You’re not getting paid to think

songAnna Song has been a member of the Santa Clara County Board of Education for thirteen years. First elected in 2000, she has been an active proponent of charters as the statewide and national movement has grown. She’s no fan of the ‘status quo’ and believes charter law is intended to make waves and shake things up in public education.

Nonetheless, in the 2012 election, she faced stiff opposition backed by big time pro-charter money via “Santa Clara County Schools PAC, Supporting Grace Mah and David Neighbors for County Board of Education and Opposing Anna Song 2012”

SCCS PAC LA-LAH Donors 2012Anna Song is undoubtedly pro-charter, so why would big money charter backers want to use SCC Schools PAC to oust her? Maybe because she thinks too much and asks too many questions. Among the seven members of the County Board, she may be the most likely to question the proliferation of charter schools in Santa Clara County:

  • Song voted against Rocketship Education’s proposal to open 20 new charter schools in Santa Clara County.
  • Song initiated unexpected and heated public controversy around Bullis Charter School’s renewal in 2011 over equity issues like discrimination and segregation.
  • Song publicly expresses uncertainty and concern about how her Board administrates charter law in Santa Clara County.

Listen to this recording from the Oct 2013 Charter Schools Study Workshop for a sense of Song’s mindset on big philosophical questions about charters in Santa Clara County:

  • What does our Board want to do, continue to accept applications unconditionally?
  • Should Staff review new applications as submitted or improve/develop them?
  • Should the Board align with and be supportive of—or overturn—Staff decisions?
  • Are 38 charter schools in the County enough now? Where do we go from here?

Remember, this is one of the most senior members of the County Board and a former Board President, re-elected three times. The questions Song asks in this public meeting are surprising because they’re foundational to how the Board understands and performs its duties under CA charter law.

That Song can be unclear on so many major policy issues should be cause for concern to voters and schools throughout our county because it indicates lack of consensus and leadership, but also hints at how and why pro-charter forces would attempt to influence the makeup of the Board and eliminate doubters.

Because the Santa Clara County Schools PAC raised about twenty times the usual amount spent on a race for Santa Clara County Board of Education, I’m guessing each of the seven members knows they’re in jeopardy if they resist or cross the pro-charter lobby.

I think it’s terrific that in spite of the SCC Schools PAC assault in 2012 Anna Song is still asking important questions about whether and how charters should be allowed to expand in Santa Clara County. She already knows she has a target on her back, and she must know that asking questions like these doesn’t reduce her risk, but she asks them anyway.

Good for you, Anna Song. Keep thinking, keep asking questions.

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