Friday, December 10, 2010

Fact & Fiction About San Diego School Reform (or maybe just fiction, eh, Scott Himelstein?)

Which part of democracy does San Diegans 4 Great Schools not understand? Apparently the part where representatives are elected by the people.

More on Ed Brand.

Fact & Fiction About San Diego School Reform
by Scott Himelstein, guest blogger
Voice of San Diego
Dec. 9, 2010

...• The five-member elected board would be expanded, with four independent members appointed by a nominating commission comprised of educational leaders and parents....

More on Ed Brand.


Sounds fishy Scott. You say you're for teachers but it smells like big business which doesn't like unions at all and is part of the current anti-teacher fever in our country. Also the fact that people will be appointed is very undemocratic in itself, who are they accountable to? How can you say that they would not be influenced by special interest? I'm sure you have some quick response to this but I (we) are very weary of a wolf in sheep's clothing.


There is nothing undemocratic about what we are trying to do. Propositions are a long-time and permanent part of the democratic process. None of the proposed reforms will happen unless the people of San Diego vote for them in a democratic election! Sorry that you are so weary of an open proposal that voting members of the public can decide for themselves on.

Scott Himelstein

I agree that schools need to be involved in continuous improvement. Electing School Board members by districts may be a good idea, although I am not sure than building in district vs. district "special interest legislating" is any better than what we have now. I would welcome financial contributions by well-intentioned philanthropists to support public education.

But my wife and I would never, ever, in a million years support having appointed members serve on the School Board. We will gladly tell the paid signature solicitors that, if they ask us to sign a petition, and if the petition drive succeeds we will gladly vote against the initiative. To say that adding appointed members is not "anti-democtratic" simply points how deceptive those mounting this campaign are willing to be.


I have criticized the teachers union severely, but that doesn't mean I think that its power should be transferred to unelected board members. Here's what I'd like to know: once San Diegans 4 Great Schools disenfranchises the teachers union, what specific reforms will it try to get implemented?...

I think San Diegans 4 Great Schools are well-meaning people who think democracy isn't working. Why do they think that? Because voters elected board members who are loyal to the teachers union. Anybody who knows me knows that I am deeply disappointed in the teachers union, but I have seen that administrators and others who are hostile to the teachers union are also guilty of putting their own interests ahead of children. There is a lot of money involved in education, money that goes to expensive programs that achieve nothing, and to lawyers who help schools keep financial documents secret. Have you ever tried to get public financial records from San Diego County Office of Education? Apparently SDCOE's rule is that if they don't want you to have public documents, the only way you'll get them is by going to court to enforce the law. (That's what it took to get SDCOE documents about the MiraCosta College scandal.) I continue to believe that democracy is our best bet.

Why aren't San Diegans 4 Great Schools trying to educate voters instead of disenfranchising them? SDRGS should be campaigning to make schools transparent. The public should know that most administrators and board members behave as though their main goal is to promote their own careers, not educate children. It's not just the teachers that are trying to make their jobs as easy and lucrative as possible.

Maura Larkins

Still googling, but I was googling for Mr. Lynch and this old history popped up.

Lee Hazer

Good work, Leecal!

The connection between Scott Himelstein and Ed Brand is significant. It's beginning to look like this is a conflict between right-wing superintendents and the teachers union. Ed Brand is one of the most notorious superintendents in the county, and has been closely connected to the secretive SDCOE-JPA. The JPA allows superintendents to choose the lawyers they like, and then spends millions in tax dollars protecting those superintendents in court. The JPA also protects the superintendents from the media by refusing to turn over documents to the San Diego Union-Tribune and Voice of San Diego. It's all starting to make sense to me.

I take back what I said about SD4GS being well-meaning people. I think you're right that is a raw power grab.

Maura Larkins

...Mr. Himelstein’s group would only have to work on getting one elected board member in place to have a majority. By electing the board members within districts the plan would atomize politics and make it easier to sway elections. Again, moneyed elites would easily buy a candidate within a district...

Scott Mullin

It is true that Himmelstein is a hired gun. He has been one for years. The reason is that he has been paid through donations (tax deductable) to folks that are exempt from full disclosure. USD is one such place. And Mr. Himmelstein is not starving. I bet he will never supply anyone with his tax data. As to the merits of the proposal, one should look at the motives surrounding it. Hiding a dilution of the power of the voters behind the "obvious" merits of separate area elections is no cooincidence. The standard political strategy for getting what you want is to disquise it within a popular cause. If the motives for district elections was pure (like one I got on the ballot years ago) then ther would be two petitions, one for district elections, and the other for appointments of board members. Guess which one might pass? The fact that the district is now suffering from a labor board takeover (conducted fairly, but misguided) which will preside over the worst cuts of valuable educational programs in history is also likely to make this new skirmish go to ballot. A disgruntled public is just the ticket for this kind of ploy. If the public continues to see the decimation of our local schools by the current board, with no temporary concessions by labor to help balance the budgets, I see this misguided anti-democratic end run as gaining traction. I only hope that the public starts to pay attention to what is needed to make our schools great instead of taking sides in a battle that will DESTROY public education. Taking control of your schools is done by voting for the RIGHT people, not diluting power of those you were foolish enough to support. You get what you vote for! Don't blame anyone but the person you see in the mirror. Don't let the paidgunslinger fool you. This isn't about better education at all, it is about where your educational dollars are spent and who controls your schools. Taking them back is a great rallying cry, but giving them away is worse.

...Because the backers are funneling money to the 'reform' group based at USD – a private institution – the money trail is covered. I am not an expert in the rules governing contributions to private organizations housed on the grounds of private institutions. I base my understanding of the hidden money trails on what John de Beck has been writing about the USD based group over the past year or so. I don't remember vilifying anyone anywhere. If I have I apologize. I work for change every day with the students I teach. Teachers are eminently qualified to effect change in the public schools. And we are a part of change every day. Many, if not all, of the 'reforms' that the well funded group at USD hope to put in place through their end run around democracy have been tried and shown to be ineffective throughout the United States. As Winston Churchill once said, "Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time."...

Scott Mullin

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