The Devil in the Details of the CUSD Strike

(photo courtesy of Lou Delgado)

I’ve been writing about Capistrano Unified School District and the struggles with our current Board of Trustees.  The teachers went on strike Thursday even as talks began regarding the contract imposed by the CUSD Board of Trustees.

The details are important because they seem to be getting lost in translation between the media, the administration, the union and the parents.  The issue is that Teachers are willing to take pay cuts, they just don’t want them to be permanent.  There are other issues as well, which I’ve written about but the real issue is the board, who funded their race and the ultimate goal of a number of organizations to privatize our public education system.

Capistrano Unified School District is ground zero for this fight.  It has been documented in an hour long film called Not as Good as You Think: The Myth of the Middle Class School.

Pacific Research Institute is the maker of this documentary and have used it to push their expansion of privatization of public schools and rather than support the structure that is there, the system that has proven to be successful for many years in the past, they are asking for funding for Charter schools and vouchers, which will further weaken our public school system.  This is their rallying call.

“Not as Good as You Think” was the first-ever study to evaluate student performance in schools located in California’s middle-class and affluent neighborhoods. While this study focused on California, its findings received national recognition. The book was the subject of an editorial by the Wall Street Journal, as well as the basis for Lance Izumi’s appearance on CNBC’s Kudlow & Company. The authors of “Not as Good as You Think” gave major addresses at the Heritage Foundation, briefed staffers in the White House, the Senate, the House of Representatives, and the U.S. Department of Education. Op-eds on the book’s findings have appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle, New York Sun, San Diego Union-Tribune, San Francisco Examiner, and other newspapers across the country.

In California, Lance Izumi and Vicki Murray briefed Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s top advisors, state legislators, legislative staff, and key education policymakers.  As a result, for the first time in six years, five school choice bills were introduced in Sacramento. The historic number of bills included an opportunity scholarship, a disability voucher, and a safe schools voucher.

Emphasis mine (editor’s note: “Opportunity Scholarship” is GOP wordsmith Frank Luntz’s code word for “Vouchers.”)

This film was also brought to Washington and shown to people in Congress.  It’s not an Orange County problem, it’s not just a California problem, this is a National issue.

WASHINGTON – A libertarian think-tank that prominently features the Capistrano Unified School District in a documentary about how the U.S. public school system is broken will screen its 49-minute film this afternoon on Capitol Hill.

“Not as Good as You Think: The Myth of the Middle Class School” recounts a five-year effort by the CUSD Recall Committee parents group to bring reforms to a school district plagued by scandal, community unrest and allegations of corruption reaching into the highest levels of its administration.

“We have made a national impact here in Capistrano Unified,” said Recall Committee leader and parent Tony Beall, a Rancho Santa Margarita city councilman. “It’s nice that our efforts are being recognized at the U.S. Capitol.”

The 2:30 p.m. screening will be hosted by two leading GOP lawmakers – U.S. House Republican Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, and U.S. Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., the senior Republican on the House Education and Labor Committee.

OC Register

So, there is a trail here of players and one of the is Tony Beall.

OC Register June 24, 2008: HIGH FIVE:Tony Beall (settlement recipeient), left, member of the CUSD recall committee, high fives his wife Jennifer (recall recipient), as they celebrate election results that recalled CSUD trustees Sheila Benecke and Marlene Draper and the election of trustees Sue Palazzo and Ken Maddox to replace the ousted board members. Mike Winsten is in the background as is Craig Alexander. Mr Alexander is on the Board of Directors for The Education Alliance. 1

From the Orange County Register: June 24, 2008 special election victory party at the home of Tony and Jennifer Beall (settlement recipients). Also pictured are Mike Winsten, Ken Maddox, Donna Furniss (settlement recipient), Tom Russell (settlement recipient), Juli Pehrson (original claimant), Sue Palazzo, and others. 2

Source

So, settlements?  Supporters, what does this mean?

Trustees Mike Winsten and Ken Maddox voted in favor of an out of court settlement resulting in hundreds of thousands of dollars being paid to individuals who financially contributed to or supported their candidacies to the CUSD Board of Trustees.

