Santa Ana Unified is California’s sixth-largest school district. Only 28 percent of SAUSD tested students scored at basic levels of reading proficiency – and just 19 percent in mathematics. SAUSD has more failing schools – and a higher percentage of failing schools – than any other Orange County district.
Increasingly, parents are leaving SAUSD and enrolling their children in independent, public charter schools. Entrenched special interests are mobilizing to suppress these parents’ choices because, when a student flees a district, money from the state “follows” the student, leaving the district with less money. SAUSD’s teachers union is demanding more pay – and more enrollment equals potentially higher raises. No need for testing to be proficient in political math.
It appears SAUSD officials are collaborating with the Orange County Labor Federation to suppress parents’ knowledge of the 2010 Parent Empowerment Act, which Sen. Bob Huff, R-Diamond Bar, and I worked to enact. The law grants parents rights to reform underperforming schools, including restarting them as charters.
In 2014, Anaheim parents became the first in Orange County to use the “parent trigger” law – only to be sued by their own elected officials. The parents won in court, but the district is appealing, spending almost $1 million on legal fees. The OCLF actively aided Anaheim officials in resisting the parents and the law.
Last month, SAUSD Board Member Cecilia Iglesias visited SAUSD’s Parent Advisory Committee’s monthly meeting. Iglesias, who also works for Huff as a representative and who champions parents’ rights, was not only shocked by the false information being fed to parents at the meeting, but that the presenter was Gloria Alvarado – the OCLF’s organizing director. Alvarado, who opposes the Parent Empowerment Act, is a declared 2016 school board candidate against Iglesias.
“SAUSD has an obligation to be truthful to our parents about California laws written for them,” Iglesias said. Added parent Mayre Tapia, “We attended the meeting to learn about the Parent Empowerment Act. Instead, we got a union organizer posing as our partner who opposes the very law that gives us rights.”
While Alvarado might be a good labor organizer who helps elect board members like Valerie Amezcua, who posted support for Alvarado on Facebook, she is no expert on California’s budgetary and parents’ rights laws.
Alvarado’s 21-page PowerPoint presentation told parents that the OCLF is their education “partner,” highlighting that there are 4,654 SAUSD workers. SAUSD has 58,000 students – creating a ratio of 12 students per employee.
After explaining California’s Local Control Funding Formula, Alvarado’s presentation purported to explain the Parent Empowerment Act, while not accurately identifying the law. She dwelled on alleged “effects” of the law, claiming that the law’s supporters fail to provide appropriate explanations and that the law creates “division,” leaves people out and has been unsuccessful. She didn’t acknowledge that she’s paid to organize opposition.
SAUSD is rewarding Alvarado by including her as its representative at an upcoming education conference.
Sen. Huff and I are demanding answers from SAUSD Superintendent Rick Miller.
Miller says he had no responsibility for Alvarado’s presentation. He sent us a complaint form to file – even while staunchly defending Alvarado’s credentials and blaming the presentation on the “independent” parent committee. But an SAUSD email contradicts Miller, revealing Alvarado’s presentation was directed by Miller’s assistant, Deputy Superintendent David Haglund. Who else knew?
Falsifying information about California laws to deceive parents is pathetic. Siphoning taxpayer dollars toward that end should be grounds for firing. Will SAUSD officials now tell the truth to their own parents?
About the Author: Gloria Romero, a Los Angeles resident, is an education reformer who served in the California Legislature from 1998 to 2008, the last seven years as Senate majority leader. This article originally appeared in the Orange County Register and is republished here with permission.