Tag Archives: politics

Broad-based support for my re-election

I’m honored to announce some great new endorsements for my re-election campaign: the San Francisco Young Democrats endorsed me this week, as did the District 11 Democratic Club and the Noe Valley Democratic Club. For a complete list of organizations, elected officials and individuals supporting my re-election, please visit my endorsements page


Inspire me: you have two minutes

I’ve been watching the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C, and it’s made me think a lot about campaign speeches.  Now, one big advantage the speechifiers in Charlotte seem to have is time – -for example, Bill Clinton was supposed to speak for 28 minutes but he spoke for almost 50 minutes. Did you notice anyone trying to get him to stop talking? I didn’t.

When you are speaking to an audience,  you want them to first of all pay attention. Have you ever spoken to a room of people that was more interested in talking to each other than they were interested in hearing what you had to say? I have, and it’s awful.

Once you (hopefully)have the audience’s attention,  you  want to inspire them — to make them feel something after hearing what you have to say. Finally, you want to spur them to action — to take the feelings you inspired and translate those feelings to donating money or time for the cause.

I’m a little jealous of the convention speakers because here in San Francisco — where local candidates make the rounds of more than two dozen political clubs and organizations– we usually get about two minutes. I challenge anyone to first capture the attention of a jaded group of political operatives who have heard 10,20 or 30 canddiates over the course of a day and then to inspire  said group of political operatives to remember what you said — and then like it enough to vote for you at the end of the day.

That’s the job of a candidate– incumbent or challenger. In 2008, when I was a challenger, I wrote about this two-minute speech. Now, since I’ve been on the Board for four years, I’ve updated the speech to read (more or less verbatim, though the version below takes three minutes to recite):

Hi, I’m Rachel Norton, and I’m running for re-election to the Board of Education.  Four years ago, I promised to hold the district accountable for:

  • Increasing the achievement of all children and narrowing the achievement gap
  • Increasing transparency in district decision-making and communication with all stakeholders
  • Transforming the district’s special education services.

I’m proud to say that I’ve kept those promises.

  • Expectations for students are higher than ever with the implementation of the new A-G graduation requirements. Test scores have risen every year I’ve been on the board, and the achievement gap is narrowing, despite a very painful and prolonged budget crisis.
  • I’ve used my web site, rachelnorton.com as a vehicle for communicating with constituents, explaining district decision-making and getting important information out to the public. In addition to writing about important issues facing the district, I post recaps of every Board meeting, and answer questions and comments from readers.
  • The district commissioned a top-to-bottom audit of special education in 2010, and has begun a complete redesign of the way we provide support and individualized instruction to students with disabilities. I’m very proud of the fact that full inclusion is now an option at every school in the district, rather than a select few.

As a parent of two middle schoolers, one with special needs, I’m pleased about the progress the district has made, but I’m not satisfied yet. Both my daughters will enter high school in the next few years, and I want to be sure there are challenging, engaging programs that will help support them and encourage them to reach their dreams. I want to continue to closely monitor the outcomes of our redesigned student assignment system and the ongoing work in special education. I want to support our new Superintendent and leadership team in meeting our strategic plan goals of Access and Equity, Student Achievement, and Accountability.

There’s lots of work to still to be done in our 14 Superintendent’s Zone schools, particularly those in the Bayview, which have long been the City’s most under-resourced and under-attended schools.  It’s time to stop talking and start improving our district’s student nutrition infrastructure, which will require money for updated facilities and staff to cook fresh meals for students, not reheat frozen food as we currently do. Finally, our budget will remain very thin for the foreseeable future – particularly if neither Prop. 30 or Prop. 38 on the ballot pass in November.  Steering the district through the “nuclear winter” that could result will require a Board that is cohesive and committed to doing what is best for students, even when it is difficult.

Over the past four years, I’ve proved myself to be a hard-working, well-informed and responsive member of the school board, and I’ve earned a second term. My endorsements include the Democratic Party, SF Parent Pac, Richmond District Democratic Club, President of the Board of Supervisors David Chiu and Supervisors Scott Wiener, Sean Elsbernd, Mark Farrell, Carmen Chu, and Eric Mar, School Board president Norman Yee and Commissioners Jill Wynns and Emily Murase, as well as District Attorney George Gascon and State Senator Mark Leno.  I would be honored to have your endorsement as well.

Sometimes, you show up at an endorsement meeting and you only have one minute to speak. Sometimes, you have three minutes, with two additional minutes for questions. (Surprisingly, I’m best at the question and answer part — you’d think I’d hate the uncertainty but I find answering constituent questions to be much more relaxing than the opening statement).  So, part of being a candidate is being able to adjust your stump speech on the fly.

