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Union Leaders Attempt to Shut Down Pro-Charter Movement in Orange Unified

The recall effort against OUSD Board Members Rick Ledesma and Madison Miner remains principally occupied with hindering the pro-charter movement.

On March 5, 2024, voters living within one of Orange Unified School District’s seven Areas will have the opportunity to vote for or against the recall of OUSD Board Members Rick Ledesma (Trustee Area 7) and Madison Miner (Area 4). In advance of this special election, it is important that voters understand why this union-led recall effort was initiated in the first place. Despite what its proponents claim, it remains about one thing only: curtailing the growing pro-charter school movement in Orange County. 

The OUSD Recall website claims that this is about the termination of Gunn Marie Hansen, the school district’s former Superintendent, during the Winter 2023 recess. The website argues that the Board majority fired the Superintendent in a “complete blindside;” that “majority members had never mentioned their intent [to fire Hansen] during their campaigns;” and that “Ledesma’s Majority did not give any reason for the firing.”

On the contrary, Ledesma has on numerous occasions explained the position of the majority. In a recent Orange County Register piece, he reminds readers that Hansen was “a hyper-politicized Superintendent who had overseen years of poor performance.”

“It is no surprise,” writes Ledesma, “that this action and the concept of accountability enraged our detractors, considering they oversee a $128 billion state education budget that has resulted in 75 percent of California students lacking proficiency in core subject areas.”

More importantly, where was the union outrage when, during the same Winter 2023 recess, Capistrano Unified School District’s new Board majority fired Superintendent Kirsten Vital Brulte? It is equally true that this came as a “complete blindside;” that “majority members had never mentioned their intent [to fire Vital Brulte] during their campaigns;” and that the majority “did not give any reason for the firing.”

“She stood up for kids [and] kept CUSD schools open,” said CUSD Board Member Lisa Davis (Trustee Area 3) of Vital Brulte in a San Clemente Times article. “[She did not force] the vaccine but worked on choice, and protected our district from the influences of neighboring counties.”

There was no outrage— no recall— because that outcome was favorable for unions.

Within Orange, there are a host of thriving charter schools including Orange County Classical Academy (OCCA), Unity Middle College High School, and ​Santiago Charter Middle School, among others. Unions and union allies fought tooth-and-nail against each of these schools receiving approval on their charter petitions but were ultimately unsuccessful. Worse yet for the unions, the charters have been extremely successful. In particular, OCCA is now the top-performing school in OUSD.

“As the school’s success became obvious, the union fed the faddishly progressive Salon website the provocative conspiracy theory that OCCA was, in fact, part of a national campaign to destroy public education,” writes California Policy Center President Will Swaim in an Orange County Register piece. “In that, the union’s leaders were a little bit right: OCCA’s standout performance has indeed drawn children from classrooms in union-controlled schools throughout the district.”

Indeed, as the pro-charter movement and school choice continues to make inroads across the country, it becomes increasingly difficult for unions to prevent charters from being approved and students from leaving failing public schools. This represents a true danger to the monopoly they have held over education for decades. 

Make no mistake, this recall is not about Ledesma or Miner or anyone else on the OUSD majority. It’s about school choice. And so the outcome of this special election will come down to whether or not the thinly-veiled union leaders behind this effort can manufacture enough funding and support to challenge the thousands of voters who elected two pro-charter trustees who stood for parental rights, school choice, and increased curriculum transparency— all of which represent a threat to union control.


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