Letters to the editor: BCS, speeding, council coverage

BCS can’t pick & choose charter laws to follow

In the Town Crier article “BCS gets over $2M PPP loan” (June 24), Bullis Charter School board chairman Francis La Poll justifies taking federal Paycheck Protection Program funds by saying that “BCS receives significantly less funding per student in state and local tax revenue compared to LASD schools.”

It’s important to be clear that the state of California (and not the Los Altos School District) specifies the per-student funding that BCS is entitled to receive, and that BCS receives the full amount required under California charter law.

California charter law also grants BCS substantial operational freedom through exemption from many of the state requirements and resulting costs that apply to school districts. BCS can use this freedom from compliance requirements and costs to design the program it wants, and is free to raise its own funds to supplement state-mandated funds. Because the BCS board is unelected, it is unaccountable to voters for its choices.

Accepting the state-mandated per-student funding in exchange for operational freedom is the fundamental charter deal that BCS founders (including Mr. La Poll) chose when they created BCS, and it’s the same deal that the BCS board continues to choose by maintaining BCS operations. Nothing obligates BCS to continue to accept California’s charter deal.

Alternatively, BCS could become a private school and charge the tuition it wants for its operations, or it could even cease operations and have its students depart to their home-district schools, other charters or private schools.

BCS has complete power to choose whether to accept the charter deal, but it can’t choose only the elements it likes most.

Danielle James
Los Altos

BCS PPP loan ‘morally bankrupt’

Francis La Poll’s response to Bullis Charter School and other charter schools accepting forgivable Paycheck Protection Program loans was an attempt to pivot away from the main point of this news.
Of course BCS receives Local Control Funding Formula allocations, just like all other charter schools in the state. It’s part of the deal established by the state. Charters do not have to follow a significant portion of the Education Code, and their teachers are not protected by a union. This was the case when La Poll and his fellow charter leaders founded the school, and it is still true today.

Also, just like school districts and other charter schools, BCS has received extra funding through the CARES Act. The problem with BCS’ use of PPP funds is obvious in the program name – Paycheck Protection Program.

This money was intended to keep small businesses and nonprofits alive and paying staff. BCS has a $1.1 million reserve, over 7%, and the Bullis Foundation has at least $7 million, per recent tax filings.
BCS is not at risk of laying off staff, going into bankruptcy or not paying rent. Taking taxpayer money when Bullis Charter School has not lost funding and has already received CARES Act funds is a morally bankrupt decision.

Tamara Logan
Los Altos

Automated cameras discourage speeding

A year ago I drove in many small towns in France, and there were automated camera speed traps in every small village. I had been warned and paid a lot of attention to the speed limits; I did not receive any speeding tickets in the mail.
Automation is used to lower the labor component to achieve some result. In my experience, speed-trap cameras are effective and result in slowing traffic as needed.
Meanwhile, in Los Altos I find speeders on Foothill Expressway, and much worse on Highway 85 and Interstate 280. I suspect these automatic systems can generate revenue with minimum labor, add to government funding and improve social conditions. Local police can spend their time on more pressing issues.
Stan Mazor
Los Altos

Town Crier ‘blew it’ with council coverage

I have lived in Los Altos for 39 years and I used to think the Town Crier was a reputable newspaper. Now I am not so sure. The problem with a small-town newspaper is that the “movers and shakers” all know each other. The people who own and run the paper do not want to make any of their friends and colleagues angry or uncomfortable by reporting on negative things that happen to one of their own, especially during this time of Black Lives Matter.

Unfortunately, this is the time to stand for truth and integrity in reporting, and Melissa Hartman tried to do her job in just that manner. It’s a shame that the Town Crier decision makers are cowardly and were willing to lose an excellent reporter because they fear upsetting anyone who they think is important. They had a choice to report the event that happened in council chambers in a timely fashion and they blew it. They played it safe. The Town Crier, as a voice for all the residents in Los Altos, is now called into question. I think a public apology is due to the readership and especially to Melissa.

Debbie Baker
Los Altos

Editor’s note: Los Altos City Councilwoman Jeannie Bruins used a phrase with racist origins – “out of your cotton-picking mind” – at a May 20 council meeting, and the Town Crier first reported on it June 4. We hear the community’s criticism. The event, and reaction to it, deserved decisive, straightforward and timely coverage, and our newspaper’s response didn’t meet that mark in several respects. As an organization, we have the responsibility and capacity to do better. The first step for us internally has been to analyze where our process failed, and how we can consistently and insightfully meet the standards our readers rightly expect.

Article on reach codes poorly researched

I am writing as a resident of Los Altos and not in my role as chair of the Los Altos Environmental Commission.

I am upset by the low-quality standard for reporting demonstrated in the July 1 Town Crier article “Los Altos council set to vote on reach codes.” The writer obviously did not research and report on the topic. Instead, the article seems based on information obtained from the opposing Los Altos Residents group.

I believe, and am fairly certain, that no members of city staff or the Environmental Commission were contacted to check the accuracy of (a) the data presented, (b) the mostly noncredited con statements made by the Los Altos Residents group and (c) the noncredited pro statements.

Publicly available information shows that two public surveys were conducted by the Environmental Commission with quite different results (the article references only the first survey; see June 8, 2020, Environmental Commission Meeting Agenda, Item 3 attachment).

Concerning the claim of “muted” opposition during the Environmental Commission’s April 29 outreach webinar, the panelists responded to public questions submitted via the webinar chat feature, then distributed to registered webinar attendees responses to 90-plus questions and comments received. Also, 16 frequently asked questions are presented on the Environmental Commission’s Reach Codes web page.

Don Weiden
Los Altos

Residents appreciate Town Crier

We want to share our appreciation of the Town Crier for the many contributions it makes to our local community. 

We are so lucky to have a source that provides us with in-depth local news, locally reported. It benefits us by providing the latest news on our city government, budgets, leadership and upcoming election information. We read about our schools with their sports and academic achievements, local events and what our local clubs and nonprofits are doing. Local businesses are able to advertise to the people who live in the community. It allows us to share with neighbors and friends our life’s important milestones; births, deaths, weddings and celebrations.

Thank you, Town Crier, for being here! Even during the COVID-19 crisis, you kept publishing while some other local papers didn’t.

We appreciate your support of community programs, nonprofits and fundraisers. You keep us informed and entertained. You keep us a community.

Mike and Nancy Schneider
Los Altos

Submit a Letter to the Editor

The Town Crier welcomes letters to the editor on current events pertinent to Los Altos, Los Altos Hills and Mountain View. Write to us at 138 Main St., Los Altos 94022, Attn: Editor, or email editor Bruce Barton at bruceb@latc.com. Because editorial space is limited, please confine letters to no more than 200 words. Include a phone number for verification purposes. Anonymous letters will not be printed.

You can also have your say right here at losaltosonline.com – scroll to the bottom of any story to add a comment. 

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