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Gifts to PA Won't Buy Influence - What about gifts to PAUSD?

Original post made by District Observer, Another Palo Alto neighborhood, on Nov 9, 2006

Palo Alto City Council is about to adopt a policy which states gifts to the city don't buy influence.

I wish the Palo Alto School Board would also consider adopting a policy statement around this as well, before it approves any new programs currently under consideration.

It may be more difficult for the school district to craft such a policy, because the school district is so reliant on gifts from the kindness of its neighors and surrounding business community to continue to function.

However, it would seem only appropriate that those who truly care about the long term health of the district and community, would have no issue whatsover with arms length contributions, and fully transparent disclosure.

We currently have a special interest group, (with unknown backers in unknown amounts), giving PAUSD $140,000 for the study and start up of a new specialty alternative choice program. That might seem like a good way to get things done for a school district used to begging for every incremental dime. But consider that a typical school's PTA earnings for a whole year are in the $20K - 40K range. $140,000 is a whole lot of money, which can carry a whole lot of influence, unless PAUSD is very careful to avoid this.

The School Board should protect themselves from the appearances of influence peddling by making sure special interest groups can not buy slices of the school district for private purposes.

Comments (10)

Posted by whatajoke
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Nov 10, 2006 at 2:02 pm

The city's policy is a joke. A couple of big developers (with the initials A and P) gave the city a free renovated sports field with a fancy restroom and a year later those developers got a project through in PA east of 101. That's one kind of bribe. The other kind comes from nonprofit, do-gooder types who run nonprofits. They help the council candidates "get out the vote" during an election and, in return, the city lavishes these nonprofits with tax funds. How do you think the city got into the day care business years ago? You'll never be able to outlaw this kind of stuff.

Posted by NowIGet It
a resident of Walter Hays School
on Nov 10, 2006 at 9:51 pm

whatajoke reminds me that A and P donated the money for the Jr Museum and Zoo sign and now the people who want to take over the Jr Museum include other developers like Roxy Rapp, and Carol Jansen who works for big developers.
How long before the Jr Museum will "need" major construction? and money from the city to pay for it.
Now I get it.

Posted by Grace Mah
a resident of Palo Verde
on Nov 17, 2006 at 9:57 am

Web Link


$12.9 Million in Grants Awarded for Critical Foreign Language Instruction
Arabic, Chinese, Russia, Hindi, Farsi Among Languages Targeted for Learning

October 13, 2006 Contact: Jim Bradshaw
(202) 401-2310 or

U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings today announced the award of $12.9 million in grants to school districts in 22 states to help dramatically increase the number of Americans learning foreign languages deemed critical to national security and commerce.

The grants, part of President Bush's National Security Language Initiative, are intended to address the shortage of critical foreign language speakers by supporting new and expanded programs in grades K-12.

"Languages like Arabic, Chinese, Russian, Hindi and Farsi are not only essential for trade in the global economy, but also to our national security," Secretary Spellings said. "When it comes to foreign languages, our students get started too late—and too few study critical languages. We can and must turn this around."

Less than 1 percent of American high school students combined study Arabic, Chinese, Farsi, Japanese, Korean, Russian or Urdu, according to the State Department.

The $12.9 million in new grants being announced today, together with continuation of funding for existing Foreign Language Assistance grants, total more than $22 million that has been awarded throughout the country in recent days to help address the shortage of critical foreign language speakers.

For example, Chinese is the most widely spoken first language in the world, but less than one-half of one percent of American students taking a foreign language in grades K-12 study Chinese.

President Bush's National Security Language Initiative is designed to significantly increase the number of Americans learning critical need foreign languages such as Arabic, Chinese, Russian, Hindi, Farsi, and others through new and expanded programs from kindergarten through university and into the workforce.

An essential component of U.S. national security in the post-9/11 world is the ability to engage foreign governments and peoples, especially in critical regions, to encourage reform, promote understanding, convey respect for other cultures and provide an opportunity to learn more about America and its citizens.

