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CUSD Candidates Talk Dire Budget Straits, Teacher Contracts

Four of the 10 school board hopefuls discuss financial problems and other issues in Capo Unified's contentious 2012 race.

Four of the 10 candidates vying for seats on the Capistrano Unified school board laid out their plans Thursday during a Patch-sponsored debate in San Juan Capistrano.

San Juan Capistrano Patch Editor Penny Arévalo, who leads Patch's coverage of Capistrano Unified, asked questions of Steve Lang, Bill Perkins, Karin Schnell and Jim Reardon. No-show candidates were John Alpay, Gary Pritchard, Don Richardson, Carol McCormick, Yolanda McNamara and Amy Hanacek.

Budget Problems

All the candidates at Thursday's debate said they planned to vote against Prop. 30, the ballot measure that would temporarily boost state taxes to help balance California's budget.

"We've got more than enough taxes in California," Lang said. "It's how it's spent. I would love to pay more money if I were sure it would go to the schools."

Schnell noted that Prop. 98, which already guarantees a certain amount of money to the schools, had been suspended by Gov. Jerry Brown, and urged the district to consider joining a lawsuit against the state to restore it.

Perkins said warnings of education cuts if Prop. 30 fails are just a scare tactic.

"If you want something, and you don't have the money for it, you scare people," he said.

The candidates also called for renegotiating teacher contracts.

"Most of the things that are decided at CUSD are in the context of the teachers' contract," Reardon said. "There's no meaningful public input."

He criticized closed-door contract negotiations for creating "a budget proposal produced from whole cloth with no input from the community."

The candidates broadly agreed that furlough days were detrimental to all parties involved. Some candidates suggested shortening periods rather than lopping days off the calendar.

All appeared to agree that teacher salaries weren't necessarily a problem, but the unfunded liablities inherent in the pension system were the root of the issue. Also, the system of seniority included in teacher contracts should be changed, they said.

"When you have a whole department laid off because they are new, young teachers, that's just mind-boggling," Schnell said, referring to recent layoffs of six teachers in the art department at Dana Hills High School.

Candidate-specific issues

Arévalo posed some character- and candidate-specific questions, such as asking about Reardon and his family being involved in several legal actions against the district.

Reardon said two were administrative disputes involving services to his son, who has autism, and didn't cost the district any legal settlements. The third he viewed as a matter of public interest. He sued the district for alleged Brown Act violations after the board reinstated some teacher pay in closed session in 2009.

Arévalo asked Schnell to talk about the teachers union endorsement she sought but didn't receive.

Schnell said she entered the race right at the deadline for signing up, and the union had already decided on its endorsements. But she said she had a "good rapport" with the union. Schnell said she wasn't beholden to any outside interest group.

Arévalo pointed out that Perkins sought seats on a number of councils and boards, which she asserted could paint him as a political opportunist. He said he's always been interested in public service, and said his experience running a city council campaign and serving on the Costa Mesa Planning Commission uniquely qualified him for dealing with the contentious Capo Unified environment.

Noting that Lang dropped out of college Arevalo asked what he would bring to the governing table.

Lang said his business experience qualified him to better understand the miserable finances of the district. He said he wasn't impressed with incumbent board members' financial acumen as they reviewed the complex financial instruments and figures that make up CUSD's complicated and troubled budget.

