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Saturday, June 6, 2020
Fact Check Fact Check: School Board Candidate Kong makes misleading statements over developer fees...

Fact Check: School Board Candidate Kong makes misleading statements over developer fees and state matching funds

Earlier this month, School Board candidate Ling Kong sent an email out to supporters, wishing them a Happy New Year. In that email, she made a statement that has since been called into question. She wrote: 

“My funding initiative enabled our schools to collect over $1 million from developers, without creating any new taxes for Milpitas families.” 

 

 

It was a bold statement, considering that Kong currently is not working for or serving the district at any capacity that would enable her to be responsible for driving a whopping $1 million in funds toward Milpitas Unified School District (MUSD). Currently, Kong works as an Engineer and also serves on Milpitas’ Energy and Environmental Sustainability Commission. 

A handful of Beat readers forwarded the newsletter to us, asking us to look into Kong’s claim. 

We initially reached out to Kong, asking her if her statement was, in fact, accurate. Kong declined to provide a straight response, and instead directed The Beat to reach out to MUSD Superintendent Cheryl Jordan for the full story. We then reached out to Superintendent Jordan’s office and asked if Kong’s statement about enabling the district to collect $1 million from developers was true. 

“The answer is no,” shared an MUSD representative. “The developer fees she is referencing are mandated.” 

Education Code Section 17620 allows school districts the ability to collect fees from commercial or residential construction by developers within school boundaries. On the MUSD website is a page that shows the history of developer fees collected over the last several years. 

As Kong did not describe to The Beat exactly how her “funding initiative” (which The Beat could find no evidence of) might be responsible for bringing $1 million to the district, we are led to determine, based on the district’s response and its history of collecting developer fees over the years, that Kong’s statement is inaccurate. 

Beyond that, Kong also took to Facebook last week to call out MUSD, stating that the district has received $0 in state matching fees over the last 20 years. “It is time to bring in new perspectives,” Kong wrote.  

 

 

A week before that, she wrote: 

“Milpitas Unified School District has not applied for any of the $36B available state matching funds in 20 years. School districts in our county has received over $700M, but Milpitas received zero dollars from it. WHY?…” 

 

 

But MUSD was not qualified to receive matching funds during the majority of time Kong specified. Back during the 1999-2000 school year, the district received $23,980,633 from State Proposition 1A. This was for bond projects that were approved by voters in 1996.

Then, in 2012, after voters passed Bond Measure E, the district became eligible to apply for funds. However, at the time, as MUSD states on their website, “State Proposition 1D funds were depleted, which means no funds were available until State Proposition 51 passed in November 2016.” 

Following Kong’s claims, MUSD published a page on their website entitled “The Truth about MUSD Bond Funding,” seemingly to dispel any falsehoods circulating as a result of Kong’s Facebook posts. They also provided updates to all they’ve been doing in the way of trying to secure funding over the last few years.  

In a more recent Facebook post, Kong presented herself as a candidate who asks the hard questions and demands transparent answers.

 

 

MUSD updated their Bond Funding page to respond to her questions. Since then, Kong has been quiet about the issue.

Meanwhile, though it doesn’t appear to be true that Kong’s “funding initiative” helped to collect $1 million from developers, it is true that this upcoming School Board Special Election — driven by Ling Kong’s friends and associates in the group Better Milpitas — will end up costing the school district over $100,000. All for a board seat which has a term that expires in November, 2020

The March 3 primary is five short weeks away. Voting by mail starts on February 3. 

 

 

 

Rhoda Shapiro
Rhoda Shapiro works as a journalist and media consultant in the Bay Area. She has written for both the Tri-City Voice and the Mercury News, and is the founder of Chi Media Company, which works with nonprofit organizations to elevate their marketing and communication platforms. Rhoda is also an author; her first book will be published by Llewellyn Worldwide in mid-2019. Her YouTube channel, which features practices in yoga, meditation, and women’s empowerment, has amassed thousands of subscribers. Rhoda is The Milpitas Beat’s founder.

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