To do this, Americans must be able to communicate in other languages, a challenge for which most citizens are totally unprepared. To address these needs, the departments of Education, State, and Defense, and Office of the Director of National Intelligence have developed a comprehensive national plan to expand U.S. foreign language education beginning in kindergarten and continuing throughout formal schooling and into the workforce with new programs and resources.

For more information on the initiative, visit Web Link

Foreign Language Assistance Program
Office of English Language Acquisition
New Grants to Local Education Agencies for FY 2006

AK — ANCHORAGE, Anchorage School District, $217,887
CA — BELMONT, Carlmont High School, $70,444
CA — GLENDALE, Glendale Unified School District, $300,000
CA — IMPERIAL BEACH, South Bay Union School District, $273,520
CA — LOS ANGELES, Academia Semillas del Pueblo Charter School, $101,392
CA — LOS ANGELES, Wilton Place Elementary, $147,121
CA — MISSION VIEJO, Saddleback Valley Unified School District, $294,335
CA — REDDING, Shasta Union High School District, $135,000
CA — SACRAMENTO, Language Academy of Sacramento, $150,000
CA — SACRAMENTO, North Sacramento School District, $299,812
CA — SAN FRANCISCO, San Francisco Unified School District, $300,000
CA — SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO, Capistrano Unified School District, $121,880
CA — SONOMA, Adele Harrison Middle School, $167,971
CA — SONOMA, Sonoma Valley Unified School District, $172,092
CA — VALLEJO, MIT Academy, $105,754
CA — WALNUT, Walnut Valley Unified School District, $251,965
CO — FORT COLLINS, Poudre School District, $178,854
CT — WEST HARTFORD, West Hartford Public Schools, $70,178
FL — FORT LAUDERDALE, Broward County School Board, $188,813
FL — LARGO, Pinellas County Schools, $147,917
FL — MIAMI, Miami-Dade County Schools, $237,263
FL — ORLANDO, Florida Virtual School, $300,000
FL — TAMPA, Hillsborough County Schools, $274,777
IA — WELLMAN, Mid-Prairie Community Schools, $200,809
IL — BEARDSTOWN, Beardstown Community Unit School District #15, $300,000
IL — CHICAGO, Chicago Public Schools, $297,137
IL — HIGHLAND PARK, Highland Park High School, $22,423
IL — WOODSTOCK, Woodstock Community Unit School District #200, $120,103
IN — BROWNSBURG, Brownsburg Community School Corporation, $55,611
IN — INDIANAPOLIS, Metropolitan School District of Washington Township, $268,610
KS — GARDEN CITY, Unified School District 457, $124,096
KS — PITTSBURG, Pittsburg Unified School District 250, $232,803
KY — LEXINGTON, Fayette County Public Schools, $300,000
KY — LOUISVILLE, Jefferson County Public Schools, $145,735
MA — AMHERST, Amherst Pelham Regional School District, $148,746
MA — CAMBRIDGE, Cambridge Public Schools, $280,764
MI — DEARBORN, Dearborn School District, $291,611
MI — LANSING, Lansing School District, $245,822
MN — BIGELOW, Worthington Area Language Academy, $100,000
MN — COTTAGE GROVE, South Washington County Schools, $175,000
MN — SAINT PAUL, St. Paul Public Schools, $179,757
MN — WILMAR, Wilmar Public School District #347, $127,615
NC — WINSTON-SALEM, Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools, $57,745
NJ — DEMAREST, Northern Valley Regional High School District, $5,192
NJ — FAIR LAWN, Fair Lawn Board of Education, $28,420
NJ — FORT LEE, Fort Lee School District, $191,370
NJ — HIGHSTOWN, East Windsor Regional School District, $125,288
NJ — VERNON, Vernon Township Public Schools, $2,750
NY — FORT EDWARD, Washington-Saratoga-Warren-Hamilton-Essex, $156,452
NY — GOSHEN, Orange-Ulster BOCES, $250,230
NY — HORNELL, Hornell City School District, $83,464
NY — NEW HARTFORD, Oneida-Herkimer-Madison BOCES, $254,298
NY — NEW YORK, New York City Department of Education District 1, $300,000
NY — NEW YORK, Ross Global Academy Charter School, $73,269
NY — ROCHESTER, Rochester City School District, $128,495
NY — ROOSEVELT, Roosevelt Union Free School District, $237,981
NY — SCHENECTADY, Schenectady City School District, $202,728
OH — CLEVELAND, Cleveland Municipal School District — Buhrer K-8 School, $238,369
OH — COLUMBUS, Franklin County Board of Education, $267,911
OR — EUGENE, Eugene School District 4J, $184,170
OR — PORTLAND, Multnomah County School District No. 1 , $207,852
PA — PHILADELPHIA, Folk Arts-Cultural Treasures Charter School, $297,674
PA — PHILADELPHIA, The School District of Philadelphia, $247,678
PA — PHILADELPHIA, The School District of Philadelphia, $116,162
PA — PITTSBURGH, Pittsburgh School District, $235,911
TX — HOUSTON, Houston Independent School District, $165,684
TX — KATY, Katy Independent School District, $117,085
TX — KATY, Katy Independent School District, $50,119
TX — PLANO, Plano Independent School District, $177,073
VA — FALLS CHURCH, Fairfax County Public Schools, $188,511
WA — SEATTLE, Seattle Public Schools, $182,507
Total — $12,898,005

