 in contributions from “all individual donors, no corporate donations” and “no charters.”

In an Oct. 31 text message, Young said that her campaign received around $4,500, including $2,500 she loaned to herself.

If both Panas and Sequeira are elected, four out of the five seats on the WCCUSD board will be held by individuals backed by charter school-linked funds.

This article has been updated to include the definition of independent expenditures. In the 2014 election cycle, the Cuevas and Block campaigns benefitted from, but did not request, such spending. The fourth paragraph of this story has also been changed to reflect SFER AN, not Students for Education Reform, received support from the Parent Teacher Alliance.

5 Comments

  1. Don Gosney

    More than half of my money came from my own mattress and my own union–neither of which have any business affiliation with the District.

    Because of a bad business affiliation with my printer (meaning no signs and no mailers), more than 90% of what I raised is being returned to those that chose to invest in my campaign (working men and women). I refuse to waste their money when I can’t get mailers into the hands of the people with sufficient time to make a difference.

    With the limited funds I would have (after other expenses) I might be able to mail to perhaps 22,000 voters. Compare that to the mailers sent out by the charter groups at TEN times that amount.

    Two years ago the reported $646,000 spent by these three charter groups was spent through Independent Expenditures so the elected Board members could claim that their hands are clean (which they do all of the time). This time around the funds are going directly into the campaign accounts of their candidates. It’s as if the charter groups don’t even care that people know they’re trying to buy the election.

  2. Don Gosney

    Why do you suppose that the Richmond Confidential didn’t reach out to the candidates to learn what they might have to say about what the charter school groups are doing to this election pr where their own money is coming from?

    What might Panas and Sequeira have said about their campaigns being run out of Sacramento? How would they explain how the CCSA field rep–Andre Jones–consults with them before and after each forum?

    Considering how little a Board member earns, why would Mr. Panas loan/donate so much of his own money to a campaign with little expectation that the debt would be retired–unless there was an expectation after the election that he would get some help.

    A good reporter might ask some of these candidates why their professional campaign treasurers leaves out so much information on their disclosure forms. The way their contributions are reported, it demands that more questions are asked than answered. Where is the transparency when the people can’t understand exactly who these people or firms are?

    And no hit pieces paid for by the charter groups? We saw the hit piece sent out by the California Charter School Association on Thursday October 28th against Mr. Phillips which means that it had to have gone to the printer well before that filing deadline. Could it be that the CCSA held off paying for it so they wouldn’t have to claim ownership of it until later?

    Just curious, who paid for the polling last Sunday night? I know I certainly don’t have the money for a poll so which charter group paid for it?

  3. ritchie cook

    Don thank you for your post.No doubt about it the charter schools (read billionaires diverting public money to their pockets) are buying yet another election.

  4. Mike Parker

    The Charter assault on public schools in West Contra Costa is well documented in http://publiccore.net.
    Mike Parker

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