shelly October 31, 2012 at 02:00 AM
Penny, My comment was directed at Capo Parent. Many supporters of the candidates at this debate except Schnell I believe make anti teacher comments. Read your comment board. They are all over the place. And since some of the candidates are supported by the same people who supported the "reform" candidates what should we expect? And by we I mean parents.
Penny Arévalo (Editor) October 31, 2012 at 02:02 AM
I didn't ask about anonymous posters at Patch. I'm asking about the candidates. Is one of them anti-teacher/
bbq October 31, 2012 at 03:43 AM
FC, And it's easy to say, Let's not bother to fix the system, let's just get everyone to pay more taxes. Easy money. It's never enough. It will never be enough to feed the greed! NO NEW TAXES!!!!
Capo Parent October 31, 2012 at 04:42 AM
Save the union talking points for those who are naive about CUSD. You are wrong in claiming the union is not our enemy. I view the union as an adversary. It wants what's best for its members only; I want what's best for my kids and all the other students in CUSD.
Capo Parent October 31, 2012 at 04:47 AM
Shelly You have a warped sense of logic. Most of the candidates want to put the students first, not the unions and employee groups. If that's your idea of being anti-teacher then so be it. Several candidates noted that for the short term teachers compensation will need to be reduced. Given CUSD's financial condition that's a no brainer given salaries & benefits make up roughly 92% of CUSD's budget. Even a caveman or cavewoman can see that, especially since it appears Prop 30 is going down (yeah!).
shelly October 31, 2012 at 01:29 PM
Penny, My opinon is maybe because so many of their supporters are. And since some are supported by some of the "reform" people then my opinion is yes, maybe. Read your comment board. And from what I have observed from a board meeting this year I would say that supports my opinion of at least one of them. But I thought you were busy covering elections Penny? What do you think Penny?
shelly October 31, 2012 at 01:43 PM
Capo Parent, When people go into a job assuming that the people who they are working with are the enemy or the advesary then it is not productive. This is what happened with the previous board. And they failed in doing what was best for the children of our district. We all want what is best for our children. I want what is best for all the children but bashing our teachers in the process is not what is best for our children or education. Our economy was devastated and the California budget was devastated. So as a parent I will help and vote yes on both 30 and 38. I will not ask others to do what I am not willing to do myself. I will not teach my children this lesson. Have a Happy Halloween!
Capo Parent October 31, 2012 at 02:37 PM
Shelly As long as the union controls education in CUSD you're happy and all is well, well, not really. CUSD has cumulative debt of roughly $100 million and no viable means of paying it off. The teachers union has been spared any real "shared sacrifice" that you are so found of spouting. It's the students who have, for the most part, borne the cuts and the golden parachute. The teachers union and its allies controlled the message to and the communications with the public in the last election, including staging a PR strike that hurt our kids, but was a very slick and successful PR move, and we see the results. This election, the union and its allies have not had exclusive control over the message to or communications with the public. The cyberfraud by Alpay, Korpi and apparently Children First has given the public a glimpse into how desperate they are and to what depths they will go to win. Remember, their the people and organization you support. Let's see what happens on Tuesday. As for your comments about Prop 30 & 38, you undercut your plea to make California the highest taxed state in the country. Yes, the economy was devastated, causing many to suffer severe financial hardships, if not ruin. Yet, with families struggling you want to give them the highest taxes in the land by approving props that raise taxes, on their face, by $26 billion. You need to take a remedial econ course.
shelly October 31, 2012 at 03:08 PM
capo parent, Are we discussing the dire state of our district's budget? Why is that? When did it start? If there is not enough money you need to cut the budget and/or increase revenue. If we do not want to keep cutting education then we need to increase revenue along with cutting the budget. There is no fat in the education budget. Teachers are not overpaid and they have taken cuts. Where exactly to you think most of the cuts were acheived? Our kids are paying the price of an economic crisis that was not caused by them but people want our kids and our schools to fix it instead of paying a little extra temporarily.
shelly October 31, 2012 at 03:11 PM
Penny, Why are some letters to the editors in the school news and election sections and some just in opinion?
shelly October 31, 2012 at 03:12 PM
Is that an editorial choice?
shelly October 31, 2012 at 03:18 PM
Capo Parent, Having thousands of dollars out of your paycheck when you are middle income is a sacrifice. Teachers are middle income so please stop saying that this does not affect them and they are not making sacrifices. These are people with families, mortgages and bills who need to eat like everyone else. Instead of such an adversarial position it is better to deal with any kind of crisis calmly and with the view we are all in this together so how can we best manage it and get the best education for our kids. The teachers are not the enemy.
Jane Lambson October 31, 2012 at 04:31 PM
