Not as Good as You Think: The Myth of the Middle Class School

(An extremely valuable insight into the Republican war on public education – and how the public does not want it. – promoted by Robert Cruickshank)

Our Public School System is under attack, not just in Florida or San Diego but in Orange County as well.  There are experiments happening all over the US to test exactly what the best means would be to destroy our public schools and right now, the easiest seems to be from the inside out.

In the Capistrano School District in South Orange County, California, we have a board of Trustees hell bent on not only using the “evil” teacher’s union to paint the schools as ineffective, but to utterly destroy the parent’s faith in the system, driving children from the schools and force a strike.

The recall that took place in 2008 is documented in a film entitled, Not as Good as You Think: The Myth of the Middle Class School.  And it’s been show to GOP leaders all around the Country, it’s their baby of how they can tear apart a school district and right now, we’re on the edge of them succeeding.

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

This was late last year in October.  Now it’s April, the end of spring break and the Board of Trustees have been fighting the teachers over their contract because of budget shortfalls.  If you haven’t been paying attention, revenue shortfalls are down everywhere and they have been horrific here in California due to how we pay for education because of Prop 13 (Another diary).  But needless to say, education is suffering a great deal.

If you go to to the CUSD recall website (These are the bunch who came in to “reform” CUSD), they really don’t hold back their criticism of the teacher’s union, they show their bias and it makes it quite difficult to see how they can negotiate in good faith.

April 8, 2010 CUSD Reform Trustees Successfully Finalize Union Contract Terms That Protect Class Sizes and Teachers’ Jobs. Reaction of Greedy Union Leaders…STRIKE!

After being forced to cut $25 million from last year’s budget and faced with cutting $34 million more this year, the CUSD Reform Board has approved new and sustainable union contract terms that will NOT increase class sizes and will protect dozens of teachers’ jobs. Kudos to the Reform Board whose decision changes misplaced priorities of the past and fulfills important reform promises to the voters of CUSD. In response, selfish union leaders are now threatening to strike, and want to lay off hundreds of young teachers and preserve higher salaries/ benefits for their most senior members at the expense of students, young teachers and taxpayers — and they’re using our children as political pawns to win at any cost! A line in the sand has been drawn. Our Reform Board needs your support and our children need protection from this shameful union greed and exploitation.

This is the rub though, South Orange County is highly Republican, you’d think they would have the parents support if their stance was so reasonable and fiscally responsible.  But every single board meeting has been angry parents who feel that haven’t been heard, a board that continues to have closed door meetings, refuses to meet the teachers half way and have not kept any promises of their recall campaign.

Chanting “Do the right thing!” while clapping in unison, about 400 educators and their supporters rallied Wednesday at Capistrano Unified School District headquarters to protest a 10.1 percent pay cut that the school board is imposing on all teachers.

Many held up signs demanding that Capistrano’s school board “respect our teachers” by returning to the negotiating table to try to work out a compromise with the district’s 2,300-member teachers union.

The board room in San Juan Capistrano was packed to capacity with about 300 teachers and their supporters, while about 100 more demonstrated outside.

Many Capistrano teachers are in favor of an independent mediator’s recommendation from earlier this month that suggested teachers take a 6.32 percent pay cut and that the district achieve 4 percent more in savings by raising class sizes across all grade levels by two students each.

“We’re more than willing to accept pay cuts,” said demonstrator Sue Lederman, a special education preschool teacher at San Clemente’s Lobo Elementary School. “The independent fact-finder’s report was equitable, fair and addressed the needs of the moment, plus the opportunity to renegotiate when things get better.”

Republicans are PISSED OFF.  They are organizing a recall of the recall.

And the board continues to act without any regard for the parents anger, outrage and the concern for the school because their agenda has nothing to do with what is best for public education, the kids or the teachers, it’s an agenda that is quite clear.

A great resource for parents is a blog called, Beyond the Blackboard.

And as we approach the vote to decide to strike the news coming from the board is becoming more and more insulting, from their reaction to High School Student protests…

Capistrano Unified trustees said Friday they understand and respect the sudden groundswell of student activism at two district high schools in response to recent teacher pay cuts, but stressed that the walkouts cannot continue and disruptions to learning will not be tolerated.

Reacting to two lively protests in as many days at Aliso Viejo’s Aliso Niguel High School and Dana Point’s Dana Hills High School, school board President Anna Bryson said she supported the students’ free speech rights, but that they needed to follow the law.

“People have emotions, and those emotions sometimes get expressed when you’re young in ways that aren’t acceptable,” Bryson said Friday. “It doesn’t surprise me. But we don’t want to see our students missing time in class. They’re going to college and they’re going to be tested, and they need that class time.”

OC Register

To talk of hiring armed guards for school grounds.  Yes.  And people thought the reaction was “extreme” because this was to protect students from picketing teachers.  They have hired a local contractor for 250 unarmed guards and plan on paying them up to $100,000 (Don’t want to pay teachers, but hey, lets pay thugs to walk the schools!).

“The fact that they are paying for the security guards makes me so mad because that money could be going toward something else,” said Kathryn Gullickson, 18, a senior at Dana Point’s Dana Hills High School, where students have already staged a protest and walkout over the teacher pay issue. “We’re not in danger. The whole idea of them protecting us from the picketing teachers is far-fetched and ridiculous.”

‘Extreme reaction’

A local sociology professor who was asked to weigh in on Capistrano Unified’s security plan said the preparations sounded unusual and unnecessary.

“I don’t know what would prompt such an extreme reaction from the school district,” said Judith Stepan-Norris of UC Irvine, an expert on the U.S. labor movement who has no affiliation with Capistrano Unified. “You have teachers you trust your children to everyday. How can you imagine that they would become people you would have to defend from?”