Foreign Language Assistance Program
Office of English Language Acquisition
Grants to State Education Agencies for FY 2006

North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, Raleigh, $95,367.
Ohio Department of Education, Columbus, $100,000.
Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, Madison, $201,269.
Wyoming Department of Education, Cheyenne, $157,410.
State Grant Total — $554,046

Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 17, 2006 at 10:12 am


No one is saying that it is not important for children to be taught languages.

If the Bush administration wants our children to have a Chinese, or Farsi, or other, exclusive immersion program, then the Bush administration can pay for it out of their war coffers.

Posted by Another Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 17, 2006 at 10:47 am

Hi Grace,
Thanks for confirming you are present for this conversation.

Can you let us know who the donors were by dollar amount for the $140,000 donation to our public school system from PACE?

Also, thanks also for confirming that there are hundreds of thousands of dollars available from the US government for language education. If PAUSD were to receive federal tax payer dollars for language education, why would PAUSD not be using that for programs that benefit all students? MI would benefit 40 per year, whereas our excellent benchmark peers (per PIE's Benchmark study), are using a FLES approaches to provide lanaguage education to all students. Seems that Federal grant funding would be a great way for PAUSD to follow suit. But wouldn't be so wise or equitable to funnel it all to a very small lottery program with limited reach.

Lastly, thanks for summarizing the above grant awards. The largest dollar award shown above is $300,000. Seems rather greedy that PAUSD asked for $765,000. (Even without taking into account the very limited scope of our suggested program, which makes it even worse!) Adding the $140,000 in private donations would bring PAUSD's 'gift' money to $900,000? That's embarrassing.

Posted by Sean
a resident of South of Midtown
on Nov 17, 2006 at 12:26 pm

If influence is gained by making significnt contributions to the community, that is a GOOD thing! The developers mentioned (A and P) have made many significant contributions to this community, both as gifts and as for-profit developments. Both the City Council and the School Board should give much greater ear time to such people, compared to those who give little, and mostly just demand more for free. The bottom line should be: Is it good for our community, and can we afford it.

We should welcome MORE 'influence', not less!!

Posted by Onlooker
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 17, 2006 at 7:16 pm


District Observer, either you're trying to be funny or you didn't understand that the district sent MI proponents a BILL to cover costs for the feasibility study.

