Capistrano Teacher Union Operative’s Story Hard to Swallow

Larry Sand President California Teachers Empowerment Network

Deceptive campaign websites point to CUEA front-group leader.

The Capistrano Unified School District (CUSD) in California’s Orange County has seen more than its share of school board battles in recent years. In 2008, parent activists managed to rid themselves of possibly the most corrupt school board in America. Immortalized in Not As Good As You Think, parents endured the horrors of an enemies list, publicly-released home phone numbers and implied threats against their children, but remained determined and ultimately managed to seat a reform-minded, honest, child-friendly board.

The peace that returned to this upscale area was short-lived, however. In January 2010, a recall against two of the board members was launched. The Capistrano United Education Association (a California Teachers Association local) didn’t think much of Mike Winsten’s and Ken Lopez-Maddox’s emphasis on children, their refusal to kowtow to CUEA and their conservative leanings. Leading the charge was the Orwellian-named Children First,a CUEA front group, whose agenda couldn’t find room for kids.

Unfortunately the union’s efforts to recall Winsten and Maddox-Ford were successful. At the same time, three other board members were up for reelection. After the dust had settled on Election Day, 2010, the board consisted of four pro-children and three pro-union members. CUEA seemed pleased, though its spending binge did not secure the union a majority. According to the Orange County Register,

Capistrano Unified’s teachers union has poured $261,863 into the district’s school board election to date (Oct. 30), including $67,040 this week alone, while its chief political rival, the Committee to Reform CUSD, has continued to lag behind, reporting no spending over $1,000 in the past two weeks.

With spending by the union’s ally – the Capistrano Unified Children First group – factored in, overall spending by these groups is outpacing the Reform Committee’s spending by more than a 16 to 1 margin.

And once again, it’s school board election season for CUSD and, not surprisingly, union spending is going gangbusters. For the most part, the reformers are putting their own money into their campaigns, but the union-backed candidates – surprise, surprise – are getting a big financial boost from union front groups. According to local writer Penny Arévalo,

The two biggest money raisers and spenders are the teachers’ union PAC, known as Help Organize for Public Education, and a group that rallies for similar candidates and causes, Capistrano Unified Children First.

Children First has raised $36,537 and spent $32,485. It has a cash balance of $5,816.

HOPE has raised $73,228 this year and spent $26,097. It’s sitting on $67,805.

But it seems that providing its candidates with a huge spending advantage isn’t enough for the union and its acolytes. Apparently, someone closely associated with CUEA set up a series of fraudulent websites. Particularly hard hit was Julie Collier, leader of a group called the Parents Advocate League. Collier has made some enemies because she has the temerity to believe that parents should be informed about educational issues that pertain to their children. Two of the bogus websites targeted her one using her own name and the other using her organization’s name. Furious, Collier immediately retained a lawyer to find the culprit, and on October 17th, Arévalo reported “Deceptive Campaign Websites Tied to Children First Volunteer.”

In a letter sent to attorney Wayne Tate by GoDaddy, which hosted at least six misleading URLS, Chris Korpi was identified as the person who bought www.juliecollier.com and www.parentsadvocateleague.com, which initially redirected visitors to school board President Gary Pritchard’s campaign site and Children First’s website, respectively.

A GoDaddy representative said the company cannot confirm whether the person who supplied all the information to purchase the domain names was indeed Chris Korpi.

Seemingly Korpi, the man behind Children First – the union front group – has been caught with his fingerprints all over the cookie jar, though he adamantly denies the charges.

Korpi blamed the misleading web addresses on political opponents, noting he hasn’t run the business named in the GoDaddy email, Korpi Marketing Services, for eight years, and that all his contact information listed is publicly available for someone to steal his identity.

Grasping at straws, he even had the temerity to blame the dirty tricks on Jennifer Beall, who along with her husband Rancho Santa Margarita Mayor Tony Beall, are long time CUSD reformers. The Bealls and Collier are allies, and to blame Beall for the misdeed is positively loony.

And I guess it’s just a coincidence that, according to Arévalo, Korpi is on the payroll of John Alpay, a union-backed incumbent running for reelection.

One of the misleading URLs went to Alpay’s campaign site. He and (incumbent Gary) Pritchard are both endorsed by Children First

This would all be humorous – great fodder for The Onion or Saturday Night Live – if it weren’t dealing with real kids, their real parents and their very real problems with education in their school district. Whether the guilty party is Korpi or some other union crony, it is apparent that that CUEA will stop at nothing in its quest for power. And there is nothing at all funny about that

Larry Sand, a former classroom teacher, is the president of the non-profit California Teachers Empowerment Network – a non-partisan, non-political group dedicated to providing teachers with reliable and balanced information about professional affiliations and positions on educational issues.

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