Justifications

Two settlements were reached with CUSD residents who had sued the District over an alleged “enemies list” kept by former CUSD administrators.

The first settlement was approved on a 7-0 vote on September 15, 2009 and resulted in $475,000 being paid to the Case and Reardon families. Jim Reardon contributed directly to Trustee Maddox’s campaign.
The second settlement was approved on a 4-0 vote and resulted in $178,350 being paid to the Beall, Russell and Furniss families. Trustees Addonizio, Christiansen and Palazzo recused themselves from this vote. Maddox stated that those three trustees abstained because the families receiving the settlements had lent money to the political action committee that had elected the three to office.

Trustees Maddox, Winsten, Bryson and Brick voted to approve both settlements which resulted in a total of $653,350 being paid to these families. CUSD insurance policies covered most of these payments but at least $100,000 came directly out of the CUSD general fund to pay the insurance deductible. With more than $550,000 being paid by the insurance company the District’s insurance premiums are likely to be greatly affected. The Beall and Russell families were the primary supporters of the previous recalls and elections that resulted in the current seven trustees being elected to the CUSD Board of Trustees. Mike Winsten chose Mr. Beall to be the person who swore him into office when he was elected to the CUSD Board of Trustees.
Sources

Orange County Register 9-29-09
http://www.ocregister.com/news/distr…
Mike Winsten’s campaign platform, October 26, 2008
“Conflict of Interest Code Draft and adopt a more stringent Conflict of Interest Code that sets standards far greater than the sham standards set by state law, that ensures there are no more cozy hidden relationships involving sole source contracts for years and decades, between CUSD vendors and Administrators, like we have heard about in the recent past;” – Mike Winsten’s campaign platform Oct 26, 2008

Maddox and Winsten Contributions – Out of Court Settlements Summary – Document is posted on the recall website:
http://www.caporecall2010.org/pdf/Ma…

Source

So this is a board struggling with deficits?  Hundreds of thousands of dollars going to people who supported and funded their campaigns.  These people are closely related in business and with the local Republican party and with the Education Alliance.  The Capo Recall 2010 Website outlines millions of dollars of other obscene unnecessary expenditures as this board, on their private recall site continues to call teachers, “Selfish Public Employee Unions” and “Greedy union leaders”.

So who supported this slate of “reformers”?  As I mentioned, Education Alliance is behind the board and their website is clear about their goals.

History

History of the Education Alliance:
Electing Conservative School Board Members

The Education Alliance was formed in 1994, and operated as a political action committee supporting candidates who support local control of our schools, the rights of parents to make educational choice for their children, and an emphasis on basic, academic instruction.

Since the 1990’s the performance of our schools has continually declined. Today it is still far below its potential, and the control of our education system by the elite, liberal bosses who run the teachers unions have been consolidated and are now more complete than ever. Even the most modest changes, such as merit pay and charter schools, are strenuously opposed using the funds of teachers who often support these proposals. This was shown in the 2005 special election in which overwhelming union spending was used to defeat Governor Schwarzenegger attempts at reform.

The Education Alliance began to become the organization committed solely to giving a voice to parents and teachers who support excellence for our children through means other than the liberal, self-serving policies of the teachers union leadership and their allies in the education establishment.

The site is full of buzzwords, from local control and “basic” education,  and they call charter schools “modest changes”.  Of course they also like to bash the “liberal” teacher’s unions, which tends to forget the fact that many teachers in Souther Orange County are Republican.  Republicans support public education and this is a fight about extremism.  And Education Alliance is as about extreme as they come.

Here is their Platform

The Education Alliance exists to promote the betterment of our educational system for the benefit of parents, children and society as a whole.

The Education Alliance arose and exists to further each of the following self-evident principles of an effective education system, and to help insure that these fundamental principles are adhered to by those who seek to govern the educational process:

Academic excellence and the teaching of the “Three R’s”should be the hallmark of our education system and we should resist any attempt to impose upon our schools any other goals, objectives or ideologies.