The district invoked a policy that says parents must absorb any extraordinary expenses of alternative programs. What choice did MI have? This situation reminds me of couples who go for fertility treatments: pay 'n pray, no guarantees.

Posted by Lorraine
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 18, 2006 at 7:26 am

Sorry Onlooker, I'm not sure I understand your comment. Are you saying that when Grace Mah waved that check in front of the BOE, she was expecting that she was buying an MI program, no questions, no studys? Can you clarify?

Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Nov 18, 2006 at 7:37 pm

Onlooker comments defy logic and reality to such an enormous extent that they are practically inexplicable.

PACE made a clear committment in public board meetings (in fact at several meetings, even coming in to one meeting waving a check around) to fully pay for the feasibility study. Plus they committed to pay for 100% of the start up costs if the program ever got off the ground.

The premise of the feasibility study was that the proposal would be studied for feasibility. Not that it was a rubber stamping, technicality for the program PACE just bought.

The fact that PACE was donating the $ was the whole PREMISE of the board approving a feasibility study of this half baked scheme in the first place. (To say they got a bill, and had no choice but to pay it??)

What choice did they have???? You're kidding me right. There are hundreds of local private school Mandarin programs. Or they could have withdrawn their proposal and enjoyed an excellent Palo Alto public education or one of the other many lottery choice programs already available. Or they could have lobbied the district for language education task force to implement a program that served everyone that WOULD NOT fall under an alterntive/choice model. Or they could bring their proposal to a different district that did not have this policy. Or they could move to a local school district that already has an "excellent" MI program, like Cupertino or San Francisco.

(And since you seem to have some knowledge of PACE's accounts payable invoices, maybe you can tell us who the donors are that pledged that GIFT to PAUSD of $140,000 for feasibility study and start up costs?)

I think Lorraine is right on.. PACE gave a donation, and is now calling it 'payment' for the program they think they just bought. So exactly what we've been SAYING all along. They donated money with the expectation that they would gain influence and get what they wanted... They thought they were buying a 1/2 school. Now more than ever, PAUSD needs to tell us exactly who donated the $140,000.

Sounds like PACE is prepping for a lawsuit, and PAUSD is going to need a lawyer.

Posted by Pauline
a resident of Juana Briones School
on Nov 24, 2006 at 10:40 am

Grace, I know you put a lot of work into this proposal, and a lot of work into posting all the information you post. I respect this, and know you are committed to doing what you think is best in all of this discussion.

But, unless I misunderstood what you meant, the comment that "Chinese is the most widely spoken first language in the world..." implies that there is only one Chinese language.

There is no ONE Chinese language that all Chinese people can speak and understand, and therefore there is no ONE Chinese language spoken at national business conferences which draw from all parts of China, and therefore no ONE Chinese language which is the one we should sink thousands of hours and dollars into learning for the purpose of keeping up in the business world. Even Mandarin is divided into different types, this being the cause of a major discussion on which one to teach in Cupertino a few years ago ( resulting in many children leaving the program).

There are more English speakers in China than there are in the United States. This is because it is the one unifying language of business, not only in China, but everywhere.

I am not saying Mandarin isn't important. It is. And there are many valid and important reasons to learn a foreign language. The future needs of our businesses is not one of those major reasons.

Our nation's H1B visas do not run out before the fiscal year even begins because businesses are looking for Mandarin speakers. They get filled from American businesses being unable to find Americans to do jobs that other countries are educating their people to do, including China. Our companies are begging for people to work for them in math, science and technical fields. If we are trying to educate our children to prepare them for a life of being in high demand in our world, it is my opinion that THOSE are the areas on which we need to focus for this purpose. The purposes of foreign language, like music and arts, are valuable, but not for the point of filling some big future business need.

Maybe I am the only one who misread what you wrote, but I just wanted to put this out there in case not.

By the way, which is true? I hear that PACE donated to PAUSD $140,000 and that it donated $68,000. I am assuming you are the one who really knows, outside of the District person who received the check, so can you please clarify that for us? Thanks

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