OK, Capo Parent, I will take it from here and give Shelly economics course that she desperately needs. Shelly, you did correctly say something. “If there is not enough money you need to cut the budget and/or increase revenue.” What Capo parent is trying to point out as well as BBQ and others is that if we need to cut items from public spending, then what is it we cut? For the sake of argument, let’s say we should not cut ANYMORE education spending. Do we cut public safety? Those union tools are worse than the CTA in protecting their piece of the pie. How about public health? Check with the nurse union about that. You probably won’t get too much sympathy. Public transportation? Social welfare? You see, none of these public trough dwellers are going to give up anything without a fight. So basically, they ALL need to sacrifice, including the public education bureaucracy.
Jane Lambson October 31, 2012 at 04:31 PM
So let’s go to the other side of the income statement to which you alluded – the revenue generation. This is going to be the simplest economics lesson you learn in your whole life, and you can actually pass it on to your son, who hopefully isn’t being indoctrinated by a bunch of Keynesians down at UCSD. Ready? Whenever a taxing authority LOWERS its tax rate, then you will see a greater amount of revenue come into the public coffers. Instead of increasing the sales tax rate per Prop 30, I propose we knock it down 300 points, down to about 5%, depending on the county. In the first couple of months, you would see a slower amount of money being collected, but over the long run, our state treasury would be so much better off than what it is now, provided they cut the waste that plagues our state. So Shelly, put down those books from Paul Samuelson, John Keynes, that crap that Paul Krugman writes, and start reading some essays and articles from Craig Paul Roberts, Art Laffer, and Thomas Sowell. Their philosophies were implemented under both Kennedy and Reagan, and it worked wonders for our national economy.
Yeparoo October 31, 2012 at 05:29 PM
Jane, If only Governor Brown would have abandon his 2012 taxing proposals and embraced his 1992 proposals. We can only hope that after wasting 2 years trying to get a tax measure on the ballot only to see it go down in flames, Gov Brown will pick up the phone and call Art Laffer. Maybe Brown and Laffer can take a second look at the proposals they put together for Brown's presidential campaign to see if it still has some good ideas. Or maybe just implement some of the ideas in Laffer's book on how to fix California (http://www.amazon.com/Eureka-How-California-Arthur-Laffer/dp/1934276189). If only.
shelly October 31, 2012 at 07:43 PM
Jane Lambson, Everything has been cut in California. I don't need an economics course for that. I don't need an economy lessons to see what has been cut from my children's schools and classroom. But you know what I do see in the classroom Jane, teachers still working hard. And it was not the "public trough dwellers (fire fighters, teachers, police officers, etc" fault. It was private businesses and banks who were responsible. After they walloped us with their irresposiblities and greed, yes greed, now we get the message that it is the fault of those greedy, lazy teachers who are "trough dwellers" as you call them. My kids are taught by teachers. Teachers are not "trough dwellers". They are hardworking people who live, work, contribute and care about our children and our community. And President Bush cut taxes. How did that work out for us? One of the worst economic debactles ever. And the Reagan trickle down theory did not work. So I will vote yes for prop. 30 and 38 because I will help and not ask others to do what I am not willing to do myself.
shelly October 31, 2012 at 08:42 PM
Jane Lambson, So fire fighters and peace officers are union tools? Do you put your life on the line for others? They do.
Jane Lambson October 31, 2012 at 09:15 PM
Sadly, Shelly, you have failed your lesson without even trying. To review: Public employees are paid from the taxes that those “greedy” corporations and their employees send to the treasury each and every quarter. If there is no private commerce, there is no need for public services. That seems to fly over your head all of the time. Before the financial crisis in 2008, there were hundreds of predictions that CA was on the edge of a financial cliff with underfunded liabilities that stemmed from the pensions of PUBLIC employees. I remember seeing something like this in 2002! Since Gov. Brown allowed the govt employees to collectively bargain, our elected officials (primarily Democrats) have not had the stones to stand up to the union goons and say, “That is enough. We can ill afford to pay you these lavish perks and salaries.” Guess what. CA’s day of reckoning is imminent, and the public unions ARE an integral part of the decade’s long problem. And speaking of the 2008 financial crisis, it was George W. Bush’s administration that heeded warnings on the mortgage crisis and its demise. His administration wanted more regulation. Guess who stopped that? Mr. Barney Frank, the champion to all idiots, that’s who!
Jane Lambson October 31, 2012 at 09:16 PM
As far as the Bush tax cuts go, are you aware that once they were implemented in 2002 that our tax receipts actually went up? That’s right; the US Treasury collected more in revenues than in prior years. There are thousands of sources that prove just that. Same thing in the 1980’s. We had the greatest economic period of post WW II prosperity during that time. The nation’s unemployment rate was lower than any other time aside from the middle of WWII. Reagan’s problem was that he allowed Congress to spend it all and then some. And in the one of very few shining moments under this current administration, President Obama actually acquiesced and postponed the expiration of the Bush tax cuts. Why do you think even he did that?
Jane Lambson October 31, 2012 at 09:16 PM
Do you know what your problem is about assessing teachers, Shelly? You throw them all into one big pot and say they are all good (not perfect) and hardworking individuals. That is exactly what the union wants you to think. They should all get raises, despite their performance level. None are greedy or lazy, according to you. Look, I have teacher friends that are smart enough to realize that the problem with the CTA today is that they chase off the taxpayers and businesses and embrace the Occupy Wall Street lowlifes. They also realize that if you don’t expand the tax base, you don’t need as many teachers. Simple fact. These are the smart teachers. They want their raises too, but not at the expense of higher statutory tax rates for their neighbors and friends. If Prop’s 30 and or 38 pass, you will see once again another gradual exodus of the middle class to AZ, TX, CO, and other low taxed states. And more of our public school teachers won’t be needed. Is that what you really want?
