Matt Potter 3:38 p.m., Dec. 10
Wealthy San Diegans Back Charter School Politics
At left: Buzz Woolley
Things don't seem to be going so well for the future of charter schools in California, what with news today, reported by the Sacramento Bee, that the federal government has pulled $11.5 million of funding to set up new California charter schools and could take away more.
According to the Bee, the U.S. Department of Education warned state education officials for months that they were not in compliance with requirements of the Charter Schools Program, providing funding for two- and three-year grants for new charter schools, because they didn’t pay enough attention to keeping track of student achievement.
The Bee quoted Jed Wallace, president of the California Charter Schools Association, as disputing the federal agency's findings: "In California we have a robust accountability system and are working to make it stronger. I don't think it is a reason to deny any portion of this grant."
In the meanwhile, a few wealthy San Diegans have been anteing up big money for future political efforts in the state capital on behalf of charter schools.
They are channeling their contributions through the Alliance of California Charter Schools, which state records show has set up both a political action committee and a separate independent expenditure committee.
According to state records, the PAC raised $52,625.28 during the first six months of this year. Local contributors included $6,500 each from Point Loma resident and cross-border real estate mogul Malin Burnham; La Jolla investor, philanthropist, and Voice of San Diego founder Buzz Woolley ; and CAC Advisory Services, run by Woolley ally and fellow charter schools advocate Rod Dammeyer.
CAC and Dammeyer were major financial backers of San Diegans 4 Great Schools, a political committee which also received significant funding from Qualcomm founder Irwin Jacobs.
That effort, opposed by the teachers union, foundered last month when the group was not able to collect sufficient signatures to qualify its controversial ballot measure to expand the school board, in part with appointed members.
In addition to his April 8 PAC contribution, on June 24 Woolley gave $25,000 to the charter school alliance’s independent expenditure committee. On the same day, CAC Advisory Services gave the committee $150,000.
The biggest donor of all was Netflix founder and CEO Reed Hastings, who contributed $493,500.
In all, the independent expenditure committee raised a total of $1,287,000.