Campaign update: I need your help!

And now for a bit of political news: my re-election campaign is up and running — I’m collecting signatures to count towards the ballot filing fee of $500 and raising money to pay for slate cards and mailers that will be sent out in October. On June 30, candidates will report what they’ve raised so far, and though there is still four months left until the election, fundraising totals are viewed as an important sign of viability (or vulnerability :-)).

People tell me all the time how much they appreciate the information I post on this blog, and how important it is for parents and community members to feel informed about what is happening in schools. Hearing that is deeply gratifying to me: I love this work and I know I have made a difference since taking office in early 2009. Many people have already pledged their support and more endorsers are coming on every day — I’m so grateful for all of the support I’ve received thus far! But it is not enough, yet, to get me over the top on Election Day.

School board races are won three ways: energizing your base of support to help get out the vote, having the financial resources to pay for mail and slate cards, and capturing key endorsements from individuals and organizations. I’m working hard on all of those things! Can you help me? Please, even if you can only donate $25 or $50, a contribution to the campaign is the single best thing you could do to help me right now. Later on, in September and October, supporters can display window signs, have house parties, walk precincts and do other get-out-the-vote activities.

But right now, the best way to help is to get the campaign the resources I’ll need to contact the vast majority of voters who don’t pay attention to down-ballot races like the school board.

Donate to the campaign >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> 

(This link takes you to ActBlue, an external fundraising site that provides easy credit card processing for Democratic candidates. If you are not a Democrat, or don’t wish to use ActBlue, you can download this form and mail me a check. Just don’t forget!)

November 2012 ballot looks crowded with initiatives

Last week I was in San Diego for the California School Boards Association annual conference — and I’m working on a series of blog posts about issues I dug into there. Most pressing, however, is the number of initiatives that are being discussed to fix California’s revenue and/or spending, reform its educational and/or governance systems, or some combination thereof.

Qualifying an initiative for the ballot is not easy, so some of the measures we’ve read about will not actually make it to the ballot, but there are enough proposals in the works that political and education policy wonks are beginning to worry that the voters’ clear desire for a solution to our current problems will get lost in a confusing jumble of competing campaigns.

In the conference’s closing “State of the State” roundtable discussion on Saturday, CSBA’s legislative advocate Rick Pratt (soon to be the lead consultant for the Assembly Education Committee) didn’t mince words: “If all four [tax] initiatives make it to the ballot, none will pass.” And where would that lead us? Right back to where we are now, but a year later.

Here are proposals that received a lot of discussion at the conference:

  • “Think Long Blueprint for California”:  Billionnaire Nicholas Berggruen has assembled a committee of former legislators and heavy-hitters, including former Governor Gray Davis and former Assembly Speaker and SF Mayor Willie Brown. Its not-yet-public initiative would lower the overall tax rate but vastly expand taxation to services, raising at least $10 billion annually. It would form a somewhat scary-sounding Citizens Oversight Committee (appointed by the Legislature), with powers to unilaterally place initiatives on the ballot. Additional revenues would go to schools, but for specific, constrained purposes.
  • “2012 Kids Education Plan” : Ted Lempert, the director of the advocacy organization Children Now, has been working with stakeholders up and down the state to build a coalition of support for four principles that would form the backbone of an as-yet unseen initiative. These are: “a student-centered finance system”; “true transparency”; “significant workforce reforms”, and “new investments in education.” It sounds good, but the devil will be in the details.
  • “Our Children, Our Future: Local Schools and Early Education Investment Act”: The California State PTA and the civil rights organization The Advancement Project filed this initiative on November 30 and are beginning the push to collect the hundreds of thousands of signatures necessary to qualify it. The law would raise $10 billion in new tax revenue for Pre-K-12 education, and require those funds to be spent “at the local school sites, where kids are, not district administration.” It would prohibit the Legislature from directing how monies were spent, placing the new revenues in a  trust fund. The initiative would require re-approval by voters after 12 years.
  • Other miscellaneous tax proposals include an oil and gas extraction tax, and a “split roll” which would suspend Prop. 13 for commercial properties, allowing them to be re-assessed every year.

Update: Just this afternoon, Governor Brown announced he has filed his own initiative. From the Governor’s initiative announcing his action:

My proposal is straightforward and fair.  It proposes a temporary tax increase on the wealthy, a modest and temporary increase in the sales tax, and guarantees that the new revenues be spent only on education.  Here are the details:

  • Millionaires and high-income earners will pay up to 2% higher income taxes for five years. No family making less than $500,000 a year will see their income taxes rise. In fact, fewer than 2% of California taxpayers will be affected by this increase.
  • There will be a temporary ½ cent increase in the sales tax.  Even with this temporary increase, sales taxes will still be lower than what they were less than six months ago.

