Method of Electing Trustees of the Capistrano Unified School District, Proposition H (2010)
Proposition H changed the way that the seven trustees of the school board were elected. Prior to the adoption of Proposition H, each trustee came from one of the seven districts, but was voted on at-large. Proposition H changed that so that only the voters who live in a specific district can vote on the candidates from that district.
In 2010, there were about 220,000 registered voters in the Capistrano Unified School District.
- These final, certified results are from the Orange County elections office.
Those who supported the change were largely drawn from the ranks of district residents who were critics of the district's "reform" movement.
In the wake of the 2008 recall of trustees Sheila Benecke and Marlene Draper, most of the board's 7 trustees were part of the reform movement.
The primary reason given for supporting the change was the high cost of running an at-large campaign under the current system. Judi Heidel of San Clemente said, "We want to elect board members that may not be able to afford the astronomical cost of running a campaign … and choose to run for this board out of truly altruistic motives."
Erin Kutnick of San Juan Capistrano, a leader of the movement for changing the method of election, said, "The reason we are proposing a by-trustee (election method) is because our district is so large. If our district had 10,000 students, we wouldn't be proposing this. By breaking it down, (the voters) can get a chance to know (the candidates)."
The official voter pamphlet arguments against Measure H were signed by:
- California Republican Assembly
- Family Action PAC
- Committee to Reform CUSD
- Tony Beall, Mayor Pro Tem, City of Rancho Santa Margarita, Orange County Republican Party, Central Committee Member, 71ST Assembly District
- Craig P. Alexander, Orange County Republican Party, Central Committee Member, 73RD Assembly District
Arguments in favor
In their voter pamphlet arguments, they said:
- "Powerful union leaders are campaigning to take control of our school district on Election Day – seeking to replace your existing conservative board with a new pro-union majority, and with this initiative, to literally take away from every voter 6 of our 7 school board votes. Stop this union takeover -- VOTE "NO."THIS MEASURE TAKES AWAY 6 OF YOUR 7 VOTES. Today you get 7 votes -- 1 for each of your school board members. If this measure passes -- you lose 6 of your votes."
- See also: 2010 ballot measure litigation
Supporters and opponents of Measure H both filed lawsuits in Orange County Superior Court, asking a judge to change the way that the other side presented its arguments for the official sample ballot/voter pamphlets. Superior Court Judge Kim Dunning ruled that "Children First" would be allowed in its ballot argument to deny labor union involvement.
In the court case, "Children First" supported Measure H, while the "Committee to Reform CUSD" (henceforward, "Reform CUSD") opposed Measure H.
In Reform CUSD's lawsuit, they said:
- "Children First" should not be allowed to say that the incumbents are backed by "interests hostile to public education."(Judge Dunning agreed with Reform CUSD on this, and ruled that "Children First" is not allowed to say this in the sample ballot arguments.)
- "Children First" should not be allowed to say "No union was involved in the placement of this measure on the ballot." (Judge Dunning ruled that "Children First" is allowed to say this.)
In the lawsuit filed by "Children First," they said:
- "Reform CUSD" should not be allowed to say that "public employee unions and their allies" spent "months getting this on the ballot."
- "Reform CUSD' should not be allowed to say that Capistrano's employee unions are "fighting to preserve an unsustainable status quo" with regard to their salaries.
Rancho Santa Margarita city Councilman Tony Beall, who supports the Reform CUSD movement, said, "Every public employee union in CUSD was involved in Measure H – that is a written, documented fact. Every public employee union in CUSD in writing told the board they supported an election waiver, so the issue would never come before voters."
San Juan Capistrano parent Erin Kutnick, a spokesperson for "Children First," said, "The school board is out to dismantle public education. They are hostile toward parents and teachers. They are antagonistic toward all the stakeholders; it's worse than anything I've seen in my entire life."
Path to the ballot
The Orange County Committee on School District Organization voted 8-1 on September 30, 2009 to put the measure on the June 8, 2010 ballot. The trustees of the school district filed a lawsuit in December 2009 to postpone the election until November 2. In January 2010, initiative supporters who collected the signatures to qualify the initiative for the June ballot agreed not to legally dispute the date of the election. In February 2010, the 11-member Orange County Committee on School District Organization decided that the election will be in November, citing the additional costs of holding the election in June as a primary motivation for the move to November. A June election would have cost almost $500,000, while the November election will cost less than $10,000.
The Capistrano Unified school board had retained Phillip Greer, an attorney who specializes in election law, to postpone the election from June 2010 to November 2010. The election was estimated to cost about $480,000 less if held in November than in June, and the board cited that as their motivation for retaining Greer to try to move the election.
The school board voted to spend up to $25,000 in legal fees to try to delay the election. Greer, the attorney they retained, charged $350/hour.
Erin Kutnick, who led the effort to collect the signatures to put the measure on the ballot, responded to this turn of events, saying, "This new attempt to fight the will of your constituents through expensive legal action demonstrates that you are not acting in the best interests of the people. In fact, you are actually working against them."
- Recall of Sheila Benecke and Marlene Draper, Capistrano Unified School District, California (2008)
- Recall of Ken Lopez-Maddox and Mike Winsten, Capistrano Unified School District, California (2010)
- Analysis of Measure H
- Argument in favor of Measure H
- Argument against Measure H
- Rebuttal to arguments in favor of Measure H
- Rebuttal to arguments against Measure H
- List of local school measures on the November 2, 2010 ballot in Orange County
- CUSD Facts, website in opposition to Measure H
- Orange County Register, "Capistrano trustees lose bid to delay costly vote on election rules," September 30, 2009
- Orange County Register, "Judge may be drawn into Capistrano district politics," August 31, 2010
- Orange County Register, "Capo incumbents can keep candidate statements as is," September 3, 2010
- Orange County Register, "Capo parents backing June ballot measure reverse stance," January 15, 2010
- Orange County Register, "Capo district's June ballot measure postponed," February 10, 2010
- Orange County Register, "Capistrano district hires attorney to delay election date," October 27, 2009
- Orange County Register, "Capo district to sue county officials over election date," December 17, 2009
- Orange County Register, "Capo trustees to spend $25,000 to fight election date," November 10, 2009