Bryson said the decision was made by senior district administrators, led by interim Superintendent Bobbi Mahler, based on their research into what other districts have done.

Bryson declined to elaborate on what specific threat picketing Capistrano teachers might pose, but stressed that if a strike materialized, the situation would be continually re-evaluated.

OC Register

This is the extremism that a lot of parents are baffled by and completely enraged by how tone deaf the board seems to be.  Not only are these contractors unnecessary, one of them, ABC, was charged with negligence and parents are concerned about them being around their kids.  

So, here is the current recall group, Capo Recall 2010 and why something needs to be done.

Why A Recall?

Written by Dr. Peter J. Espinosa

I am pleased to announce that I was one of the individuals that signed the required notice to recall CUSD Trustees Mike Winsten and Ken Lopez-Maddox. My reasons go beyond their failure to petition the State Board of Education for a waiver which could have expedited the change in how trustees from large districts are elected. As a reminder, the change would have involved switching from the outdated, more costly “at large” voting method to the cost saving “vote by trustee area” that holds trustees more accountable to constituents in their particular trustee area. My reason for signing the petition goes deeper than their role in unnecessarily increasing legal and consultation fees during an era of fiscal hardships. My reason for signing the petition is much broader than their rejection of an appropriate elementary school math text recommended by competent, professional math teachers. Instead, both trustees supported the adoption of a text that benefitted a friend, actually, a spouse of one of the other trustees.

Simply put, I signed the petition because I am strongly opposed to the policy direction of the Education Alliance. It is public knowledge that Trustees Mike Winsten and Ken Lopez-Maddox have significant financial backing of the Education Alliance. This group’s goals are to change the vision and direction of public schools. This group is involved in a local, state and national movement that clearly wants to take the public out of public schools. Their goal is to place the Education Alliance first rather than placing public school children first. The change would reflect a shift in making public schools resemble private schools that are unregulated and religious based with a selective criteria that would benefit some students more than others. For example, highly accountable programs for students with special learning needs and limited English speakers whose first language happens to be Spanish would be negatively impacted. Other examples of their agenda include opposition to state and federal curriculum standards, as well as social health services in schools. They also support vouchers for private schools and the destruction of teacher and classified unions. The Pacific Research Institute supports their effort along with people such as Howard Ahmanson, Frank Ury, Jim Righeimer, Mark Bucher and Craig Alexander. Their ultimate goal is to fund and support candidates for local school boards who are committed to their agenda.

CUSD has historically been a high performing school district. With a student population of 52,000, CUSD has grown to be the ninth largest school district in the State of California. CUSD has the highest test scores among large districts in the state. Teachers at CUSD have clearly had a very long tradition of excellence and professionalism. Equally important, CUSD teachers have a history of adapting to new challenges while maintaining high performance standards for themselves as well as for their students. Teachers and the very competent support staff have demonstrated a capacity and commitment to work through tough fiscal decisions. CUSD needs trustees who would consider partnership in decision making rather than making teachers and support staff the enemy. CUSD needs trustees who are committed to public education. Trustee Winsten and Lopez-Maddox have proven to be masters in dividing CUSD teachers, staff and parents and have also been responsible for the loss of very competent school site administrators to other districts.

Trustee Winsten and Lopez-Maddox are on a path to break CUSD’s tradition of excellence and extend the climate of division and rancor throughout CUSD. Their association with the Education Alliance will assure such a consequence.

I therefore encourage all CUSD constituents to sign the petition to recall Trustees Mike Winsten and Ken Lopez-Maddox. Keep the public in public schools and make all children in our community first.

Here is a video, Oh What a Tangled Web They Weave.  Won’t embed for some reason but it’s a short watch for those who want a quick overview.

My husband and I have a six year old in first grade in the Capo school district.  This is important to us.  We can’t let groups like this destroy our public school systems.  As you know, we are not just Democrats, we are people who get involved around here, we stand up against things that we believe are wrong.

We cannot let this happen here because it can happen in your school district and others.

For those who want, I will keep you posted.

5 thoughts on “Not as Good as You Think: The Myth of the Middle Class School”

  1. The Education Alliance has been like a wrecking ball to school districts when they occasionally manage to take control. Their reign of error in Westminster and Orange took a tremendous effort to undo.

    The people who run this are the same crew of right wing wackos who were trying to get the paycheck protection initiative on the ballot once again as a way of bleeding the unions.

  2. Groups like Pacific Research Institute are bad news for public schools. The governor has appointed its pro voucher education director, Lance Izumi, to become chairman of the California Community College system. Mr. Izumi additionally supports overturning the Supreme Court court case Plyler v. Doe which requires public schools to educate all students including undocumented. The PRI also has been active in denying that global warming exists and undermining the case for health care reform. Thanks for posting this informative piece on what’s happening in the OC.  Scary stuff.  

  3. And I’m sure no one in the teacher’s union wants to see teachers laid off.

    Fundamentally, unilaterally imposing a 10% pay cut is just plain bad news. The Trustees could ask what might make that kind of cut palatable to their teachers. They might talk to their teachers. They might extend a branch of trust to these people who spend time with the kids every day and ask them to use their professional judgement about the best solutions for the students and the school.

    No one wants to lose any teachers. But, SJC is a very high cost of living area. Imposing cuts on teachers of this level may mean that many simply can’t afford to keep their jobs. Certainly after such a fight, should the trustees “win”, I can imagine morale will be in the toilet. Is it so hard to talk to them, to negotiate and discuss in good faith?

    Teach for America found that the main correlation for how good a teacher was was their life satisfaction. Having your bosses tell you you’re not worth your salary, having to worry about having enough for a car repair or activities for your kids does not create life satisfaction.

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