A heretofore obscure government body is at there center of a concerted effort to re-write voting boundaries for the Orange County Board of Education as three of that body’s five members head into their June election contests. It votes this afternoon on a distict map OCBE, part of its unprecedented partisan effort to usrup this process from the OC Board of Education.
Last week, the OCBE filed suit in Orange County Superior Court seeking the court’s intervention in the matter, saying the Orange County Committee on School District Organization (OCCSDO) is politically motivated and biased against them.
What is the Orange County Committee on School District Organization and why is it departing from its traditionally passive role to take an activist role in contesting the voting district map that the OCBE approved last month in accord with state law?
On its website, the Orange County Committee The County Committee is charged by state law with studying and making recommendations regarding “the organization and reorganization of school districts” and “changes in school district boundaries” and “the number of trustees and the manner by which they are elected.”
For example, if Cypress parents wanted to secede from the Anaheim Union High School District and merge Cypress High School into the Cypress School District, the OCCSDO would approve or reject it.
The OCCSDO has now embroiled itself in the wider war being waged against the pro-charter school OC Board of Education – whose governing majority has shown itself unafraid to challenge the policy priorities and empire building of the Orange County education establishment.
For years, the OCCSDO has routinely ratified the voting district maps adopted by the OC Board of Education. Suddenly, however, this obscure body now is trying to draw that map itself.
This begs the question of why? The map adopted last month by the five-member OC Board of Education contains a Hispanic district and an Asian district. Voting districts are supposed to be roughly even in terms of population, the map adopted by the OCBE has literally zero population between districts: the population difference between districts is no more than one person.
Yet, the 11 members of the obscure OCCSDO have decided they will reject that map and draw their own.
The answer is clear from a review of the 11 members of the Orange County Committee on School District Organization: it is dominated by pro-union, anti-school choice, partisan Democrats.
No surprise there: they are selected by a nominating committee composed of represenatives from Orange County’s school boards and community college baords, which are dominated by liberal, pro-union trustees.
The OCBE governing majority is comprised of conservatives who are strongly supportive of charter schools and maximizing parental choice, and are not susceptible to teacher union influence.
No reasonable person, armed with the facts and knowledge of public education politics, can seriously believe the OCCSDO is approaching this matter in a fair-minded and non-partisan manner.
A sampling of the current OCCSDO membership:
Kathleen Heard: a retired Anaheim Elementary School District employee and partisan political activist who for many years was the boss of the classified employees union for the district. As union president, she vehemently opposed parents who worked to convert Palm Lane Elementary into a charter school, going so far as to accuse them of “cowardice.” When the AESD school board rejected the charter petition, Heard – who had marshaled union members to flood the board meeting – exalted “CSEA is in the house!”
Jackie Filbeck: a trustee of the Anaheim Elementary School District. While nominally a Republican, Filbeck is closely allied with the other four trustees – all of whom are teachers anti-charter school, union activists who work for the Anaheim Union High School District. As a trustee, she’s a reliable vote for progressive policies and tows the teacher union line.
While the OCBE majority has led opposition to indoctrinating students in Critical Race Theory through the vehicle of Ethnic Studies, Filbeck voted to require the children of her K-6 school district to take Ethnic Studies.
Sheila Benecke: was a long-time member of the Capistrano Unified School District, where she was a staunch teacher union supporter and equally staunch opponent of school choice. During her tenure as a CUSD trustee, the Orange County District Attorney determined the board committed numerous violations of state open meeting laws.
Karin Freeman: A Democrat member of the Placentia-Yorba Linda Unified School District, who last year voted make Ethnic Studies a high school graduation requirement – before the passage of state legislation imposing that requirement.
Kathy Moffat: Long-time Orange Unified School District trustee, first elected as part of the teacher union candidate slate to oust the pro-school choice majority, and has been a reliable anti-charter school vote on that board.
Partisan Progressive Democrat Hired To Draw Map
The OCCSDO is supposed to be a technocratic, politically neutral body. But actions speak louder than words: the agency hired a partisan Democrat political operative to draw its map.
Paul Mitchell is the owner of Redistricting Partners. He is also the owner of Political Datas INc., by far the state’s largest vendor of voter data. Last year, Mitchell made news by annnouncing Political Data would no longer provide voter data services to Republican candidates or campaigns, as part of his commitment to “building the progressive movement.”
In other words, the OCCSDO has entrusted its map drawing to a political consultant who has stated he will not – for ideological reasons – sell voter data to four of the five members of the OC Board of Education.
How on Earth can any reasonable person have confidence Mitchell will be fair-minded and politically neutral when drawing voting districts for the OCBE. He
You get the picture. The bottom line is the OCCSDO’s unprecedented to decision to usurp the OCBE voting district map drawing for themselves is a political power grab by an agency that is supposed to be politically neutral. There is no vital or overridding reason for the OCCSDO to refuse approval of the OCBE’s fairly drawn, zero-deviation map and substitute their own.