How school districts are run belongs under the control of local parents and taxpayers, not the State or Federal governments.

Parents and other local citizens are closest to, and care the most about, the children in their communities. Therefore, all control over funding, expenditures, curriculum and all matters of administration of publicly run schools should remain in the hands of local parents, voters and locally elected school boards. The more control the State government asserts over local education decisions the less responsive our schools are to local needs. Federal control of education strikes at the very heart of the system of federalism established by the founding fathers of our country and must be resisted. Funding of education by the State and Federal governments is a primary means of exercising control. The failure of many existing school board members to resist both increased State and Federal control of our schools is error.

We therefore believe that all attempts to increase State or Federal control over any aspect of our education system or its funding should be resisted.

Students in the United States should be instructed in the English language.

One indivisible Nation such as ours must be united by a single common language. Failure to follow this policy will lead to an unnecessary and disruptive commercial, social and regional balkanization of the populace and contribute to impoverishment of those who are not educated in English.

We therefore believe our education system has the duty to insure that all students have an opportunity to become proficient in English quickly and that once English proficiency is achieved that all students receive their educational instruction in English.

The unions and other special interests currently control our education system for their own gain and to the detriment of our children.

The proper function of teachers’ unions is not to dictate educational policy, but to support teachers in collective bargaining of wages and working conditions. Unions have usurped unto themselves the role of educational policy makers. Union dues which are taken from teachers’ salaries without the teachers’ consent are used to fund political activities which they often disagree with. the election of school board members who represent the Unions, not the teachers, parents or the local voters. This has allowed the Unions’ handpicked candidates to gain majority status on most school boards and to therefore control educational policy. School board policy should be made for the benefit of children, not Unions.

We therefore support eliminating any ability of the Unions to require membership or dues to be paid as a condition of employment. We also support eliminating the absolutely indefensible practice of allowing districts to act as collection agents for the Unions by taking dues directly out of employees checks.

Our schools must impart positive values and discipline to students in order to maintain an optimum learning environment and to properly prepare students for life as productive citizens after school.

All educational processes necessarily impart values of some sort to their pupils. We reject the fallacy that it is possible to educate children in a “value neutral” manner. It is no more possible to govern schools in a “value neutral” manner than it is to govern an entire nation or state in such a manner. Likewise, just as it is not possible to govern an entire nation or state that is in anarchy, it is not possible to govern a school system or a class that is in anarchy and where discipline is neither maintained nor enforced.

We do not support teaching religion in our schools. Liberal defenders of an education system devoid of values charge that the teaching of values is somehow synonymous with teaching religion. We believe that this is a ridiculous and is designed by the defenders of the educational status quo in an attempt to deflect attention from their own failures.

Is it getting clearer here?  The most appalling thing is that teachers are some how the other, that as local community members they wouldn’t understand what might be best for their students, that they would only be interested what’s best for their own gain.  This is the gist here.  It’s an adversarial stance that creates a hostility between parents and teacher.

The agenda is privatization and it’s insidious.  And our board was supported by this PAC, specifically created to vote in School Board members to support their agenda.

So now it’s all about tracing the money.

Also waiting to be seen at this point is how much of a financial role the CUSD Recall Committee will play in the June 24 special election. The committee raised eyebrows after reports that it received $17,000 from the Tustin-based Education Alliance, a group that supports education vouchers and local control over schools. It opposes bilingual education and contends teachers’ unions are too powerful. The Education Alliance also gave $5,000 directly to Bryson.

The Education Alliance was co-founded by Mark Boucher, a member of the Republican Central Committee. Rancho Santa Margarita City Councilmember Tony Beall, a leader in the CUSD Recall Committee, is also running for the Central Committee. They would both represent the 71st Assembly district. Also on that list? Acting Sheriff Jack Anderson is an incumbent seeking re-election, and Assemblyman Todd Spitzer, bumping against term limits, is also seeking on the district’s six seats.

And tracing the relationships through articles and nuances, this board has been watching through the last couple of years and there are signs here and there that people get it but not enough people get it.