shelly October 31, 2012 at 11:17 PM
Jane Lambson, You can rewrite history if you like but the fact remains that under the Bush administration our country experienced one of the worst economic disasters in our history. And the trickle down theory does not work. And there are many economic courses that anyone can take to support this. There are a many economic "experts" out there who will support your theories just as there are many economic "experts" to support mine. I base my opinions on my perspective, experiences and research. Do you want me to lie? I am a mom of 4 children. My oldest went to K-12 to CUSD schools and is now at UCSD doing great and a good reason he is doing great is because he had many great teachers over the years in CUSD schools. My three other children are all at CUSD schools and doing well great. The teachers that my children have had have been good. When administrators do their jobs teachers are let go if they are not doing their job which happens in CUSD. My family is middle income and we have experienced thousands of dollars cut out of our household income because of the economic downturn. I will not ask others to do for me and mine what I am not willing to do myself. I will not ask others to pay more if I am not willing to do so also. If my children were not doing well then I would have sought out alternatives. I would not put my kids in schools where I thought the teachers were bad and the district was bad. Teachers are not the bad guys.
shelly October 31, 2012 at 11:36 PM
Jane Lambson, And I will not start blaming fire fighters, peace officers, teachers, etc. and calling them names because for some it is the current politico vogue to do so.
Karen McDonald November 01, 2012 at 05:47 PM
OUCH!! Seems like Reardon needs to watch his walk and behave his talk
Jane Lambson November 01, 2012 at 06:31 PM
Shelly: I am not rewriting history. Yes, the 2008 financial crisis was during the Bush administration. I am saying that the primary culprit was Barney Frank and companies who took advantage of his incompetence. And sorry to tell you that whatever name you want to call it, trickle down, supply side economics. Yes it does work! The more you tax a society, the less productive it becomes. QED and who says you are lying? Not me. You just happen to be severely misguided. Only you can change that. Are your “Ctrl C” “Ctrl V” keys worn out on your keyboard? I didn’t say they were the bad guys. What I said was that each teacher should be evaluated on his/her skill level. You seem to have missed that yet again. However, I am proud of you for not retorting on my observation that if we raise taxes, the emigration from CA will continue. Perhaps there is some hope for you.
shelly November 01, 2012 at 09:45 PM
Jane Lambson, The Barney Frank blame game is a ploy pushed by Republicans and Bloomberg to divert the blame onto others. You can read up on it if you like, unbiasly. Or you can take your information from the bias you prefer. I understand that the solution that some feel is to further cut teachers' compensation because then it doesn't hurt the pocket book of those some. But some of us feel that since this is a crisis that was not brought on by the teachers but all of us we should all help to fix it. Teachers compensation will be cut and has been cut no matter what we do with this election and so will our children's education. But to minimize the cuts to all I will vote yes on prop 30 and 38. Many hands make light work. United we stand divided we fall. You know all that kind of old fashioned stuff our grandparents believed in.
Yeparoo November 01, 2012 at 10:00 PM
Shelly, In the unlikely event the tax increase measures are NOT approved, do you think the elected officials should cut education or something else? I've seen this all before with Prop R after the Orange County bankruptcy. Threats to lay off law enforcement and close fire stations. Then when the tax measures are defeated, they miraculously find something other area to save money, just like my grandparents did in the old fashioned days. It'll be up to Gov Brown, Sen Steinberg and Asm Perez. Let's just see if they will PULL THE TRIGGER on the education cuts. Very doubtful they will do that IMO.
fact checker November 01, 2012 at 10:12 PM
Why is it patently unfair for all of the candidates to submit their answers to your questions in writing? That is what I was suggesting.
fact checker November 01, 2012 at 10:14 PM
Yeparoo, so you are recommending that the state come up with the funds to make up for lost revenues, not the teachers. Correct?
Penny Arévalo (Editor) November 01, 2012 at 10:23 PM
Because a debate environment where the candidates didn't have the questions ahead of time shows the audience how prepared the candidates are. They didn't whip out their tablets and do any research or take a few moments to collect their thoughts. They answered off the cuff. Asking candidates to submit answers in writing is entirely different and not fair to the candidates who showed up.
Yeparoo November 01, 2012 at 10:39 PM
FC - The "Automatic Trigger Cuts" are safely stored in the "Social Security Lock Box." In other words, ATC's don't exist. Let's see if they believe their own lies and cut Ed. When the public realizes they CAN reduce other departments, I doubt they will go down the dumb and dumber road. My guess is they go back to Steinberg's pool side lounge, sip ice tea, and come up with a different idea. The CTA gave them permission to try Prop 30, don't think they were really all on the cuts. The ATC's are the show card.

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