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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.

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 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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