“There’s a new battle being waged in Capistrano Unified, and it is every bit as dangerous as the battle voters just won,” says district parent Tony Beall, addressing the board of trustees he helped elect as a leader of the CUSD Recall Committee. “Many who directly profit from CUSD’s multimillion-dollar budget are continuing their efforts to frustrate and roll back reforms.”

Beall, a Rancho Santa Margarita city councilman who speaks with the nasal precision of the elder George Bush, has mastered the art of political euphemism. He thinks teachers and staff are making trouble because they don’t like the board’s recent suspension of A. Woodrow Carter, the retired army colonel who has served as CUSD superintendent since September 2007. Trustees say that personnel laws prevent them from saying why they voted 6-1 behind closed doors on Jan. 6 to put the popular superintendent on paid administrative leave after hearing scores of constituents praise him. Carter’s seat at the dais at the Jan. 12 meeting is empty, and the many parents, teachers, students and district employees who say Carter was the most honest, effective, friendly and helpful superintendent they’d ever worked with (CUSD has gone through four people in the top spot since Fleming left in 2006) took the board’s vote as a troubling sign. (The Weekly’s efforts to reach Carter for comment were unsuccessful.)

Campbell’s words jab against rumors that the reform trustees, whose campaigns were largely financed by such conservative groups as the Education Alliance and Howard Ahmanson’s Fieldstead & Co., seek to sabotage public education from the inside out. The Education Alliance, which publicly opposes the influence of teachers’ unions, has been a point of contention for the new board’s critics. The Capistrano Unified Education Association, the local teachers’ union, endorsed trustee Christensen and current board president Ellen Addonizio when they ran in 2006; after the Education Alliance got more involved, though, the union vocally and financially backed the opponents of the “reform” slate in 2008. Posts on the website of the local chapter of the California School Employees Association (CSEA), which represents classified staff (including custodians and librarians), say Carter’s dismissal may have been part of a plan to “break the union,” a charge the trustees deny.

Source

And directly from our local Red County Blog, a press release from Education Alliance regarding the recall.

Dear Education Alliance Supporters:

As you might have heard, last Tuesday the voters of the Capistrano Unified School District voted to recall trustees Sheila Benecke and Marlene Draper. The vote was very lopsided – over 69% voted in favor of the recall. This result was a great victory for everyone involved in the recall and, most importantly, for the students attending Capistrano Unified schools. This district has been run into the ground for almost two decades by incompetence and corruption. At last, the Capistrano Unified School District is governed by a majority of trustees who are committed to reform.

The credit for this victory rests primarily with the CUSD Recall Committee, and it leaders, Mike Winston, Tom Russell, and Tom and Jennifer Beal. They have been working on this for 5 years and have devoted countless hours to documenting the problems in this district, gathering signatures, and campaigning.

The Education Alliance also played a major role by providing financial support that was instrumental to the effort. Many of the funds for this purpose were raised at the Dennis Prager dinner last year, which many of you attended. The recall opponents attempted to make the Education Alliance an issue by orchestrating newspaper stories and emails with dire warnings of outsiders trying to take over Capistrano Unified for some sinister purpose. Unfortunately for them, this scare tactic backfired. Most voters like what we stand for – excellence in education, the rights of parents to make choices for their children, and local control of our schools.

Thank you for your support of the Education Alliance. Together, we are making a difference for our children.

Mark Bucher, Chairman
Education Alliance

There you go, right from the Education Alliance themselves.  And so today teachers were on the picket line, walking to fight for not their pay, not to keep money in their pockets but to fight for public education.

Just go to the Capistrano Unified School Districts Webpage and you will see that the board put two new Charter Schools on their agenda today while teachers walked the picket line.

Do you think that’s not on purpose?  Do you think that Charter Schools being offered on the same day that teacher strike is just a coincidence?

The strike is becoming a national issue since the Huffington Post is covering it but will Education Alliance be written about?

I need you to learn more about and spread the word and let your neighbors, friends and family know that this fight is not about money, class size or  the greedy unions.  It’s about keep public education the best it can be and truly public and within local control.

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