At Large State Board of Education Election: Money, Might, and a Missing Candidate

On September 15, the DC board of elections published a list of candidates for the November general election. But the candidate for the state board of education with perhaps the largest campaign chest—Jacque Patterson–was not on that list.

The reason? Lack of qualified signatures on his ballot petition, identified in a challenge brought by the state board at large incumbent, Mary Lord.

There is irony aplenty in this, not merely because Patterson criticized Lord as disconnected. Patterson himself was instrumental in starting the first DC campus of the Rocketship charter schools.

Yet, while the supposedly more connected Patterson could not get real DC citizens to give him their signatures for free, he was still able to get lots of people to part with their cash—tens of thousands of dollars, in fact.

Indeed, by August 10, Patterson had accumulated 284 donors, while his three rivals for that same, at large state board of education seat didn’t even have that many donors between them.

So, how is it that a man running for elected office cannot muster enough signatures to appear on the ballot—and yet receive about $8000 in donations in the first ten days of August for getting elected to a seat on a school board that has been declawed by mayoral control of DC public schools?

(Hmm: Could it be the donors?)

To be sure, Ashley Carter, one of the three remaining at large state board of ed. candidates, is no slouch in fundraising: she raised more than $1000 in the first ten days of August. Moreover, Carter has amassed 78 donors between the end of June and August 10, more than half of whom live outside DC.

(By contrast, Tony Donaldson Jr., a Howard student also running for the state board at large seat, had 13 donors between April and the beginning of August, with less than $1000 in total donations. Mary Lord, the incumbent, had 21 donors between May and the beginning of August, totaling about $2000.)

But unlike most of the donors to those other at large candidates, Patterson’s donors are notable for their connections to privatized public education efforts, with many donating on or around two days in 2016, in May and August.

For instance, Maura Marino, CEO of Education Forward DC (a new nonprofit advocating for school choice) and board member of several DC charter schools, gave Patterson $100 in May and another $100 on August 10. Brett Greene, former board member of charter advocacy organization FOCUS, gave $250 on August 10. That same day, $500 came to Patterson from Darrin Glymph, board member of several DC charter schools who is also associated with EdBuild, an education reform organization focusing on public school funding formulas and supported by prominent education reform foundations (Broad, Walton, Gates, and CityBridge).

Patterson was also gifted $1000 on August 10 by Kathleen and Terence Golden. Formerly on the Federal City Council, Terry Golden is a big supporter of charter schools and chair of the board of KIPP DC. (Terence Golden also gifted the DC independent expenditure committee of Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) $2500 in June.)

Also on August 10, Catharine Bellinger, head of the DC office of DFER, gave Patterson $250; this was in addition to her $200 donation to him in May. Also on August 10, Alice Rivlin, on the board of the DC Association of Chartered Public Schools (which is suing the city for what it says are inequitable per pupil payments to charter schools), gave Patterson $500.

And on August 10, one of the members of the DC public charter school board, Darren Woodruff (whose spouse is running for the Ward 4 state board of education seat) gave Patterson $50; Woodruff also gave Mary Lord, Patterson’s opponent, $50 a few days before.

In the days and weeks leading to August 10, Patterson received plenty of support from other education reformers as well:

Milton Shinberg, an architect whose firm Shinberg Levinas participated in a charter facilities summit hosted by FOCUS in May, gave Patterson $200 in early August—possibly a reflection of the importance to developers of charter schools in Ward 8. (Shinberg Levinas gave $500 in January to LaRuby May, who was defeated in the primary for the Ward 8 council seat.) Patterson himself works for Rocketship, whose first school in DC, in Ward 8, opened last month.

The founder of FOCUS, Malcolm Peabody, and his wife gave $1000 to Patterson in July. And the lawyer who defended an Options official during the financial scandal of that charter school, Brian McDaniel, gave Patterson $500 in June. Another lawyer for Options, A. Scott Bolden, donated $500 to Patterson at the same time.

June 9 was also a profitable day for Patterson: on that day, developer Jair Lynch, whose company participated in the FOCUS charter school facilities summit, gave Patterson $100. That same day Joseph Bruno, who serves on several charter school boards and is president of Building Hope, which helps finance and create charter school buildings, gave Patterson $500. Campaign finance records show another donation to Patterson of $500 on the same day from Salvatore Bruno, at the same address in Florida as Joseph Bruno (it appears that this is also Bruno’s name and donation). Bruno’s colleagues at Building Hope, Thomas Porter and Mark Medema, each gave Patterson $250 on June 9 as well, and an LLC at the same address as Porter gave $250 on that day also. Cheye Calvo, a Rocketship employee, gave Patterson $100 on June 9 as well.

A few days earlier, on June 6, the chair of Ingenuity Prep’s board, Peter Winik, gave Patterson $100.

