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Antonucci: California Teachers Association places 10 members on school boards

Mike Antonucci | December 4, 2018

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Mike Antonucci’s Union Report appears weekly at LA School Report.

Over the last few weeks, we have scrutinized how the California Teachers Association has funded the campaigns of school board candidates throughout the state, and how those campaigns did on Election Day.

But candidates for public office are still one step removed from the union. Once elected, they are subject to lobbying from all sorts of interest groups. Teacher unions, along with all other advocacy organizations, have learned over the years that campaign contributions do not guarantee friendly politicians (though it doesn’t hurt).

CTA has an additional rope with which to tie candidates to it: membership. Generally, teacher union members cannot serve on school boards in the district in which they work. Or, if allowed, they must recuse themselves from votes that involve their union. There are no restrictions, however, on teacher union members serving on school boards where they live.

According to the union’s calculations, at least 10 CTA members were elected to school boards in November. They are:

* Larry Allen, Middletown Unified School District. Allen is a retired teacher who served as the president of Middletown Teachers Association and on the CTA State Council, CTA board of directors and National Education Association board of directors.

* Marco Amaral, South Bay Union School District. Amaral is a special education math teacher and member of the Sweetwater Education Association.

* Mary S. Doyle, South Bay Union School District. Doyle is a high school Spanish teacher and member of the Sweetwater Education Association. She served as that union’s political action committee treasurer.

* Kevin Beiser, San Diego Unified School District. Beiser is a math teacher and also a member of the Sweetwater Education Association. He first won the San Diego school board seat in 2014.

* Dianne Jones, Fremont Unified District. Jones is a substitute teacher and member of the Fremont Unified District Teachers Association.

* Jeremy Khalaf, Westminster School District. Khalaf teaches chemistry and is a member of the Garden Grove Education Association.

* Sarah Kirby-Gonzalez, Washington Unified School District. Kirby-Gonzalez teaches fifth grade and is a member of the Folsom-Cordova Education Association.

* Barbara Schulman, Saddleback Valley Unified School District. Schulman is a retired teacher who served as president of the Saddleback Valley Educators Association.

* Lita Tabish, Fallbrook Union High School District. Tabish is a middle school teacher and member of the Temecula Valley Educators Association.

* Brian Wheatley, San Jose Unified School District. Wheatley is a middle school teacher and president of the Evergreen Teachers Association.

An 11th candidate, CTA board of directors member José Alcalá, is currently leading for a Riverside Community College District trustee seat, but that race has not yet been called.

Three other identified CTA members lost school board races in Westminster, Chino Valley and the Mount San Antonio Community College District.

Even close union ties do not guarantee happy outcomes for the union or the candidate. Antonio Villaraigosa was an employee of United Teachers Los Angeles and a paid CTA consultant during his failed 2001 run for mayor of Los Angeles. He and the union later became bitter enemies. More recently, Kevin de León, a former CTA and NEA employee, couldn’t garner a union endorsement of his U.S. Senate campaign against Dianne Feinstein.

Besides the obvious advantages of having its members sit on school boards, CTA once tried using them to prop up controversial legislation. Back in 2002, the union created and put all its weight behind AB 2160, a bill that would have expanded the scope of teacher collective bargaining to include, well, everything.

The bill faced unprecedented and nearly universal opposition. In an attempt to save it, CTA organized a press conference featuring six school board trustees who supported it and a resolution from one school board that did. The union didn’t mention that four of the six trustees were CTA members or office-holders or that the supportive resolution was from a board whose president was also president of a neighboring CTA local affiliate.

The bill died in the legislature without a floor vote.

So while it would be wrong to assume school board members are doing the union’s bidding, it is better to know what ties they do have.

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