Candidates differ over charter schools and the role of the Board
On June 7, in addition to determining primary candidates, voters will cast ballots for local nonpartisan offices decided by a majority vote. Fullerton, Buena Park, Placentia, and La Habra voters will be voting for the next Orange County Department of Education (OCDE) Superintendent and a short-term election for Area 4 OCDE Board member due to the ongoing legal issues concerning the current office holder, Tim Shaw.
Public school districts and publicly funded charter schools look to the county department of education to distribute and oversee finances and operations. The OCDE approves individual school districts’ Local Control Accountability Plans (LCAP) describing how the district plans to allocate funds and offers resources including teacher training, legal services, technical support, and provides alternative education programs. The elected Superintendent oversees the OCDE employees and programs while working with the five elected board members to approve the OCDE budget. The Board of Education members have no direct authority over the county’s 28 school districts’ individual budgets, curriculum, state standards, or any health and safety protocols.
The Area 4 incumbent, Tim Shaw, is currently suspended from serving as the representative because a lawsuit citing a conflict of interest as he was also serving on the La Habra City Council. In November 2021, Mr. Shaw resigned from his OCDE board seat and then he resigned from the La Habra City Council seat in order to be questionably reappointed by the Board to continue serving as a OCDE board member which he told the OC Register he found “the role particularly rewarding” when reviewing previously denied inter-district student transfers and overturning denied charter school formations. (OC Register Dec, 21, 2021)
The OCDE Board members serve as an appellate board for inter-district student transfers, charter school approval and oversee alternate student education OCDE programs. They approve the overall OCDE budget but do not have the ability to shape individual allocations in the budget, which is an area currently being determined in litigation. Four of the five current board members, including Mr. Shaw, support numerous lawsuits sucking up a projected $7 million taxpayer dollars including cases that often do not have anything to do with the board’s responsibilities or oversight. The board has sued the Governor and the state over mask mandates and school closures while having no control over school district health protocols or policies. The board won a lawsuit requiring OC tax payers pay for the board’s separate lawyers since they are often suing the OCDE Superintendent and the state. These elected board members that receive a monthly stipend of $562.61 and access to all the medical and welfare benefits accorded to OCDE employees seem focused on litigation and promoting their opinions about subjects not under board authority.
The board can only present an opinion concerning curriculum, but that has not stopped them from presenting questionable forums that provide false information about Critical Race Theory (which is a graduate school level legal course) which they apparently confuse with Ethnic Studies courses which are under the jurisdiction of local school districts to create and implement.
On May 3, the League of Women Voters of North Orange County and Orange County’s Fourth District PTA hosted an OCDE Candidate’s Forum, open to all candidates, but all incumbent board members were absent to answer any questions concerning their actions. Dr. Al Mijares, current OCDE Superintendent, was allowed to make a 3-minute statement, but as he was the only candidate for the office present, he was not allowed to answer questions according to the League of Women Voters’ candidate forum rules.
The OCDE Board member portion of the forum concentrated on having candidates identify the role of the Board of Education and the impact of charter schools in Orange County. For Area 4, incumbent Tim Shaw did not attend, but candidate Paulette Chaffee was able to properly identify the Board’s authority and its responsibilities while candidate David M. Choi stated that he not yet had time to review the responsibilities the position entails. In closing statements, Ms. Chaffee focused on fiscal responsibility and supporting equitable education for all children in Orange County while Mr. Choi finished by saying that he, “is an accountant who prays for our kids” and if elected he will work to understand the board and the county department of education’s role in children’s education.
Early voting began May 9 and the last day to register for the primary is May 23.
Tim Shaw’s funding comes from over 40 donors, including the California Real Estate PAC (CREPAC) who gave $20,000, the Charter Public Schools PAC who gave $25,000, a $25,000 loan from Mark Bucher, a charter school advocate on the board for directors for the California Policy Center that works to “eliminating public-sector barriers to freedom,” and $5,000 from Fieldstead and Company, Inc.
Paulette Chaffee reported contributions from seven donors including herself. She has loaned $200,000 to her campaign and collected $7,700 from others, including $1,000 contribution from the LA/OC Building and Construction Trades Council PAC, $4,000 from California Teachers Assn. Assn. for Better Citizenship, and $2,200 from Planned Parenthood of Orange and San Bernardino Counties Community Action Fund PAC.
For more information on this or other races visit www.ocvote.gov.