Then there are Patterson’s deep DFER DC connections beyond the head of its DC office (somewhat fitting, as Patterson himself gave DFER $100 recently). Christopher Chambers, on the board of DFER DC, gave Patterson $200 in August, having also gifted DFER DC recently with $100. And real estate developer LeRoy Eakin, who gave DFER DC $10,000 recently, gave Patterson $500 in July. In May, DFER DC board members Joy Russell and Victor Reinoso gave Patterson $100 and $250, respectively. (They recently gave DFER DC $100 and $200, respectively.)

One of the biggest DFER DC donors, Katherine Bradley, head of the CityBridge Foundation (which supports local charter schools), gave Patterson $500 in May. And in August, Stanley Sloter, a local developer, gave Patterson $500, after giving DFER DC $1000 in June. (Sloter’s wife, Jolene, is on the board of the new Rocketship school in Ward 8 and a Teach for America alumna; the Sloters have a foundation that supports charter schools–none of which exist in Montgomery County, Maryland, where they reside.)

Patterson’s largest donors with connections to privatized public education also overlap with other candidates, especially those for Robert White, who is running for the at large council seat recently vacated by Vincent Orange (and expects to be appointed to it shortly):

Darrin Glymph, for instance, gave Robert White $1000 in July. In this election cycle, Christopher Chambers gave Robert White $100; Ward 8 state board member Tierra Jolly $150; and state board chair Jack Jacobson $200. And eclipsing what she gave to Patterson, Katherine Bradley gave $1000 to Robert White on that fateful day of August 10, in addition to $500 in June to Trayon White, running for the Ward 8 council seat; $200 to Jack Jacobson, chair of the state board of education; and other DC politicians earlier this calendar year ($500 to LaRuby May, Ward 8; $500 to Jack Evans, Ward 2; and $500 to Brandon Todd, Ward 4).

Also in this election cycle, A. Scott Bolden gave $500 to Yvette Alexander (defeated in her primary bid for the Ward 7 council seat); $500 to Trayon White; $500 to Brandon Todd; $500 to Robert White; and $500 to Jack Evans. And Alice Rivlin gave $500 each to Robert White, David Grosso, and Vince Gray, in May, April, and March, respectively. And on June 15, Brett Greene gave Vince Gray, Trayon White, and Robert White, $500, $500, and $1000, respectively. (Greene had previously gifted David Grosso with $1000 in January; and in December, $500 to Yvette Alexander and $1000 to Vincent Orange, who was defeated by Robert White in the primary for the at large council seat.)

In addition to Patterson, developer Jair Lynch gifted Robert White with $1000 on August 5. The developer also gave $500 to Vince Gray in March and $100 to LaRuby May in June. Lynch also gave Ward 4 councilmember Brandon Todd $500 this election cycle, while gifting Todd with $500 a year ago as well.

In addition to gifting Patterson, Peter Winik gave $150 to Trayon White and $500 to LaRuby May, as well as $250 to DFER DC, all since March. And Joseph Bruno gave to Vince Gray ($500) in June, whereas the previous month, Thomas Porter gave Todd $500.

The head of DFER DC, Catharine Bellinger, has given almost $1700 since the beginning of 2016 to DC candidates besides Patterson, including David Grosso ($200, August 10; and $200, March 3); Robert White ($150, August 10); Jack Jacobson ($25, July 20); Trayon White ($500, June 24); Tierra Jolly ($100, June 7; $200, March 29); Vince Gray ($100, June 2); LaRuby May ($100, April 25); and Brandon Todd ($50, January 12).

(It turns out that Patterson’s overlap with Robert White isn’t just in donors: both Patterson and Robert White list as their address houses they own, but do not claim the homestead deduction for property taxes for.)

Although the remaining candidates for that at large state board of education seat do not appear to have been gifted by any of Patterson’s education reform donors, one of Ashley Carter’s larger donors, Diana Spencer ($500 on July 27), runs a foundation that benefits charter schools. Given this (and Carter’s stated desire to put more nonprofits into public schools), education reform interests may direct some of their campaign treasure to her.

Still, with tens of thousands of dollars from this campaign alone and deep-pocketed private interests behind the charter school he helps run, as well as prior runs for elected office, Patterson will be on the DC political scene for a long time to come.

(Which, come to think of it, is yet another irony: after all, the city is being sued for inequitable funding to charter schools, all the while money has been poured from education reform interests supporting charter school into the campaigns of politicians in some of the poorest wards in the city (LaRuby May, Patterson, Yvette Alexander, Vincent Gray)–the same places where by right schools have been neglected in terms of at risk funding and funding for renovations. Hmm: I wonder how that works? Oh, that’s how.)

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