More details on Brown’s initiative is here.

Did you get the letter?

Families with children enrolled in SFUSD are receiving letters this week reminding them that using a false address to attend San Francisco public schools is fraud, and offering families who come forward voluntarily amnesty from fines and possible criminal prosecution.

We got our letter on Tuesday — it’s very important to know that if the letter arrives at your true address, and you legally reside in San Francisco, you do not need to take any action.  The district’s frequently asked questions document about residency fraud is here; the San Francisco Chronicle wrote about the fraud crackdown earlier in the week.

* * *

The school board race is very close; Hydra Mendoza, Kim-Shree Maufas and Margaret Brodkin are leading with Emily Murase closely behind in fourth place — I’ve heard different estimates of how many ballots remain to be counted but it could be several days before the outcome is certain.  The Department of Elections is posting updates here each afternoon.

Monday morning miscellany

Student assignment —  I spent the weekend fielding calls and emails from parents who did not get a choice in Round I of the 2010-11 assignment process. The highlights on Round I are here; along with five years of demand statistics. While I do believe that the current process generally works out in the long run for people who are willing to stick with it and be a bit flexible in their school choices, I understand that it is frustrating and that in general the mechanism is way too complicated and almost impossible to understand. And in the short run, people who end up with none of their choices feel that they have very few options. That’s why we are changing it! I do think that the new “strategically simple” and “non-wasteful” focus on the choice algorithm will maximize people getting what they want. And if it’s any consolation to people who would like to know *exactly* what their choices will be next year, I’m in the same boat as you, since my daughter will be heading off to middle school in 2011. My family will be among the “guinea pigs” in the first year of the redesigned process (and no, we don’t live in CTIP 1).

Diversions — I saw “Seussical the Musical” at the Ruth Asawa School of the Arts over the weekend and it is beyond fabulous. There is one more weekend of performances coming up, so don’t miss this great production! My kids loved the little carnival before the show (come early to enjoy the bounce house and other games), and were utterly enthralled by the beautiful costumes and wonderful performances. It is hard to believe these are high school students!  Buy tickets online (click the buy now! link) >>>>>

Good reads – Yesterday New York University’s Diane Ravitch penned a very interesting Op-Ed for the Los Angeles Times, on the negative effects of  “big ideas” on the educational system. Ravitch’s new book is causing quite a stir in education circles. Formerly a supporter of charter schools and the No Child Left Behind legislation, Ravitch now has nothing but contempt for these big conservative reform ideas.  In yesterday’s Op-Ed, she writes:

Today there is empirical evidence, and it shows clearly that choice, competition and accountability as education reform levers are not working. But with confidence bordering on recklessness, the Obama administration is plunging ahead, pushing an aggressive program of school reform — codified in its signature Race to the Top program — that relies on the power of incentives and competition. This approach may well make schools worse, not better.

Those who do not follow education closely may be tempted to think that, at long last, we’re finally turning the corner. What could be wrong with promoting charter schools to compete with public schools? Why shouldn’t we demand accountability from educators and use test scores to reward our best teachers and identify those who should find another job?

Of everyone writing about education policy today, Ms. Ravitch is making the most sense.  Read the entire article here  >>>

Politics — Interesting to note that two of my colleagues on the school board (Commissioners Maufas and Fewer) have joined progressive slates for the Democratic County Central Committee (DCCC). This little known committee is tremendously powerful in making endorsements for local elections, because our electorate is overwhelmingly Democratic and generally votes for the Democratic Party endorsements.  Full disclosure: I was asked by several members of the City’s political elite to run, but ultimately decided against it — both for personal reasons (in the words of my husband – “You’re kidding, right? Another volunteer position that calls for spending hours in evening meetings?”)  and because I wasn’t sure I wanted to politicize my position on the school board to that extent. Of course, being somewhat political is unavoidable — we have to run citywide after all! — but I am not sure it’s such a good idea for me to get so deeply ensconced in deciding who gets the Party nod for Supervisor, School Board and other races, particularly in the City’s current politically-polarized environment.

NO on 8!!

Yikes, this afternoon I got an email from the No on 8 campaign saying that two new polls show the measure PASSING, even though early polls showed it being easily defeated. Prop. 8 is the California proposition that would ban same-sex marriage; the money pouring into the state from conservative groups is clearly having an effect. We’ve got to defeat Proposition 8!

I’ve created a personal page – please go NOW make a donation, register your support for the right for all people to marry, volunteer or help in other ways.

Update: Here’s a hilarious and dead-on satire of gender-conscious marriage policies.